By REBECCA COOK
OLYMPIA — As the U.S. Senate race in Washington creeps toward the finish line, incumbent Republican Slade Gorton holds on to the narrow lead he has had since election night.
On Monday night, Gorton had 1,263 votes more than Democratic challenger Maria Cantwell, a slight drop from the 1,765-vote lead he had Friday night. Gorton had 1,170,472 votes, or 48.72 percent; Cantwell had 1,169,209, or 48.67 percent; and Libertarian Jeff Jared had 62,574, or 2.60 percent.
The real test will come todayt, when the bulk of the remaining 45,000 votes is expected to be counted. On Wednesday, Washington’s 39 counties must certify their final results.
"It’s shaping up to be a very big day," Gorton campaign spokeswoman Cynthia Bergman said of today. "If all counties report the remaining ballots, we should know the outcome."
That would be a relief to the candidates, who have been waiting two weeks. Bergman said the campaign staff, while "cautiously optimistic," was too anxious to plan a celebration in case Gorton pulls out another close victory.
"We take it day by day," Bergman said. "It’s too close, it’s too nerve-racking to even think about it."
That’s at least one thing on which the two campaigns can agree.
"It’s been a long two weeks," Cantwell campaign spokesman Ellis Conklin said. "We’ve been in a state of tedium, suspense, angst, moods up, moods down."
Conklin said Monday was a good day. Although only about 10,000 votes were counted, Cantwell moved ahead.
"We still have some high hopes," he said.
Even when it’s over, it still won’t be over. A recount is likely. It’s required under state law when the margin is less than 0.5 percent, or about 12,000 votes.
If Cantwell defeats Gorton, the Senate would be tied 50-50, the first even split in a century. If Al Gore wins the White House and his vice president, Sen. Joe 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 state races, Republican Sam Reed continues to hold about a 10,000-vote lead over Democrat Don Bonker for the open secretary of state post.
And in the Legislature, the House appears headed for another 49-49 tie while Democrats seem poised to hold on to a one-seat majority in the Senate.
Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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