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Connolly holds a 925-vote lead as possible recount looms

By Ben Pershing
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 3, 2010; 11:02 PM

Election 2010 may be over for most of the country, but nothing has been settled yet in Northern Virginia, where Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D) clung Wednesday to a 925-vote lead over Oakton businessman Keith Fimian (R).

Running for reelection in the 11th Congressional District, which includes most of Fairfax County and part of Prince William County, Connolly led Fimian by 487 votes late Tuesday night and then increased his lead after ballots were counted from two last Fairfax County precincts where voting machines had malfunctioned.

By law, Fimian is entitled to ask for a recount, but the Republican's campaign manager said Wednesday he would make no decision until Fairfax election officials finish canvassing all the votes - a standard process that won't end until Thursday at the earliest. In a statement issued earlier Wednesday morning, before Connolly's lead grew, the Fimian campaign declared: "In an election this close, it is important to take the time to get the result right by seeing the counting and canvassing process through. When that process is complete, Keith Fimian is confident that he will be declared the winner."

Operatives from both parties said Wednesday they did not expect the canvassing, which includes the counting of provisional ballots, to change the margin very much between the two candidates.

If Connolly's lead remains at its current .4 percent, the state would pay for the recount. If the margin is between .5 and 1 percent, then Fimian would have to pay - though it's unlikely he would have much trouble soliciting donations for such an effort.

If Fimian does decide to request a recount, nothing about the process would happen quickly. The loser cannot officially ask for a recount until the State Board of Elections meets to certify the results, and that is scheduled to happen Nov. 22. Only then would a recount begin, and it's unclear how long that would take - particularly since it would begin the week of Thanksgiving.

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