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RACE GOES ON 'UNTIL THE LAST DOG DIES'
Date: November 10, 2005
Byline: Michael Sluss, The Roanoke Times
Summary: RICHMOND -- Republican Bob McDonnell declared victory in the race for attorney general Wednesday, while Democrat Creigh Deeds prepared for a recount in one of the closest statewide elections in Virginia history.
McDonnell, a state delegate from Virginia Beach, clung to a razor-thin lead Wednesday as election officials conducted a canvass to complete the count in Tuesday's election. When he declared himself the winner at a press conference Wednesday afternoon, McDonnell led Deeds by fewer than 1,600 votes. More than 1.9 million Virginians cast ballots in the contest.
"As of this afternoon, with 100 percent of the votes being counted by the state Board of Elections, I am confident to announce today that I am going to be the next attorney general of Virginia," McDonnell said at a press conference at the General Assembly office building.
Hours earlier, a weary Deeds vowed to continue his campaign "until the last dog dies" and predicted that he would emerge as the winner when the results become official.
"I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that every vote is counted and every vote is respected," Deeds told reporters Wednesday morning.
The Board of Elections will certify the results Nov. 28. Both candidates acknowledged Wednesday that the vote totals would be close enough to merit a state-funded recount, which means the outcome of the election may not become official until December.
To prepare for a recount, the two candidates assembled legal teams headed by lawyers who were involved in a similar situation 16 years ago. And they both formed transition committees to prepare for taking office in January.
Deeds' recount team is headed by Joseph Kearfott. Kearfott represented Democrat Douglas Wilder in 1989, when a recount was needed to affirm Wilder's narrow victory over Republican Marshall Coleman in the governor's election. Deeds' team also includes Roanoke lawyer John Fishwick, who monitored returns with Deeds into the wee hours of Wednesday morning in Richmond.
McDonnell's legal team is headed by former state Solicitor General William Hurd, who represented Coleman in the 1989 recount. That process shifted only 113 votes away from Wilder, who defeated Coleman by fewer than 7,000 votes.
McDonnell said he "will continue to respect the process by which these results are made official." But, he said, the certification process is unlikely to change the outcome.
Some Republicans said the almost universal use of touch-screen voting equipment in Virginia gives them confidence that the certified count from the Board of Elections will be accurate.
McDonnell and Deeds are veteran legislators who waged a campaign devoted largely to public safety issues. They began by offering competing plans to crack down on sexually violent criminals, drug offenses and computer crimes. McDonnell also promoted himself as a pro-business candidate who would be hostile to new taxes and government regulations. Deeds emphasized his rural roots and his political ties to Gov. Mark Warner. When the campaign heated up, McDonnell and Deeds attacked each other's records as prosecutors and legislators.
The campaign and their agonizing election-night vigils left both candidates spent on Wednesday.
"I'm just prepared to go home and see my wife and kids," Deeds said before leaving Richmond on Wednesday morning.
Democratic attorney general candidate Creigh Deeds speaks to
reporters during a news conference Wednesday in Richmond. "I'm
going to do everything I can to make sure every vote is counted and
every vote is respected," he said. Deeds trails in the contest by
fewer than 1,600 votes. PHOTO-2 John Fishwick Roanoke lawyer is on
Deeds' vote recount team.