By DAVID AMMONS
SEATTLE – Sen. Slade Gorton, a fixture in Washington politics since 1958, and Maria Cantwell, who was born that year, were locked in a seesaw battle for a plum Senate seat Tuesday night.
With more than 1.4 million votes counted, the pair was separated by about 14,000 votes – with Cantwell polling 49 percent and Gorton 48 percent. Jeff Jared, a Kirkland lawyer running on the Libertarian ticket, was far back, at 3 percent.
Cantwell led in only five of the 39 counties, but had a commanding lead of over 100,000 votes in the populous King County.
Both sounded optimistic, but neither gave a victory speech. Cantwell came close, saying “I know we’re going to get this done. … We’re still waiting for the last information to come in, but I know, looking at your faces, that we are going to be successful.”
The crowd at a Democratic victory party at a Seattle hotel ballroom broke into a chant: “No more Slade! No more Slade!”
Cantwell said she hoped to be able to address Sen. Patty Murray, a fellow Democrat, as the state’s senior senator. If Cantwell indeed prevails, it would give the state two female senators for the first time since statehood. California and Maine also have two women senators.
Cantwell said her election would be a clarion call for campaign-finance reform. She largely financed her own campaign from her own wealth and didn’t take special-interest money.
“I think there is going to be a message that will be loud and clear all the way from Washington state to Washington, D.C. – you have to reform the political system and you have to bring about real change. …
“We have made a statement that we want a 21st Century vision for our state.”
Gorton refused to concede, and said he expects to pull out a victory.
“Obviously the race isn’t over yet,” he told supporters at a Bellevue hotel. “There are a million votes left to count. Almost all are in places … where we are doing very well. So perhaps you may have to hang around a while longer, perhaps even a week or two.
“Unfortunately, we have to swing against the tide in (Democratic-leaning) Washington. But when it’s all done, I’m convinced I’ll be in Wahsington, D.C.”
Republican Gorton, 72, a three-term incumbent who became a powerful budget chairman and counselor to Majority Leader Trent Lott, drew a spirited and well-heeled opponent in Cantwell, a woman 30 years his junior.
Cantwell plowed $10 million of her personal wealth into an ad-drenched, campaign that suggested Gorton was increasingly out-of-step with the electorate. Gorton retorted that he was the candidate with new ideas. He said his power and seniority serve the state well and that represents the whole state, not just Seattle.
Exit polling showed that Gorton was supported by men and seniors, and Cantwell got the nod from working women and moderate voters in a tightly contested race. The poll was conducted by Voter News Service, a partnership of The Associated Press and television networks.
Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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