Democratic Save: Rep. Gerry Connolly Defies 2010 Wave With Re-Election

Video: Rep. Gerry Connolly D-VA., on "Top Line."
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Freshman Democratic incumbent Rep. Gerry Connolly of northern Virginia eked out a narrow, belated re-election victory Tuesday after a concession from his Republican challenger, Keith Fimian.

The hotly contested race and its drawn-out conclusion in a key swing district in suburban Washington, D.C., had become a symbols of the depth of voters' discontentment and anti-incumbent sentiment during the midterm campaign.

Connolly received just 981 more votes than Fimian, or 0.4 percent of total votes cast, just two years after winning by 12 points in the same matchup. The narrow margin was sufficient for Fimian to request a taxpayer-funded recount, but his campaign believed it would likely not alter the outcome.

"A few minutes ago, Keith Fimian conceded the election for Virginia's 11th District," Connolly said in a statement. "I thank Keith for a hard-fought campaign, and am humbled and honored that I will be able to continue serving the people of the 11th District for another two years in Congress."

A second-term for Connolly in Virginia's 11th District, one of the wealthiest districts in the country, is a huge save for Democrats, albeit a bittersweet one. The party lost at least 60 House seats in last Tuesday's election, ceding majority control to Republicans.

"This is a suburban, swing district long held by a former Chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee [Tom Davis] so it was critically important for Democrats to retain this seat," said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) spokesman Jesse Ferguson. "And we're proud of the campaign's work, and our work, to get that done."

The DCCC had poured more than $1 million into the race in the final week of the campaign to save the seat.

2010 Election Results: Senate, House and Governors' Races

The struggling economy, record high deficits and the diminished popularity of President Obama plagued Connolly during the campaign. Fimian consistently attacked the Democrat as a "career politician" who supported the stimulus, health care bill and "cap and trade."

But Connolly worked to distance himself from the administration, largely avoiding talk about his votes on government programs, instead focusing on his belief the Bush tax cuts should be wholly extended – an issue that will top the legislative agenda in the weeks ahead.

"I oppose the White House and leadership of my party on the issue of taxes because ... I think to raise taxes at this time would have a contractionary impact on the economy," Connolly said late last month.

Fimian, who had the support of Tea Party groups but didn't consider himself a "Tea Party candidate," ran under the label of "young gun" instead.

The conservative Republican's views on abortion and gun rights, as well as a controversy over his proposal to link congressional pay to a series of penalties and incentives ("bonuses") to encourage fiscal discipline, became a focus of Connolly's attacks.

The suburban Washington district is home to thousands of federal government employees and their families who tend to be socially liberal and fiscally conservative, making it highly responsive to electoral waves.

"While we're disappointed in the outcome, Keith Fimian's strong showing this year in a district the president carried by double digits means that Rep. Connolly will be near the top of the 2012 target list," said National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Andy Sere.

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