Cantwell takes narrow lead in see-saw Senate race

By DAVID AMMONS

Associated Press

OLYMPIA – Democratic challenger Maria Cantwell edged into the lead in the nation’s last unsettled Senate contest today, but the race was headed toward an automatic recount next week.

Cantwell, 42, a dot-com millionaire and former congresswoman, forged into the lead for the first time since election night on the strength of returns from King County, which includes heavily Democratic Seattle.

But Gorton, 72, the three-term Republican incumbent, remained optimistic that votes from outlying counties would restore his lead, for good.

Cantwell picked up 7,717 additional votes in King County, her strongest, while Gorton was gaining only 4,814 votes there. That wiped out, at least temporarily, the tenuous hold Gorton has had over Cantwell.

With more than 2.4 million votes cast, Cantwell had a lead of less than 2,000 votes over Gorton, who has been in public office since the year she was born, 1958.

Wednesday is the deadline for counties to complete their counts and to certify the results.

On the last major day of counting before that deadline, Gorton continued to hold an edge in populous Pierce County, which is home to Tacoma, and had a big lead in a band of small counties that reported by mid-afternoon today. He expected to pick up more from the Eastern Washington stronghold of Spokane County and to stay close in Cantwell’s home county of Snohomish, just north of Seattle.

While both camps continued to express optimism of winning a narrow victory, nothing will be final until a mandatory recount occurs. A recount is automatic whenever a margin is less than 0.5 percent, or about 12,000 votes in the case of this year’s Senate election.

Secretary of State Ralph Munro is expected to call the recount next Monday after certifying county results that day. The recount could begin as early as the same afternoon if counties have given the candidates proper two-day notice, said Munro spokesman David Brine.

The recount “can take as long as it takes,” but most counties are expected to wind up their work next week, he said. Many counties can do their machine recount in one day, larger counties may need two days and the largest counties, including King, probably will need three or more days, he said.

Results will be posted on the state’s official election web site, but Munro does not certify the election until Dec. 7 – including the Senate numbers if recounts are not continuing.

Neither side has talked about the time-consuming alternative of a hand recount, as some counties in Florida are doing in the presidential count. State law provides for automatic, taxpayer-funded hand recounts in statewide races where the margin is less than 150 votes.

The Senate contest is the closest race for statewide office since 1968. That one, too, involved Gorton and a recount. In his first race for attorney general, the Seattle lawyer and state lawmaker defeated Democrat John McCutcheon by 5,368 votes.

Before King and the larger counties reported today, Gorton had a lead of 957 votes.

After King reported, Gorton had 1,178,823 votes,or 48.65 percent; Cantwell had 1,180,760, or 48.73 percent; and Libertarian Jeff Jared had 63,199, or 2.6 percent.

More than 660,000 votes have been counted since election night two weeks ago. About 1.7 million were counted election night.

The late count is so large because many Washington voters have signed up for permanent absentee ballots, meaning they vote by mail. Election officials estimate that more than half of this year’s vote was by mail.

State law doesn’t require that ballots be in the courthouse by election day, only that they be postmarked on that date.

If Cantwell defeats Gorton, the Senate would be tied 50-50 – the first even split in a century. If Al Gore wins the White House and his vice president, Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, turns over his seat to a Republican appointee, the GOP membership would rise to 51 seats.

If George W. Bush wins the White House, his vice president, Dick Cheney, would be able to break ties in a 50-50 Senate.

If Gorton and Bush win, the Republicans get 51 seats. If Gorton and Gore win, the GOP will have 52 seats.

In other state races, Republican Sam Reed continues to hold about a 10,000-vote lead over Democrat Don Bonker for the open secretary of state post. And in the Legislature, the House appears headed for another 49-49 tie while Democrats seem poised to hold on to a one-seat majority in the Senate.

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

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Kim Skarda points at her home on a map on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Concrete, Washington. A community called Sauk River Estates has a very steep slope above it. There is a DNR-approved timber sale that boarders the estate properties, yet they were not consulted about the sale before approval. The community has already appealed the sale and has hired their own geologist to conduct a slope stability report at the site. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Beneath steep slope, Concrete neighbors fear landslides from logging above

Nielsen Brothers plans to cut 54 acres of timber directly behind the community of 83 homes. Locals said they were never consulted.

Law enforcement respond to a person hit by a train near the Port of Everett Mount Baker Terminal on Thursday, June 27, 2024 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
2 killed in waterfront train crashes were near Mukilteo ‘quiet zone’

In June, two people were hit by trains on separate days near Mukilteo Boulevard. “These situations are incredibly tragic,” Everett’s mayor said.

Rob Plotnikoff takes a measurement as a part of the county's State of Our Waters survey at Tambark Creek in Bothell, Washington on Monday, July 1, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Snohomish County stream team bushwhacks a path to healthier waterways

This summer, the crew of three will survey 40 sites for the State of Our Waters program. It’s science in locals’ backyards.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
4th suspect arrested after Mountlake Terrace home robbery

Police arrested Taievion Rogers, 19, on Tuesday. Prosecutors charged his three alleged accomplices in April.

A 10 acre parcel off of Highway 99, between 240th and 242nd Street Southwest that the city of Edmonds is currently in the process of acquiring on Monday, July 10, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edmonds ditches $37M Landmark public park project off Highway 99

The previous mayor envisioned parks and more in south Edmonds, in a historically neglected area. The new administration is battling budget woes.

Edmonds school official sworn in as Mount Vernon supe

Victor Vergara took his oath of office last week. He was assistant superintendent of equity and student success in Edmonds.

A photo of "Tazz," an Argentine white Tegu still missing near Granite Falls. (Provided photo)
Tazz the missing tegu reunited with owner in Granite Falls

The 4-foot lizard went missing Friday evening. Searchers located him in a barn, 1 mile away from his home.

A closing sign hangs above the entrance of the Big Lots at Evergreen and Madison on Monday, July 22, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Big Lots announces it will shutter Everett and Lynnwood stores

Marysville store will remain open for now as declining sales and downturn in consumer spending were factors in the closures.

President Joe Biden speaks at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, in Greensboro, N.C., on April 14, 2022. Biden plans to nominate Michael Barr  to be the Federal Reserve's vice chairman of supervision. The selection of Barr comes after Biden's first choice for the Fed post, Sarah Bloom Raskin, withdrew her nomination a month ago (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Washington Democrats voice support for Biden’s decision to drop out of presidential race

Some quickly endorsed Vice President Kamala Harris to replace him on the ballot.

Everett
Teenager in stable condition after Everett drive-by shooting Saturday

Major Crime Unit detectives were looking for two suspects believed to have shot the teenager in the 600 block of 124th Street SW.

Miners Complex tops 500 acres in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

Nine lightning-caused fires force trail closures and warnings 21 miles east of Darrington. No homes are threatened.

FILE — President Joe Biden arrives for a Medal of Honor ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, July 3, 2024. Biden abandoned his campaign for a second term under intense pressure from fellow Democrats on Sunday, July 21, upending the race for the White House in a dramatic last-minute bid to find a new candidate who can stop former President Donald Trump from returning to the White House. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)
Biden drops out of race, endorses vice president Kamala Harris

The president announced the decision on social media Sunday.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.