Rep. Jack Metcalf, R-Wash., appeared headed for a new term Friday after building a 1,651-vote lead over challenger Kevin Quigley.

The congressman, a member of the House Banking Committee, was initially written off after an election night count showed his opponent ahead by more than 2,000 ballots.

But Rep. Metcalf gained his later lead after state officials began counting 50,000 absentee ballots. More than 40% of the voters in the northeastern Washington district voted by absentee ballot.

With 14,000 left to tally Friday, state officials maintained that the race was still too close to call. However, Rep. Metcalf's staff members predicted victory.

A spokesman credited the strong showing among absentee voters to support from military personnel stationed out-of-state and to senior citizens who head south for the winter.

In another close race, Rep. Jon Fox, R-Pa., also a banking panel member, defeated challenger Joseph Hoeffel by 84 votes with all ballots counted. Returns on election night had shown Rep. Fox with a lead of just 10 votes.

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Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., the banking committee's newest member, asked House Democrats to back 80-year-old Rep. Henry Gonzalez for the panel's ranking minority seat.

In a letter Thursday to Democratic colleagues, Rep. Jackson said seniority-based leadership helps minorities in Congress.

"Calls to change the rules have come at a time when African-American and Latino senior members duly stand poised to assert leadership," he said. "These changes may serve to disempower women and people of color."

Rep. Gonzalez is being challenged by Reps. John LaFalce of New York and Bruce Vento of Minnesota, who argued that the Texas lawmaker lacks the vigor to handle leadership duties.

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The Justice Department's top fair-lending cop is leaving. Deputy Attorney General Deval L. Patrick is returning to Boston Jan. 20, less than three years after taking the helm of the civil rights division.

Mr. Patrick, who spent much of his first year explaining the now infamous Chevy Chase Bank fair-lending settlement, has said he wants to spend more time with his family. A Justice Department official said he doesn't know when a replacement will be named.

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Rumors have been swirling that Comptroller of the Currency Eugene A. Ludwig would unveil long-awaited changes to "Part 5" of the OCC's rulebook at an Exchequer Club luncheon Wednesday.

The changes would allow national bank operating subsidiaries to engage in activities that aren't allowed for the parent.

Lawmakers have criticized the proposal as one that poses unnecessary risk to the parent bank. But before the Federalist Society's financial institutions practice group last week, Mr. Ludwig stressed that his agency would never do anything to put the banking system at risk.

However, he did joke about what he'd do in the face of a banking crisis. "If we have a safety and soundness problem, I'll begin to pack my bags and take the pictures off the wall," he quipped.

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The Banker's Roundtable will award $500 to an author who makes a significant contribution to legal literature in the field of banking law.

The prize, which is to be presented annually at the trade group's spring meeting, was established to commemorate banking lawyers Pauline Heller and Jerome Shay.

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