Webb beats Allen in tense Virginia race

Webb beats Allen in tense Virginia race

By The Associated Press

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Republican Sen. George Allen graciously conceded defeat Thursday after a bruising battle against Democrat Jim Webb, sealing the Democrats’ control of Congress and the political downfall of a man once considered a White House contender.

Allen said the “owners of government have spoken and I respect their decision.”

“The Bible teaches us there is a time and place for everything, and today I called and congratulated Jim Webb and his team for their victory,” he said.

Webb, a former Republican and Navy secretary under President Reagan, claimed victory early Wednesday after election returns showed him with a narrow lead of about 7,200 votes out of 2.37 million ballots cast.

On Thursday, Webb’s supporters roared when he took his Marine son’s battered combat boots from a bag and held them high above his head at a rally. Webb, whose son is fighting in Iraq, had worn the boots throughout what he called “an unnecessarily brutal campaign.”

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    Allen chose not to demand a recount when initial canvassing of the results failed to significantly alter Webb’s lead.

    “I see no good purpose being served by continuously and needlessly expending money and causing any more personal animosity,” he said. “Rather than bitterness, I want to focus on how best Virginians can be effectively served by their new junior senator.”

    Webb said Allen was “was very gracious” in their conversation. He alluded to the nasty tone of the campaign, saying he told Allen that “it’s vital to stop the politics of divisiveness, character assassination, distraction.”

    The Virginia contest was the last undecided Senate race in the country, and Webb’s victory tipped the scales, giving the Democrats control of 51 Senate seats and majorities in both the House and Senate for the first time since 1994.

    Earlier in the day, Sen. Conrad Burns conceded the Montana Senate race to Democrat Jon Tester, catching Tester on the phone as he headed for a barber shop to get his famous flattop hair trimmed.

    The call was “very cordial, very professional. It was positive,” Tester, a farmer and state legislator, told The Associated Press.

    Burns, a three-term GOP senator whose campaign was troubled by gaffes and voter discontent, made no public appearances. But he released a written statement saying he was ready to “help as Montana transitions to a new United States senator.”

    “We fought the good fight and we came up just a bit short. We’ve had a good 18 years, and I am proud of my record,” he said.

    In the Virginia race, Allen had been expected to cruise to a second term this year and make a run for the White House in 2008. The son of a Hall of Fame football coach, Allen served as governor in the 1990s and was popular for abolishing parole and instituting other conservative reforms.

    But in Webb he faced an unconventional challenger. Supporters drafted Webb, a political neophyte, to run because of his early opposition to the Iraq war.

    Allen, 54, was comfortably ahead in polls until August, when he mockingly referred to a Webb campaign volunteer of Indian descent as “Macaca,” regarded by some as a racial slur. The incident, caught on videotape, became international news. Some former football teammates from the University of Virginia also charged that Allen had commonly used a slur for blacks – something he denied.

    Webb, a decorated Vietnam veteran, tried to tie Allen to President Bush and the war during the campaign.