Rossi calls for new vote

BELLEVUE – A defiant Dino Rossi on Wednesday called for a new vote to settle his duel for governor with Christine Gregoire, insisting that her victory is tainted by questions and her reign would be illegitimate.

In his first public appearance since losing by 129 votes to Gregoire in the statewide hand recount, Rossi brushed aside the suggestion that he was a sore loser and said the uncertainty in the prolonged electoral battle undermines trust in the state election process.

“The people of Washington deserve to know that their governor was elected fair and square,” he read from a letter he had sent to Gregoire. “A revote would be the best solution … and would give us a legitimate governorship.”

Gregoire, who is to be certified this morning as the winner, had not seen the letter Wednesday evening, but her spokesman said that she rejects the idea.

“There is no good reason to spend $4 million of taxpayer money on a new election just because you do not like the results of this one,” Gregoire spokesman Morton Brilliant said.

At 10 a.m. today, Secretary of State Sam Reed will certify the election results. Gregoire, who will be sworn into office Jan. 12, was expected to make a statement following the certification.

The Nov. 2 election was the closest race for governor in state history. Rossi emerged with a 261-vote lead after the first tally and a 42-vote lead after a machine recount. But in the hand tally, Gregoire enjoyed a reversal of fortune, picking up enough votes to win by 129.

No more ballot counts are allowed under state law.

While Rossi can legally challenge the results, he admitted Wednesday that he and his advisers have not found any evidence of the fraud that would be needed to force setting aside the results and holding a new election.

They are applying the most pressure on King County, where Gregoire earned the final margin of victory. The GOP has submitted requests for voter lists and dozens of other documents to ascertain whether any wrongdoing occurred.

“If we don’t have the list of voters, how do you know who voted fraudulently?” he said.

In embracing former Secretary of State Ralph Munro’s idea of a new election, Rossi said it would ensure that the next governor is perceived as a legitimate victor. And it would be winner-take-all, with no recounts.

“If there’s a revote and he’s behind by two votes, he’ll concede,” said Mary Lane, a spokeswoman for Rossi.

In the meantime, Rossi has already filed papers to run for governor in 2008. He registered as a candidate Dec. 13, submitting a form to the Public Disclosure Commission that allows him to begin fund-raising for that campaign.

But he also can use the money collected in that account to pay for expenses incurred during the past eight weeks for staff and lawyers engaged in the recount and its numerous court hearings.

Lane said that’s why he filed.

“He has made no decision about running for governor in 2008,” she said Wednesday morning in an e-mail response to questions. “He’s still trying to win this one! The money raised is going toward paying for recount expenses, and this has all been cleared numerous times with the PDC.”

Doug Ellis, a spokesman for the commission that governs campaign spending, said, “Right now, they’re telling us he’s a bona fide candidate.”

Under state law, campaign fund-raising for the Nov. 2 election ended Nov. 30, Ellis said.

Candidates can carry forward campaign surpluses or debt into their next race, he said. The governor’s race is unique because it has not ended, he said, and PDC lawyers agreed that the bills could be paid with money from a new campaign committee.

But he said candidates should not use it as a bookkeeping maneuver.

“They have to be an official candidate,” he said. “They cannot not be a candidate when they do this.”

Reporter Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623 or jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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