Hand recount in governor’s race shows Democrat lead
December 22, 2004
OLYMPIA, Wash. – More than seven weeks after the election, Democrat Christine Gregoire took the lead in Washington’s governor’s race for the first time Wednesday, gaining a 10-vote advantage over Republican Dino Rossi after King County officials announced results of a hand recount.
Gregoire, the loser by increasingly slim margins in the first two counts, could claim an even wider margin of victory thanks to a state Supreme Court decision Wednesday that requires more than 700 belatedly discovered King County ballots to be counted.
At a news conference in Seattle, Gregoire said she wouldn’t declare victory yet.
“Keep the faith,” she told cheering supporters. “The election process is working exactly as it should.”
King County, a Democratic stronghold and the last county to finish counting ballots, is expected to certify its results today, but it appeared the courts ultimately will have to decide who won.
Republicans have begun preparing for a lawsuit, and vowed to seek out Rossi voters whose ballots were disqualified because of election workers’ errors and ask canvassing boards to review them.
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“It’s certainly too close to call and Dino is not conceding,” Rossi spokeswoman Mary Lane said. “This election is not over.”
The ruling and the recount results were explosive twists in the roller-coaster race, which was supposed to have been settled Nov. 2.
Gregoire, 57, a three-term attorney general, was the favorite going into the election against Rossi, 45, a real estate agent and former state senator.
But out of 2.9 million ballots cast on Election Day, Rossi won by 261 votes over Gregoire. His lead was whittled to 42 votes in a subsequent machine recount. Democrats paid $730,000 for the hand recount, though by law the state has to repay the party if the recount reverses the results.
Asked whether Rossi should concede, Gregoire said she’d leave that decision up to him. “I’ve been called on many times to concede,” she said with a smile. But she urged Rossi to abide by the final result of the hand recount.
“We’ve got huge issues facing the state, and we need to get on with it,” she said. “Whoever is governor is going to have a challenge of bringing the state together.”
King County’s hand recount results were announced after the state’s high court unanimously ruled that 723 overlooked ballots also should be included in the tally. All valid ballots among those were expected to be counted by today.
During the hand recount, workers in King County, found 573 ballots that elections officials say were mistakenly rejected because of a problem with how the voters’ signatures had been scanned into the computer system.