Democrat Leslie L. Byrne formally declared victory in her state Senate race by a margin of 37 votes after the completion of official canvassing yesterday, but Republican incumbent Jane H. Woods refused to concede defeat.
"This race is still too close to call," said Justin Brasell, Woods's campaign manager. "We're just going to go through the process and see what happens."
Although Woods has not decided whether to request a recount, Brasell indicated that her campaign was leaning in that direction. The state electoral board is scheduled to meet Nov. 22 to certify the election results, and candidates have 10 days after that to ask for a recount.
"We haven't made that decision, but we're not conceding the race as of right now," Brasell said. He cited the case in 1991 of Del. James M. Scott (D-Fairfax), who lost by 17 votes in the initial count but ended up winning by one vote in a recount.
The canvassing, conducted over 2 1/2 days by the electoral boards of Fairfax County and Fairfax City, reviewed results from each of the central Fairfax district's 42 precincts, showing Byrne on top by 37 votes out of more than 30,000 cast in a three-way race. Independent Virginia Dobey finished a distant third.
"Landslide Leslie," Byrne proclaimed herself in a joking reference to her narrow victory. The electoral board went over all the results with "such a fine-toothed comb . . . that I can't imagine anything being changed," she said of Woods's refusal to concede. She said the result "looks as solid as can be."
Byrne said she has had no contact with Woods since the election. "I've been waiting for her call," she said.
"We're not accusing anybody of any wrongdoing," Brasell said, although "we're investigating any reports of irregularities that were received." He said "several" people who had registered to vote at Department of Motor Vehicles offices have called to say they were turned away from the polls because their names did not show up on the voter rolls at their precincts.
He indicated that a main focus of any challenge would be 768 absentee ballots, which have not yet been hand counted. Canvassers viewed a "machine report" of the vote count like those produced by voting machines, Brasell said.
Robert Becker, Byrne's campaign manager, said, "I sat through some 22 hours of painstaking, meticulous review . . . and we're very satisfied with the integrity of the process."