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Democrats Take Control of Senate As Allen Concedes to Webb in Va.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who as chairman of the Senate Democrats' campaign arm helped Webb win the Democratic primary in June and later helped finance the campaign's expensive media barrage, stood by Webb yesterday, beaming as he thanked the newest member for delivering the Senate to the Democrats.
"What color is my tie? What color is my suit? What color is my Senate?" Schumer asked the Arlington crowd, which yelled, "blue!" in response to each question. "We couldn't have taken the Senate without Jim Webb."
Shortly before Webb's speech, Allen humbly conceded defeat, bowing to the electoral reality that he trailed Webb by an insurmountable lead and sparing the country a recount that could have left control of the Senate in limbo for weeks.
"It is with deep respect for the people of Virginia, and to bind factions together for a positive purpose, that I do not wish to cause more rancor by protracted litigation which would, in my judgment, not alter the results," Allen said in a 12-minute speech to supporters at the historic Carlyle House in Old Town Alexandria.
Allen campaign officials had initially put plans into motion to challenge Virginia's election after coming within 0.3 of a percentage point of Webb's lead. But after local election officials spent Wednesday and part of yesterday reviewing the totals as part of a routine post-election canvass, Webb's margin actually grew. Webb had a lead of 8,942 votes last night.
Allen concluded that further reexamination of the 2.3 million ballots in Virginia would not change the outcome. Speaking of the nearly even percentage split of votes in the contest, Allen said, "We have two '49-ers. But one of them has 49.55, and the other has 49.25."
In a speech filled with humility and respect rarely seen on the campaign trail, Allen praised Webb and said he was not bitter about losing. The former governor, 54, hinted that his life in politics is not over despite his stunning defeat to a political newcomer who trailed him by 16 points just 12 weeks ago.
"Sometimes winds -- political or otherwise -- can blow the leaves off branches and even break limbs," said Allen, flanked by his wife, Susan, and Sen. Warner. "But a deep-rooted tree will stand, stay standing, will regrow in the next season. In this season, the people of Virginia, who I always call the owners of the government, they have spoken. And I respect their decision."
Under Virginia law, Allen could have asked for a recount because his Democratic opponent was ahead by less than 1 percentage point. But several Republican sources said Allen received pressure from advisers and GOP colleagues in Washington who believed that little would be gained.
Sources close to Allen said Republicans in Washington were in no mood for a quixotic fight over Allen.
President Bush yesterday extended an olive branch to Democrats, inviting likely House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Steny H. Hoyer (Md.), the No. 2 Democrat in the House, to a private luncheon.
The supporters who gathered yesterday afternoon for Allen and Webb reflected the results.
Before Webb spoke, a dozen supporters milled about on Clarendon Boulevard, near the courthouse, holding signs. Laura Sonnenmark, of the Alexandria section of Fairfax, held a sign that read, "Thanks Jim. We knew you could do it."
She said, "We feel awesome, optimistic -- like we helped the country. To America, Virginia says, 'You're welcome.' "
The several hundred Allen staffers and supporters gathered outside the Carlyle House took the senator's concession hard, with several crying as he spoke in front of the 18th-century building. But most of those interviewed said they agreed with the decision not to pursue a recount.
"For what was best for Virginia and moving forward, he needed to do what he did today," said Anthony Bedell, 38, of Falls Church, who has worked or volunteered for several Allen campaigns. "It's a tough one to swallow, but the senator did the right thing today."
Several supporters commented on the conciliatory tone of Allen's remarks, which included a pledge to assist Webb in his transition. This tone reflected the gracious, congenial manner they have admired in Allen, supporters said. "He had class," said James Glenn, 64, of the Mount Vernon section of Fairfax. "He's a good man."
Staff writer Tim Craig contributed to this report.