By BOB LEWIS
The Associated Press
Wednesday, November 8, 2006; 10:19 PM
RICHMOND, Va. -- Democrat Jim Webb won Virginia's pivotal Senate race Wednesday, unseating Republican George Allen and giving the Democrats total control of Congress for the first time in 12 years.
After GOP Sen. Conrad Burns' loss in Montana, the Virginia contest was the last undecided Senate race in the country. Webb's victory gave the Democrats 51 Senate seats and majorities in both the House and Senate for the first time since 1994.
Control of the Senate hung in the balance for most of Wednesday as Webb clung to an excruciatingly small lead.
AP contacted election officials in all 134 localities where voting occurred, obtaining updated numbers Wednesday. About half the localities said they had completed their post-election canvassing and nearly all had counted outstanding absentees. Most were expected to be finished by Friday.
The new AP count showed Webb with 1,172,538 votes and Allen with 1,165,302, a difference of 7,236. Virginia has had two statewide vote recounts in modern history, but both resulted in vote changes of no more than a few hundred votes.
An adviser to Allen, speaking on condition of anonymity because his boss has not formally decided to end the campaign, said the senator wanted to wait until most canvassing was completed before announcing his decision, possibly as early as Thursday evening.
The adviser said that Allen was disinclined to request a recount if the final vote spread was similar to that of election night.
Moving swiftly to establish himself as the winner, Webb began assembling a transition team hours after he proclaimed victory around 1:30 a.m.
"The vote's been counted and Jim won," said campaign spokeswoman Kristian Denny Todd. Some absentee ballots remained to be counted, she said, but Webb considers it "a formality more than anything else."
Allen's campaign, however, said the senator would wait for the completion of a full canvass _ that is, a recheck of the numbers by local election officials. By law, it must be done by next Tuesday.
Lee E. Goodman, chief counsel for the Republican Party of Virginia, said the senator had not decided whether to ask for a recount.
There are no automatic recounts in Virginia, but state law allows a candidate who finishes a half-percentage point or less behind to request a recount paid for by state and local governments.
Goodman said the GOP was concerned about a number of glitches involving new touch-screen computer voting machines, including power failures and calibration problems. But he said he knew of no fraud.
Webb was with family and military buddies on Wednesday and did not plan any public appearances.
A 60-year-old Naval Academy graduate, novelist and decorated Vietnam veteran who served as Navy secretary under President Reagan, Webb bitterly opposed the war in Iraq and switched to the Democratic Party. He tried to tie Allen to President Bush and the war.
Allen, the 54-year-old son of a Hall of Fame coach of the Washington Redskins, is a former governor once popular for abolishing parole, and he had once been expected to cruise to a second term this year as a warmup for a run for the White House in 2008.
Then in August, he mockingly referred to a Webb campaign volunteer of Indian descent as "Macaca," regarded by some as a racial slur. Allen was also accused of fumbling his response when it became known that his mother's family was Jewish. Allen was raised Christian. And some former football teammates from the University of Virginia charged that Allen had commonly used a slur for blacks _ something he denied.
Allen battled back, accusing Webb of denigrating women in a 1979 magazine article decrying the admission of women to the Naval Academy. Allen also tried to portray sexual descriptions in Webb's six best-selling war novels as demeaning to women.
The State Board of Elections is set to meet on Nov. 27 to certify the results of the statewide canvass. Allen would have 10 days after that to go to court to ask for a recount, which would be overseen by three judges.
But Allen "hasn't made a decision to litigate this at all," Goodman said.
On Wednesday, local party chairmen and attorneys watched local election boards across the state as they conducted the canvass.
"These canvasses often turn up mathematical mistakes and tabulation errors, juxtaposition of numbers, numbers being written in the wrong columns and attributed to the wrong candidate, and the canvasses correct those mistakes," said former Republican national chairman Ed Gillespie, an Allen campaign adviser.
In the 1989 gubernatorial election, Democrat L. Douglas Wilder's GOP opponent, Marshall Coleman, asked for and received a recount. Wilder was declared the winner by just under 7,000 votes out of 1.8 million cast.
Associated Press writers John Solomon in Richmond and Matthew Barakat in McLean contributed to this report.