GOP's Wittman Wins Va. Congressional Seat

Del. Robert J. Wittman of (R-Westmoreland) seeks support in Newport News in his effort against two other candidates to win a seat in the U.S. House.
Del. Robert J. Wittman of (R-Westmoreland) seeks support in Newport News in his effort against two other candidates to win a seat in the U.S. House. (By Joe Fudge -- Associated Press)
By Kristin Mack
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Republican Robert J. Wittman of Westmoreland won a special election yesterday to Congress representing Virginia's 1st Congressional District, preserving the GOP's 8 to 3 edge in the state delegation.

In complete but unofficial results, Wittman, a state delegate, resoundingly beat Democrat Philip Forgit of Williamsburg and an independent candidate, Lucky Narain of the Hampton Roads area. Wittman won 61 percent of the vote; Forgit, 37 percent. Narain won less than 2 percent. The district includes part of southern Prince William County.

Wittman, 49, will complete the term of U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Davis (R-Va.), who died of breast cancer in October. The seat will be up for election in November.

"It's a humbling experience," Wittman said at his victory party in Tappahannock. "These campaigns are not about the candidates but about the people and their issues." He planned to be at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co. at 5:30 a.m. today to greet supporters.

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has pledged to try to get Wittman a seat on the House Armed Services Committee. Davis held a seat on the panel, which is crucial to the military-centric district, which includes the Quantico Marine Corps base, the Army's Fort A.P. Hill and a Navy weapons testing center.

Wittman, a shellfish sanitation field director for the state health department, held the edge in fundraising in a district that has backed Republicans for federal and state offices. Wittman has held elective offices for more than two decades, beginning in Westmoreland County.

The 1st District campaign lasted 30 days, after Democrats and Republicans chose their candidates in November. Turnout was light; 16 percent of voters cast ballots, according to the state Board of Elections.

The district includes all or part of 18 counties. Davis won the district with nearly 58 percent of the vote in November 2000, when she first ran for the open seat.

Wittman held an almost 4 to 1 financial edge over Forgit and an even more commanding lead over Narain, who raised less than $5,000. Wittman raised nearly $266,000, according to the most recent federal report. The National Republican Congressional Committee chipped in more than $120,000 for a survey and direct mail opposing Forgit. Wittman also relied on $19,000 from the VA-1 Congressional Committee in the last week of the campaign.

Forgit, 40, is on leave from his job as an elementary school teacher while he makes a documentary about the Iraqi army. He was awarded a Bronze Star for his service as a Navy Reservist in the Iraq war. Narain, 28, a political newcomer, is an Army Reservist and a former Peace Corps volunteer who collected 1,700 signatures to get on the ballot.

On Nov. 6, Wittman won a second term as a state delegate from the 99th District, but he will vacate that job. The date for an election to replace him has not been set.

"Tonight, the people of Virginia's 1st Congressional District sent a strong statement to Washington," Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan said in a statement.

Staff writer Martin Weil contributed to this report.

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