By DAVID AMMONS
OLYMPIA — For decades, Republican Sen. Slade Gorton has managed to win statewide office by conceding King County, which includes heavily Democratic Seattle, and concentrating on the rest of the state.
After 40 years in public office, the strategy seems to have failed the veteran politician who trailed his opponent in the nation’s last undecided U.S. Senate race.
With all 39 counties reporting final tallies late Wednesday, Democrat Maria Cantwell was ahead of Gorton by 1,953 votes out of more than 2.4 million. A win by Cantwell could create a 50-50 tie in the U.S. Senate.
Gorton, 72, did not concede but described himself as "cautiously pessimistic." He said he would await the recount, which begins Monday.
Cantwell, 42, all but declared victory: "I look forward to this challenge and the process that is still yet to take place in the next several weeks."
Under Washington law, a recount is automatic when an election margin is less than 0.5 percent, which would be about 12,000 votes in this case.
Cantwell, who became a dotcom millionaire after getting bounced from Congress in 1994, came from behind after 700,000 absentee votes were counted. It was Seattle and the rest of King County that put her over the top.
She had courted Seattle and the surrounding communities during her campaign. Gorton, 72, seemed to stiff-arm the state’s largest city, running his campaign from Bellevue, where he also has his Senate office.
In the end, she carried just five counties and he won 34.
Cantwell had 1,199,260 votes, or 48.7 percent, to 1,197,307, or 48.6 percent, for Gorton, who was seeking a fourth term overall and third in a row.
Secretary of State Ralph Munro said a recount would begin Monday and take about a week to complete. He said no recount in recent state history had reversed the outcome of a certified vote count.
A Cantwell victory would create a rare 50-50 tie in the Senate, at least until the presidential race is decided. It also would give the state two female senators for the first time and two Democrats in the Senate for the first time since the 1970s, when Warren G. Magnuson and Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson represented the state.
A victory by Gorton would preserve the Republican majority in the Senate, regardless of the outcome of the presidential election and the political fate of Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the Democratic vice presidential candidate.
If Lieberman becomes vice president, Connecticut Gov. John Rowland would appoint a Republican to fill the vacated seat.
A new term for Gorton would give Republicans at least 51 votes in the new Senate — 52 if Lieberman becomes vice president. If Cantwell wins, the Senate breakdown would be 50-50 with Lieberman and 51-49 without him.
If Texas Gov. George W. Bush wins the White House and Dick Cheney becomes vice president, Republicans would still maintain nominal control of the Senate even if there is a 50-50 tie. But a protracted negotiation would likely ensue before the two parties came to terms on the allocation of committee seats as well as staff funding.
Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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