By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 9, 2006; 3:28 PM
Virginia Sen. George Allen (R) today conceded the election to Democrat James Webb, cementing Democratic control of the Senate.
"The people of Virginia have spoken . . . and I respect their decision," he said in a mid-afternoon speech in Alexandria. He said he called Webb to congratulate him.
The race in Virginia was the last Senate seat to be decided in the mid-term election. Democrats will control 51 seats in the Senate in January. Democrats also easily captured control of the House of Representatives Tuesday.
As of this morning, Allen trails Webb by 7,484 votes after a bruising reelection campaign. Republican sources said Allen had concluded that no amount of recounting would change the outcome, but members of the senator's campaign staff would not publicly confirm his intentions.
The concession spared the country from a recount that could have left control of the U.S. Senate in limbo for weeks. And it makes official what many have been saying since late Wednesday: that Webb will become Virginia's junior senator, giving Democrats a 51-seat majority and complete control of Congress for the first time in more than a decade.
Webb is expected to address reporters publicly today after Allen's announcement.
Allen's campaign officials had initially put into motion plans to challenge Virginia's election after coming within three-tenths of a percent of Webb's lead. But after local election officials spent a day-and-a-half reviewing the totals, that margin remained largely unchanged.
A senior Allen aide said this morning that he did not believe any further reexamination of the 2.3 million ballots in Virginia would change the outcome of the election. Under Virginia law, Allen was entitled to ask for a recount because his Democratic opponent leads by less than 1 percent. But several Republican sources said Allen received pressure from advisers and his GOP colleagues in Washington, who believed that little would be gained by doing so.
The acknowledgment of defeat ended a remarkable string of political successes that began in the Virginia House of Delegates and took him to the governor's mansion and the Senate. Before this election, Allen was widely viewed as an early leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.
But Allen's reelection campaign stumbled badly and the popular politician saw an early 16-point advantage turn to a virtual tie in the polls by Election Day.
In August, he called a Webb volunteer of Indian-American descent "macaca" and welcomed him to "America and the real world of Virginia." That was followed up by awkward revelations about his Jewish heritage and accusations that he used racial epithets during and after college. He also got caught up in a tide of anti-GOP sentiment that cost Republicans control of both the House and the Senate.
Webb, a first-time candidate, sought to capitalize on his background as a former Republican, decorated Vietnam veteran and early opponent to the war in Iraq. Despite millions of dollars in money from the national Democratic Party, Webb never managed to break away from Allen in polls before election day.