Republican Senator George Allen has conceded defeat in the U.S. Senate race in Virginia, handing a victory to former Navy Secretary James Webb, and, in so doing, shifting power to the Democrats. For the first time in 12 years, Democrats will control both the House and Senate when a new Congress convenes in January.
The contest for the U.S. Senate seat from Virginia was one of the closest in Tuesday's election.
Senator George Allen, who trailed James Webb by a narrow margin, had the chance to seek a recount - an opportunity he declined Thursday, saying the people had spoken. "It is with deep respect for the people of Virginia and to bind factions together for a positive purpose that I do not wish to cause more rancor by protracted litigation, which would in my judgment not alter the results," he said.
In his acceptance speech, Webb, a former Republican who served as Navy Secretary in the Reagan administration, said Democrats would press the Bush administration to change course in Iraq. "We are going to work hard to bring a sense of responsibility in our foreign policy that will in my view result soon in a diplomatic solution in Iraq," he said.
The results of the Virginia race give Democrats not only a 51-seat majority in the 100-member Senate but control of Congress for the first time in President Bush's six years in office.
Senate Democrats held a victory rally on the grounds of the Capitol shortly after Allen's concession speech, and pledged to work in bipartisanship with President Bush, but only up to a point.
"Will we stand up to the President when we think he is wrong? Yes. But our real mission is to work together and help American families and make a better America," said Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat.
The Democrats' victories were fueled in large part by public dissatisfaction over President Bush's handling of the Iraq war. They plan to hold hearings into administration decision-making that led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Meanwhile, the current Republican-led Congress is to reconvene next week in a so-called "lame duck session" to finish this year's business. Among its top priorities is Senate confirmation of former Central Intelligence Agency director Robert Gates to replace Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Senate Republican leaders hope Gates can be confirmed to the post next month.
President Bush announced Wednesday that Rumsfeld would be resigning, a move Democrats have long urged as a step toward changing course in Iraq.