Cantwell wins U.S. Senate seat in recount

Gorton’s defeat may mean 50-50 tie


Associated Press

MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — Maria Cantwell, a dotcom millionaire who financed her own campaign, narrowly defeated veteran Republican Sen. Slade Gorton, results of a recount confirmed Friday. Her victory creates a potential 50-50 tie in the U.S. Senate.

Cantwell, a former one-term U.S. House member waging her first statewide campaign, edged the 18-year incumbent by 2,229 votes out of nearly 2.5 million cast.

"I am honored to have won such a close election," the Democrat said Friday evening in a victory speech minutes after Gorton sent her a handwritten concession letter. His campaign said the senator will not seek another recount.

"It’s over," said Gorton spokeswoman Cynthia Bergman.

Cantwell, 42, called it a "long-awaited victory" and immediately sent out an olive branch to the 34 counties — out of 39 statewide — that voted for Gorton. She pledged "One Washington" and said she will visit each county annually and will work to expand the red-hot Puget Sound economy to all regions.

Cantwell won the race in King County, which includes heavily Democratic Seattle, rolling up a margin of more than 150,000 votes. King on Friday was the last county to report results of the automatic recount required under state law because the vote ended within one-half of 1 percentage point.

It was America’s last unsettled Senate race from the Nov. 7 general election.

Gorton congratulated Cantwell on Friday evening, adding, "It is a dubious honor to come in second in what must have been the closest major election in our state’s history."

Gorton answered no questions Friday.

"This is the end of one chapter in his life. He’s looking forward to many more," Bergman said, adding Gorton was not ruling out a possible Cabinet post in the Bush administration The loss was crushing for the senator and his army of volunteers, Bergman said.

"It is absolutely, incredibly difficult for everyone, especially him," she said.

Cantwell becomes the 13th woman in the Senate, a record number. She will join freshmen at orientation sessions next week.

Her election gives Washington two women senators for the first time, joining California and Maine. Fellow Democrat Patty Murray is in her second term.

Cantwell’s victory draws Senate Democrats into a tie with the Republicans, leading her party to demand a shared power arrangement. It is the first Senate tie since 1880.

If Dick Cheney becomes vice president, he would break ties for the Republicans as the presiding officer of the Senate. If Sen. Joseph Lieberman wins the vice presidency, Connecticut’s Republican governor would likely appoint a Republican to his vacated seat, giving the GOP a 51-49 advantage.

The recount widened the gap between Cantwell and Gorton by just 276 votes. Cantwell ended up with 48.73 percent to Gorton’s 48.64 percent.

Twenty years ago, Gorton knocked off the state’s powerful senior senator, Warren Magnuson, then chairman of the Appropriations Committee and president pro tempore of the Senate. Gorton, then 52 to Magnuson’s 75, used a generational appeal for voters to elect the state’s "next great senator" and give him time to build seniority.

This time, it was 72-year-old Gorton ousted by a woman who was born the year he entered politics 42 years ago in 1958.

Cantwell didn’t directly raise the age issue, but called Gorton a man who offered "19th-century solutions to 21st-century problems." She ran as someone who understands the high-tech industry.

She also benefited from Gorton’s long list of enemies, including Indian tribes, environmentalists, trial lawyers and abortion-rights activists. They all ran campaigns against the senator, though Cantwell had sworn off "soft money" help from outsiders and refused contributions from political action committees.

Gorton had won six statewide races in Democratic-leaning Washington, three terms as attorney general and three as U.S. senator. His one previous loss was his first Senate re-election bid, in 1986 to Democrat Brock Adams. He came back with a narrow victory two years later and was re-elected easily in the GOP landslide of 1994.

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

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