updated 10/27/2006 9:19:22 AM ET 2006-10-27T13:19:22

An independent candidate for U.S. Senate said Thursday that she is negotiating with Democrat Jim Webb and Republican Sen. George Allen about withdrawing from the race and backing one of them.

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Gail Parker, running a lightly funded campaign focused on a vast expansion of passenger rail systems, is drawing about 2 percent support in recent polls.

But in the close race between Allen and Webb, her withdrawal could determine whether Republicans retain their Senate majority.

A statewide poll released Monday by MSNBC/Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. showed 47 percent of registered voters supported Allen, 43 percent backed Webb, 2 percent favored Parker and 8 percent remained undecided. The margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.

On Wednesday, Webb landed the endorsement of fellow Democrat L. Douglas Wilder, the nation's first elected black governor, who is now mayor of Richmond. Wilder said Webb could beat Allen if he gets a large voter turnout in predominantly black Richmond and in southeastern Virginia cities with large minority populations. 2006 key races

Allen also has been trying to quell outrage over an obscure racial slur he directed at one of Webb's aides, a man of Indian descent whom he apologized to in person.

Negotiations underway
Parker said her campaign has asked Allen's to commit to new funding for train systems and to swiftly install a new accounting system at the Pentagon.

"We are trying to negotiate the best deal to get high-speed rail in Virginia," Parker said.

She said she is seeking similar discussions with Webb's campaign.

Allen campaign manager Dick Wadhams said Parker's campaign manager, Carey Campbell, visited Allen's headquarters Thursday.

"He brought up the rail issue, and Sen. Allen's always been supportive of rail issues in northern Virginia in the past," Wadhams said.

He also said that they discussed the accounting system but that "I have no reaction on that."

Webb campaign manager Jessica Vanden Berg said that she met briefly with Campbell Thursday afternoon, but that Campbell wanted to discuss debates between Parker and Webb.

Parker, a retired Air Force officer and civilian budget analyst, is in her first statewide race.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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