Senate Showdown Is Too Close To Call

Senate Showdown Is Too Close To Call

With less than a week before Virginia's 4.5 million registered voters head to the polls, the race between U.S. Sen. George Allen (R) and Democrat Jim Webb remains neck and neck.

The race has caught the nation's attention, as it is seen as a referendum on the Iraq War and because it may potentially flip control of the U.S. Senate to the Democrats.

Allen, 54, a one-term incumbent and former Virginia governor, has been running on his conservative credentials. He abolished parole while governor, he supports a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, and he backs President George Bush on his handling of Iraq and the war on terrorism.

Six months ago, Allen was considered a contender for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. But instead of his expected re-election cakewalk, Allen's self-inflicted wounds led to the toughest fight of his political career.

Webb, 60, was U.S. Navy Secretary in the Reagan administration and is the author of seven best-selling books. A decorated Vietnam War veteran and father of a U.S. Marine deployed in Iraq, Webb has made his opposition to the Iraq War a centerpiece of his campaign.

Webb, a former Republican, has also campaigned on the need to restore economic fairness in American society and to stand up to the Bush administration, particularly on matters of national security.

Both candidates have poured millions of dollars into the race. As of Oct. 18, Allen had spent $12.6 million and Webb had spent $4.3 million, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

In last-minute campaign stops in Northern Virginia last week, both candidates rallied their supporters.

Speaking at Falls Church bakery, Allen was cheered by a crowd of Hispanic voters.

"You can count on me to be a friend Ñ an amigo Ñ to the American taxpayer," Allen said. "We need to reach out to everyone."

Webb was joined by Gov. Tim Kaine (D) and former Gov. Mark Warner (D) at an Annandale get-out-the-vote rally.

"This is one of the most vital elections of the last 30 years," Webb said. "We have to win this election."

Glenda Gail Parker, an Independent Green Party candidate for Senate, will also appear on the Nov. 7 ballot. Parker wants to expand rail transportation in Virginia and across the nation. Parker has consistently polled at 2 percent of the electorate. Whether she will affect the outcome of the race remains to be seen.

Though the Senate contest will be the main event Tuesday, there will be several other tight races and ballot initiatives for voters to consider.

<sh>10th Congressional District

<bt>For 26 years, U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R) has represented the 10th District, which includes McLean, Great Falls, Loudoun County and part of Vienna.

On Tuesday, Wolf, 67, will face a well-funded challenge from Democrat Judy Feder, 59, who is dean of Georgetown's Public Policy Institute and a health-care policy expert.

The latest poll showed Feder within 5 points of Wolf, who typically coasts to re-election.

In his campaign, Wolf has touted his backing of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan commission seeking a new strategy for the Iraq war. He has also campaigned on his creation of a panel that is working on ways to control government spending and ensure the nation's future financial solvency.

Wolf is a long-time champion of human rights, most recently highlighting the genocide in Darfur region of Sudan and China's persecution of Democratic dissidents.

Feder, who is hoping to ride the anticipated Democratic wave into office, has portrayed Wolf as part of a rubber-stamp Congress that has led the nation into an unnecessary war and into a $9 trillion debt.

Feder promised to support embryonic stem cell research, a new direction on Iraq and an expansion of government health-care programs to cover more low-income Americans living without health insurance.

Appearing alongside Wolf and Feder on the ballot are two independent candidates, Neeraj Nigam and Libertarian Wilbur "Bill" Wood.

Nigam of Sterling supports tougher restrictions on illegal immigration, a faster process for legal immigration and higher speed limits on Virginia's highways.

Wood, a Berryville optometrist, believes that the Bush administration has overstepped its authority in the war on terrorism and promised to work to withdraw the federal government's funding of education and transportation.