Cantwell stays in lead


Associated Press

OLYMPIA — Democrat Maria Cantwell hung onto her narrow lead over Republican incumbent Slade Gorton after the final numbers were tallied Wednesday in the nation’s last undecided U.S. Senate contest. A recount will be ordered Monday.

Cantwell all but declared victory: "I look forward to this challenge and the process that is still yet to take place in the next several weeks."

Gorton did not concede but described himself as "cautiously pessimistic." He said he would await the recount.

After more than 2.4 million votes were cast in 39 counties, the race was close. Cantwell had 1,199,260 votes, or 48.7 percent, to 1,197,307, or 48.6 percent, for Gorton — a difference of just 1,953 votes.

Under Washington law, a recount is automatic when an election margin is less than half of 1 percent of the vote, which would be about 12,000 votes in this case.

Secretary of State Ralph Munro said no recount in recent state history has reversed the outcome of a certified vote count.

A Cantwell victory would create a rare 50-50 tie in the U.S. Senate, at least until the presidential race is decided. It also would give the state two female senators for the first time and two Democrats in the Senate for the first time since the 1970s.

Gorton, 72, was seeking a fourth term overall and the third in a row.

Cantwell, 42, who became a dotcom millionaire after getting bounced from Congress in 1984, took the lead for the first time Tuesday, primarily on returns from heavily Democratic Seattle and surrounding King County.

Both camps said Cantwell did better than expected as the absentee tally progressed, particularly in populous King, Pierce, Snohomish and Whatcom counties.

Cantwell spokesman Ellis Conklin said no one on the Cantwell staff has done any serious transition planning. If she wins, they will rely heavily on Democrat Patty Murray, who would become the state’s senior senator after eight years in office.

The count was late because so many Washington voters vote by mail. State law doesn’t require ballots to be in the courthouse by Election Day, only that they be postmarked on that date. Wednesday was the deadline for counties to complete counting.

A victory by Gorton would preserve the Republican majority in the Senate, regardless of the outcome of the presidential election and the political fate of Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the Democratic vice presidential candidate.

A new term for Gorton would assure Republicans of 51 votes in the new Senate, while Democrats would have 49.

If Cantwell wins and Lieberman becomes vice president, Connecticut Gov. John Rowland could appoint a Republican to fill the vacated seat, leaving the GOP with a narrow 51-49 majority.

If Texas Gov. George W. Bush wins the White House and Dick Cheney becomes vice president, Republicans would still maintain nominal control of the Senate. But a protracted negotiation would likely ensue before the two parties came to terms on the allocation of committee seats as well as staff funding.

Meanwhile, the final figures released Wednesday in the nation’s last undecided U.S. House race gave incumbent Democrat Rush Holt a narrow victory over Republican Dick Zimmer for New Jersey’s 12th District seat. Zimmer said he expects a recount.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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