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Loser Gains Only 113 Votes in Recount of Va. Gubernatorial Election

December 22, 1989

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ The losing candidate gained only 113 votes in a recount that certified the victory of Democrat L. Douglas Wilder as the first elected black governor in the nation’s history.

The recount, conducted at Republican J. Marshall Coleman’s request, was certified Thursday by a three-judge panel.

While accepting the results, the Coleman camp claimed the tally uncovered evidence that thousands of felons voted illegally, indicating a need for election law reform.

The recount conducted Wednesday found that Wilder defeated Coleman 896,936 votes to 890,195 votes. The difference was 6,741 votes, making the gubernatorial race the closest in Virginia history. The tally certified by the State Board of Elections on Nov. 27 showed Wilder winning by 6,854 votes.

Coleman issued a statement conceding that ″the outcome of this hard-fought contest is no longer in doubt.″

″As an individual and as the nominee of my party, I cannot deny that it hurts to come so close and yet fall short,″ Coleman said. ″But the system has worked, the people have spoken, and Doug Wilder deserves and will have my full support as our new governor.″

Wilder, who has said all along that the election would withstand Coleman’s challenge, repeated that position Thursday night.

″I never had any doubt about the outcome,″ Wilder said in a brief written statement.

Coleman contended that his investigation of alleged voting irregularities found that as many as 4,000 felons are registered to vote. As many as 3,000 of them may have voted, contended Coleman’s attorney, William Hurd.

″Clearly that was not enough to change the outcome of this election,″ Hurd said.

In Virginia, a citizen is automatically stripped of his right to vote upon a felony conviction; the right can be restored under certain circumstances.

GOP legislators likely will introduce legislation to catch felons who try to vote, Coleman said.

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