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Edwards Wins Congressional Seat editors

By Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writer

Prince George's attorney Donna F. Edwards was elected today to the U.S. House of Representatives by voters in Montgomery and Prince George's Counties, becoming the first black woman elected to Congress from the state of Maryland.

Live results will appear here after the polls close at 8 p.m.

Edwards, who scored an overwhelming victory over eight-term incumbent Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D) in the Democratic primary in February, faced Republican Peter James and Libertarian Thibeaux Lincecum in a district that has chosen Democrats for the last two decades.

Earlier today, Edwards said she would take nothing for granted, particularly given the unpredictable nature of low turnout elections. Participation hovered around 1 to 2 percent of all registered voters in the district at mid-day. Edwards spent the day visiting polling places in the disrtict, which includes parts of Prince George's and Montgomery counties, and reminding voters of the election at Metro stations.

"This whole day is giving me a chance to reflect," she said, as she took a break from campaigning. "It feel great, and it's been very humbling to talk to people who worked so hard for me."

After losing to Edwards by 22 percentage points, Wynn announced he would resign from Congress on May 31. The winner of Tuesday's special election will fill the remainder of Wynn's term, serving until January.

Edwards and James will face each other again in the November election in a contest for the next two-year term.

Montgomery and Prince George's elections officials estimated the election would cost $1.05 to $1.25 million, costs that will borne by taxpayers of the two counties.

Q & A With Donna Edwards

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An attorney and nonprofit executive from Fort Washington, Edwards defeated Wynn by arguing he had become beholden to corporate interests and voted with Republicans on authorizing the use of force in Iraq and other key issues.

She was supported by an enthusiastic national network of liberal-leaning bloggers and was endorsed by several leading progressive organizations including Emily's List, which backs female candidates for office, the Sierra Club, and the League of Conservation Voters.

The groups joined the Service Employees International Union in a massive $1.5 million independent effort to boost Edwards over Wynn.

Edwards' campaign also spent close to a million dollars to get her message out to voters.

She received a boost as well from voters looking for change in a primary dominated in Maryland by presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill).

James, meanwhile, only recently raise the $5,000 necessary to require him to register his fundraising efforts with the Federal Election Commission. A high-tech developer from Germantown, James snagged his party's nomination in part because of his affiliation with presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.), with whom he shares libertarian principles.

James, who attempts to limit his interactions with government and his personal debt by holding no driver's license, bank account, home mortgage or credit card, has said he ran for the office largely to call attention to what he sees as deep defects in the nation's banking structure.

He planned no party for Election Night but instead planned to relax with family and begin plotting strategy for the November contest.

"A lot of people thought she was the congresswoman already - there's been a lot of that," he said.

Edwards meanwhile planned to gather with supporters at the Lanham union hall of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 26. The event site was significant because the union backed Wynn in the February primary and hosted his gathering on the primary election night.

"It's interesting she would do that -- in effect saying, I'm in this seat now, I'm leaving my mark," said University of Maryland political science professor Ron Walters.

Edwards said she reconciled with the union leaders in the first days after February's primary and was holding her party at their offices was a way to symbolize party unity.

"We're Democrats -- we know how to do primaries," she said. "And then we get the primary over, and we know how to govern."

If elected, Edwards said she hoped to be sworn into office within days and would then turn her attention to staffing up her congressional office and taking on constituent concerns.

Wynn's resignation gives his successor an opportunity to gain all-important seniority over freshmen in Congress elected in November. That leg up, combined with Edwards' reputation as a giant-slayer in the primary election and her national network of followers, could allow her to enter Congress with an unusual prominence.

"She's going to be noticed because she unseated an incumbent," Walters said. "That gives her some visibility."

But he said that novelty will wear off quickly and then Edwards would make her mark through only through hard work.

Edwards called her chance to become the first black woman elected to Congress an "added benefit" of her campaign, made sweeter because the historical milestone played little role in an election dominated by issues.

"It speaks volumes about our electorate," she said. "It is so wonderful for women, for African-Americans, for all of us to celebrate that that we can move forward and not even really pay attention to it."

Staff writer James Hohmann also contributed to this report.

By editors  |  June 17, 2008; 8:00 PM ET
Categories:  Rosalind Helderman  
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