Democrat L. Douglas Wilder's election as governor was certified Monday but J. Marshall Coleman, his Republican opponent, asked for a recount and also requested an investigation of alleged irregularities at the polls.
Coleman made his announcement about three hours before the state Board of Elections reported the returns as 897,139 votes for Wilder to 890,285 for Coleman--a margin of 6,854 votes, or about 0.38% of the nearly 1.8 million votes cast. It was the closest gubernatorial race in Virginia's history.
Unofficial counts had put Wilder, who is the first black to be elected governor of a state, ahead by 6,852 votes. State law allows for a recount of any race in which the margin is less than 0.5%.
Coleman, a former state attorney general, said he would seek a recount and would ask the Democrat-controlled General Assembly to investigate allegations of irregularities in the Nov. 7 balloting.
In notifying the legislators that he would contest the returns, Coleman said that registers used at the polls included the names of some people who were ineligible to vote.
"In an election as close as this one, irregularities which would not ordinarily have a probable impact on the outcome assume a greater importance," Coleman said in his letter to the General Assembly.
Coleman's attorney, William H. Hurd, refused to say more about the allegations. "There are a number of areas that we're looking into," he said.
Coleman had until Dec. 7 to request a recount, but Monday was the last day the election could be contested because of alleged irregularities.
He said he would withdraw the challenge if the recount and other information convince him that an investigation is "no longer necessary to safeguard the accuracy and integrity" of the election.