Gorton, Cantwell in for photo finish


Associated Press

OLYMPIA — The tight U.S. Senate race in Washington got even tighter Friday night, as returns from King County brought Democratic challenger Maria Cantwell to within 1,765 votes of Republican incumbent Slade Gorton.

The race remained too close to call with more than 60,000 votes left to count.

As of Friday night, Gorton had 1,165,927 votes; Cantwell had 1,164,162; and Libertarian Jeff Jared had 62,127.

Gorton and Cantwell kept out of the spotlight as the votes were being counted this week. But the mood at the Cantwell headquarters skyrocketed Friday after a week in the doldrums, campaign spokesman Ellis Conklin said.

"We have some good news today," he said. "We are hopeful that King County will be as good to us on Tuesday as it was this afternoon."

According to the Secretary of State’s Office, about 60,000 votes remain to be counted statewide, including 10,000 in King County, which includes heavily Democratic Seattle. King County will next report its votes on Tuesday.

Heidi Kelly, Gorton’s campaign manager, said the campaign expected Cantwell to gain some ground in King County. But she predicted returns from the state’s other counties will keep Gorton on top.

"We still think this is going to be a very close race, and we’re still optimistic," Kelly said.

This weekend, Gorton will continue training for the Thanksgiving weekend half-marathon he plans on running, Kelly said. Cantwell plans to hang out at the Edmonds home she shares with her mother, visit with family and watch some movies, Conklin said.

Even when the last results come in, this race likely won’t be over. State law requires a recount if the race ends with a margin of less than one-half of 1 percent separating the candidates, or about 12,000 votes.

Counties must certify their final results by Wednesday. The secretary of state could order a recount on Nov. 27, and the actual count probably would be done on Nov. 29 and certified on Dec. 7, state elections supervisor Gary McIntosh said.

If Cantwell wins, the Senate would be tied 50-50 for the first time in a century. If Al Gore wins the White House and his vice president, Sen. Joseph 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 wins, the Republicans get 51 seats. If Gorton and Gore win, the GOP will have 52 seats.

In other races:

  • ????SECRETARY OF STATE. Republican Sam Reed still leads Democrat Don Bonker in the race to succeed Ralph Munro, who is retiring. Reed had a lead of about 11,000 votes Friday night, down from about 17,000 Friday morning.

  • ????PRESIDENT. Democrat Al Gore maintains a 133,000-vote edge over Republican George W. Bush in Washington state. The Green Party’s Ralph Nader has about 99,000 votes in the state so far.

  • ????CONGRESS. In the closest U.S. House race in the state, won by Democrat Rick Larsen in the 2nd Congressional District, the gap between Larsen and Republican John Koster increased slightly to about 11,000 votes.

  • ????LEGISLATURE. The possibility of another 49-49 tie in the House loomed as Rep. Jack Cairnes, R-Covington, pulled ahead of Democrat Debbie Jacobson by 124 votes in the 27th Legislative District Position 1 race. The GOP would have a chance of taking the state House if Republican incumbent Phil Fortunato can overcome Democrat Geoff Simpson’s 153-vote lead in the 27th Legislative District Position 2 race. Democrats remained on track to take 25-24 control of the state Senate.

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