Local Commentary

Editorial: Senator-Elect James Webb

As the News-Press went to press at 9:30 p.m. last night, the Associated Press and NBC declared James Webb the winner in Virginia and rumors abounded that incumbent Senator George Allen was about to concede.

This came after a long day of the media refusing to call that race despite the fact that Webb held a 7,307 vote lead and remote chances that the automatic canvass or a recount would significantly change the result. A year ago, the state attorney general race was decided by only 323 votes and a recount changed only 35 votes.

Were the outcome of the Virginia race to be settled and a lengthy-acrimonious recount process avoided, it would seal one of the greatest one-election political upheavals in the history of the U.S.

Our sincere congratulations go to the grit and determination of Senator-elect Webb throughout the past 10 months. Last February, Mr. Webb was a private citizen writing popular novels from his home in the Lake Barcroft region of Falls Church. Little could he have imagined that by November, when he showed up to vote at his modest precinct polling location at a Culmore elementary school, that his path would be mobbed by scores of cheering supporters chanting his name and waving big signs with his name on them, or that cameramen and reporters would be falling all over each other to record his every move.

We imagined that he must have been thinking about the scores of times he showed up to vote at that same spot when there was nobody paying any attention to him, at all. Now, it was like he was a rock star, and the voting was just then getting underway.

With regard to his campaign, he proved some early doubters wrong. Not only did he show the endurance and resilience required, but he was articulate in his questions from the press, especially in taking on the charges against him by his opponent. His acquittal of the contents of his many well-written novels dealing with the realities of war was especially eloquent. Webb took the race on as the most important thing he’s done yet for serving his country, and that’s included a lot of heroism on the battlefield. In that spirit, he saw the campaign through with valor right to the end.

For those who did not know Mr. Webb prior to this campaign, they have learned that he is a man of principle who supports issues not because they’ll win him votes, but because they’re the right thing to do. Last summer, at an event in Arlington, he told a group that he opposed the so-called “Marriage Amendment,” Question 1 on the ballot, because he felt it was “just plain wrong and unfair,” despite his military background and moderate profile. “I’ll be going to a lot of places in Virginia where that won’t be very popular,” he said. “But I will say what I believe and I hope I can count on you backing me up on that.”

He meant it, and that refreshing candor and dedication to principle translated into victory for him on Election Day.