Two Congressional Races, Anti-Tax Measure Remain Undecided

By Katherine Shaver
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 5, 2008; 3:01 PM

Maryland and Virginia residents who voted by absentee ballot will determine the outcome of several races, including for two congressional seats, that remained too close to call after all precinct votes were tallied.

One contest, for the congressional seat in Southside Virginia, had narrowed to a six-vote margin this afternoon, part of a significant partisan shift underway for the state's congressional delegation. Democrats narrowed the GOP's 8-3 edge in the U.S. House delegation to 6-5 after claiming two Republican-held seats, and held out hopes of attaining a 6-5 Democratic majority, pending the outcome of the cliffhanger race for the GOP-held 5th District seat.

In Montgomery County, an anti-tax measure was succeeding by 600 votes, as county elections officials prepared to begin tallying absentee ballots tomorrow morning.

While several thousand fans of Sen. Barack Obama turned the streets outside the White House and other parts of the District into a late-night party with celebratory shouts, honking car horns and firecrackers, District police reported no major incidents or arrests.

"There were spontaneous expressions of celebration throughout the country, and we certainly had them here, but I'm not aware of any criminal activity," said Officer Kenneth Bryson, a District police spokesman.

As newspapers with headlines of Obama's historic victory sold out and some Democratic-leaning neighborhoods filled with newly placed American flags on front porches, local elections officials prepared to start counting outstanding ballots that will decide the close contests.

In Montgomery, all ballots should be tabulated by Nov. 21, , said Marjorie Roher, a spokeswoman for the Montgomery Board of Elections.

The anti-tax measure, named for its longtime champion Robin Ficker, would make it harder for the County Council to raise property taxes beyond a local cap that ties annual increases to the rate of inflation. The proposal, also known as Question B, would require a unanimous vote of all nine council members to override that cap, rather than the current requirement of seven votes.

The council bypassed the cap this year, allowing property taxes for the average homeowner to rise by 13 percent. The Ficker amendment was opposed by several large unions, all county council members and County Executive Isiah Leggett (D).

Ficker said he's "very optimistic" the absentee votes will go in favor of the measure because most were sent before the campaign opposing it heated up. He said he believes county residents are "fed up" with a series of recent hikes in state and local taxes and fees.

"You have this whole flotilla of tax increases coming down on people, and county officials still wanted more," Ficker said in an interview.

Montgomery Council member Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville), who joined his colleagues in opposing the measure, said voters sent a message that they want the council to "spend less rather than tax more."


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