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Coleman Says He Will Seek a Recount

November 8, 1989

Undated (AP) _ L. Douglas Wilder of Virginia celebrated a razor-thin breakthrough as the nation’s first elected black governor today, but his Republican opponent declared his intention to seek a recount of the vote. David Dinkins was elected New York City’s first black mayor and said voters had responded ″with the voice of hope, here and in Virginia.″

Republican J. Marshall Coleman called a news conference to announce that if the official tally in Virginia shows the candidates separated by less than one half of one percent of the vote - a certainty based on unofficial figures - ″It is my intention to ask for a recount.″

″Let me first say that I congratulate Doug Wilder on a hard-fought campaign and if he is certified the winner he will have my full support,″ Coleman told reporters at his Northern Virginia campaign headquarters.

He said ″for the good of the new governor″ it is necessary that the public have complete confidence in the results.

Coleman said he expected the official vote tally to be available in five days.

The unofficial count showed the two candidates separated by 5,200 votes out of a total of 1.78 million cast.

Wilder credited the volatile politics of abortion with being a major factor in his victory and dismissed suggestions that race was a factor in the narrowness of his margin - a plurality still questioned by his Republican opponent.

″I’m saying it (race) is not and was not a factor in the results because I was elected,″ Wilder told a morning-after news conference in Richmond, Va. Nonetheless, Wilder ran well behind the other two Democratic candidates for statewide office.

The turnout of pro-choice voters powered an Election Day nightmare for Republicans that extended to New Jersey, where Democratic Rep. James Florio reclaimed the governorship for his party and the Democrats regained control of the Assembly.

″It’s a very tough day for Republicans,″ said Rep. Newt Gingrich, the Republican House whip.

″Wait ’til next year,″ President Bush said when asked by reporters about the election results as he met with Republican congressional leaders.

As significant as the shift in abortion-voting sentiment was the extension of black political success in America’s large city halls. Led by Dinkins, blacks also succeeded white mayors in Seattle, Cleveland, New Haven, Conn., and Durham, N.C.

″It’s a good day for Americans,″ Gingrich told CBS, ″when young blacks and other folks all over the country can look at a Mayor Dinkins, a Gov. Wilder and say there is a future in America if you work hard and learn your trade.″

The main event of the day was in Virginia, where Republican J. Marshall Coleman trailed Wilder by 7,700 votes of more than 1.7 million cast in the unofficial, final vote count. With all precincts counted, Wilder had 889,869 votes or 50 percent and Coleman had 882,137 votes or 50 percent.

Wilder claimed victory, telling jubilant supporters in the capital of the old Confederacy, ″The people of Virginia have spoken.″ Coleman did not concede, saying, ″The race is not yet over,″ and he would await a final, official count.

Wilder said the race was particularily close because of a high turnout in Virginia, and told ABC, ″Notwithstanding that turnout, I still emerged with the majority of votes. I’m tickled pink.″

He called his election ″an excellent testimony to the people of Virginia, to the people of this nation, as to how far we’ve come in a very short time.″

Both the Virginia and New York races were far closer than pre-election polls had indicated, in keeping with previous campaigns in which black politicians drew fewer votes than predicted by traditional polling methods.

Dinkins, like Wilder, waged a soft-spoken campaign that dwelled not at all on race. He replaces the often acerbic Ed Koch and will surely bring a new style of leadership to Gracie Mansion.

″This year voters rejected the calls of fear and voted with the voice of hope, here and in Virginia,″ Dinkins said in victory. ″We passed another milestone on freedom’s road.″

With 99 percent of precincts counted, Dinkins had 898,534 votes or 50 percent, Giuliani had 856,448 votes or 48 percent, and two minor party candidates divided the remainder.

Republican Party chairman Lee Atwater offered the opposition a grudging tip of his hat.

″These were local contests in which the Democrats outcampaigned us and ran better campaigns,″ said Atwater. ″My hat’s off to them, but I don’t think it makes much difference at all with regards to the 1990 campaign.″

Democratic Party chairman Ronald H. Brown saw things differently.

He called the results ″a tremendously positive sign for us as we move into the ’90s. It gives us tremendous momentum heading into 1990,″ when 36 governorships, 34 Senate seats and all 435 seats in the House are at stake.

A sweep of the governor’s races in Virginia and New Jersey would give the Democrats 29 of the 50 governorships.

The contest to fill the U.S. House seat made vacant by the death of Rep. Mickey Leland, D-Texas, in a plane crash in Ethiopia last summer was headed for a runoff between two Democrats, state Sen. Craig Washington and Houston City Councilman Anthony Hall.

Most of Tuesday’s action was in the nation’s cities.

Coleman Young, 71, won an unprecedented fifth term as mayor of Detroit, defeating 40-year-old Tom Barrow. Other mayors re-elected included Xavier Suarez of Miami, who won a third term, and Kathy Whitmire, who coasted to a fifth in Houston.

Democrat John Daniels was elected mayor of New Haven, becoming the first black mayor of his majority-white city, while in Seattle, City Councilman Norm Rice defeated busing foe Doug Jewett to gain a similar distinction.

Ohio state Sen. Michael R. White defeated his old mentor, City Council President George Forbes, in a bitter contest between two black Democrats to succeed retiring Republican Mayor George Voinovich.

The nasty tone in Cleveland was all too typical of the year’s campaigns.

Giuliani, a 45-year-old former U.S. attorney, was unrelenting in his attacks on Dinkins, calling the Manhattan borough president ″unfit″ for the office of mayor. But once the outcome was determined, Giuliani called on New Yorkers to unite behind the new mayor with ″every prayer.″

In New Jersey, Florio trounced Republican Rep. James Courter to win a governorship held by Republican Thomas Kean the past eight years. Courter never recovered from criticism suffered when he tried to moderate his strong anti-abortion position.

With 99 percent of the New Jersey precincts counted, Florio - who twice before lost gubernatorial races - had 1,356,957 or 62 percent. Rep. James Courter had 824,505 or 38 percent.

It was Florio’s third try for the office and he defeated Courter by a margin of 500,000 votes out of about 3 million cast. The two candidates bombarded voters with negative commercials.

Kate Michelman, executive director of the National Abortion Rights Action League, said Tuesday’s results proved that the recent Supreme Court decision opening the way for states to restrict access to abortion had energized pro- choice voters and that ″politics in America would never be the same.″

She contended that in the Virginia governor’s race, ″the issue of a woman’s right to choose was so powerful it overcame all other issues.″

Nancy E. Myers, spokeswoman for the National Right to Life Committee, criticized Republicans, such as Courter and Coleman, who tried to temper their prior opposition to abortion.

″Courter turned off pro-life voters,″ she said.

As for Coleman, she said, ″He probably could have handled the issue a lot better. He could have come out a lot earlier attacking Wilder.″

Prominent black politicians hailed the results in Virginia and New York.

″If Wilder can win in Virginia, the cradle of the Confederacy, black and other candidates of a new breed can win in Georgia, in Mississippi, in Alabama and elsewhere in the South,″ said Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.

″There have always been Doug Wilders in the African-American community,″ said Rep. Bill Gray, D-Pa., the assistant House majority leader. ″What is changed is that now the white community is looking beyond skin. They are looking at character and policy and leadership.″

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