Conservative Republican Mills E. Godwin, Jr. appeared to have squeezed past independent liberal Henry E. Howell, Jr. in the Virginia governor's race, as of 1 a.m. this morning.
With 1636 of 1832 precincts tallied, Godwin had 466,132 votes to Howell's 455,480.
Godwin, campaigning on a theme of traditional conservative "stability," attacked Howell as a tool of labor union bosses, a supporter of massive busing, and a McGovern sympathizer. Howell, espousing a new "responsiveness" in government, apparently failed in his neopopulist attempt for a coalition of liberals, blacks, and blue-collar workers.
Ironically, there was no Democratic candidate, though Godwin and Howell were both Democrats two years ago. Godwin, governor from 1966 to 1970, and the last of an 84-year succession of Democratic governors, shifted to the GOP this year.