Fight for governor’s seat continues

Saying vote totals show victory is in reach, Democrat Jay Inslee announced Wednesday he’s assembling a transition team for an expected move into the governor’s office next year.

Inslee led Republican Rob McKenna by nearly 54,000 votes following a second day of ballot tallies, a slightly smaller gap than at the close of counting on election night. Overall, Inslee had 51.3 percent to McKenna’s 48.7 percent.

“I am very confident we will be in position to lead the state of Washington for the next four years,” Inslee said at a morning news conference in Seattle.

King County voters continue to fuel the Democrat’s success. Inslee is outpacing McKenna in the state’s most populous county 62.7 percent to 37.3 percent. And he remained in front in Snohomish County with 51.6 percent.

Inslee told reporters he’s begun organizing an advisory committee for his transition into power when Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire completes her term in January. He said he would name its members when election results are final.

When asked if he might not be getting ahead of himself with more than a million uncounted ballots, Inslee said his staff had done a “very sophisticated analysis” showing him as the eventual winner.

“We’re confident because we know where the votes are and we know where they’ve been cast,” he said.

McKenna, who is trying to become the first Republican elected governor since 1980, maintained Wednesday in a video message to supporters that the votes he needs to win are yet to be counted and he’s not ready to concede.

“Stay tuned. Be patient. It’s going the right way,” McKenna said, adding it may be early next week before the outcome is clear.

Wednesday evening, McKenna campaign manager Randy Pepple stressed they are starting to eat into Inslee’s lead as their modeling shows. He cited a slight gain in Snohomish County as evidence the trend of those who voted late will favor McKenna.

Unlike Inslee, McKenna is not organizing a transition team.

“I’m waiting on the trends we think we’re going to see in the results before making any announcements,” Pepple said.

Meanwhile, Pepple appealed to backers for money to pay for workers to track down voters whose ballots face rejection for potentially resolvable problems.

“Over 20,000 ballots have already been rejected by county election officials. We need to ensure the voices of these voters are heard, by first finding these voters and then having them verify their ballot,” he wrote in a fundraising email. “It is going to require us to go door-to-door until we find everyone and make sure these ballots are counted.”

Ballot totals through Wednesday show Snohomish County is proving a pretty good reflection of the electorate’s mood this year.

In the governor’s race, Inslee is collecting almost the identical percentage of votes in the county (51.6) as he is statewide (51.3). And President Barack Obama is doing slightly better in the county (56.9 percent) than Washington as a whole (55.4 percent).

In nearly every statewide race, the picks of county voters are ahead statewide.

The only exception is in the Secretary of State contest where Democrat Kathleen Drew led in the county by 2 percentage points but Republican Kim Wyman leads by less than a point statewide.

The ballot measures to legalize marijuana, gay marriage and charter schools and to require a supermajority for lawmakers to hike taxes are all faring the same or better in Snohomish County as they are throughout Washington.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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