OLYMPIA – After a statewide recount, Republican Dino Rossi held on to his lead in the Washington governor’s race Wednesday by 42 votes out of more than 2.8 million cast. His Democratic rival refused to concede and said she wants a hand recount.
Rossi, a businessman who ran as a “conservative with a social conscience,” declared victory and urged Attorney General Christine Gregoire to concede. “It’s time for our state to move forward,” he said in a statement.
But Gregoire told reporters and supporters in Seattle, “Every vote should be counted. The race continues. A 42-vote margin, my friends, that is a tied race.”
Gregoire wasn’t formally asking for a manual recount, saying she has until next week – after the election is certified – to decide whether to seek a full statewide recount or just selected counties or precincts.
“The (Democratic) party has come forward and indicated that it is ready to ensure that this recount happens and to pay for it,” she said.
A manual recount probably would take until Dec. 23, the state elections office said.
Gregoire also called on Republican Secretary of State Sam Reed, the state’s chief elections officer, to address what she called anomalies in the voting procedures. Reed said he’ll have an election reform package for the 2005 Legislature, but dismissed the idea that he could fix any irregularities administratively, since elections are a county responsibility.
The just-finished statewide machine recount left Rossi clinging to the slimmest victory in state history. Rossi also won the regular count, completed last week, his 261-vote margin just a tiny fraction of 1 percentage point, triggering an automatic recount.
In the final flurry of vote tallies on Wednesday, Gregoire gained ground on Rossi in Democratic-leaning King County and picked up votes in Kitsap County.
Among the likely recount scenarios is that Democrats would call for a hand recount of King County, Gregoire’s bastion.
Bill Huennekens, King County superintendent of elections, said that would be a massive undertaking that would, among other things, require the county to move the voting operation to a warehouse or other large space.
“We would have to hire upward of 300 people,” Huennekens said. “It could take up to two weeks.”
King County gave Gregoire a last-minute lift, but not enough to put her over the top. She gained 593 votes in the final tally, to Rossi’s 348, with the 245-vote gain helping her erase most of the advantage he had built up elsewhere.
It’s less likely that the Democrats will see a hand recount in Snohomish County, where Rossi finished 6,483 votes ahead of Gregoire. Auditor Bob Terwilliger said it makes sense that the Gregoire camp would concentrate on stronghold areas such as King County.
In the just completed recount, Rossi finished with a lead in 391 precincts to Gregoire’s 303. In four Snohomish County precincts, the candidates finished in a tie.
Gregoire, 57, of Olympia, hoping to become only the state’s second woman governor, carried eight of the 39 counties, most notably King County, which includes heavily Democratic Seattle.
Rossi, 45, hopes to become the first Republican since 1980 to win the governor’s mansion.
The winner will succeed retiring two-term Gov. Gary Locke on Jan. 12.
Reed said he plans to certify the machine recount on Tuesday. The campaigns or their parties have three business days after that to request a full or partial manual recount at their own expense.
Reed said he would probably direct that such a recount begin on Monday, Dec. 6, and that job could take two weeks.
If a partial recount changes the outcome, state law requires a manual recount in the rest of the state. That would extend the uncertainty past Christmas.