Recount complete, Perriello officially defeats Goode
After a district-wide recount today, a three-judge panel has now made it official, Tom Perriello (D-Ivy) has defeated six-term incumbent Congressman Virgil Goode (R-Rocky Mount) to become the new representative in Congress from Virginia's Fifth District. Perriello's final margin of victory was 727 votes, or less than one-quarter of one percent. That's a net gain of 18 votes for Goode from his original certified total.
"When people ask how we were able to come from 34-points behind to win in a district that John McCain carried," says Perriello in a statement, "I tell them of our commitment to a people-powered campaign, fueled by thousands of individuals and the largest grassroots network the district has ever seen."
Perriello indicates he hopes his win will help turn over a new leaf in Congress.
"We showed with this historic upset," he says, "that people are ready to trade in the old politics of fear and division for a new style of positive, solutions-oriented public service."
Goode tells the Hook that he's called Perriello to congratulate him on his victory and wishes him well in representing the Fifth District. Looking back, Goode says, he wouldn't change a thing about his campaign.
"I'm not going to second guess," says Goode, "just look forward."
Asked why he thinks he ultimately lost this historic upset, Goode says it was the result of the central Democratic congressional outspending the Republicans in the Fifth District.
"We just didn't have the resources this year," Goode says. "I got some help, but the Democrats just had so much more money this time around."
According to UVA professor and political pundit Larry Sabato, neither he nor any of his colleagues saw this coming.
"There wasn't an analyst in the country that picked Perriello," says Sabato. "Looking back, we, and Virgil Goode should have taken him more seriously."
Sabato says that while Goode had his missteps, Perriello could not have won without the help of an election climate that was decidedly Democratic.
"You think back about things like the Keith Ellison controversy and there are things that if Goode had them to do over again, he probably would," says Sabato, "but there hasn't been a better year for Democrats in Virginia since 1964. John McCain [R-AZ] barely won the Fifth District. When was the last time a Republican had any trouble winning the Fifth District?"
Goode says he hasn't yet thought of his own future and whether he'd run for his old seat or any other public office in the future.
"I'm not thinking about that now," he says. "Maybe tomorrow."
Perriello will be sworn in along with the rest of the 111th Congress on Tuesday, January 6.
With the recount official, Perriello becomes the first candidate from the Charlottesville area elected to the Fifth District seat since 1988, when L.F. Payne (D-Nelson) won a special election following the death of Rep. Dan Daniel (D-Danville). The 34-year-old Perriello will also be the youngest congressman elected to represent the Fifth District since 30-year-old Claude Swanson (D-Swansonville) won the seat in 1892 on his way to becoming Governor in 1906 and a U.S. Senator in 1910.
Perriello's victory also means that Fifth District voters can look forward to their congressional race being one of the most hotly contested in the 2010 cycle.
"There will be a permanent campaign waged daily from now until Election Day 2010," says Sabato. "This is already among the top five races of the greatest importance for the national Republicans, since it was so close in a year that was so good for Democrats in Virginia. This was just round one."