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Eight Weeks Later, Winner Emerges In Governor Race

Gregoire survives marathon

In the political equivalent of a last-second win by the trailing team in football, Democratic Party gubernatorial candidate Christine Gregoire took the lead as the clock expired and won this year's race for governor by a final margin of 130 votes.

On Dec. 23, the second recount of ballots -- this one with each ballot individually reviewed -- reversed an earlier lead of 42 votes for Dino Rossi, the Republican Party candidate.

Secretary of State Sam Reed said he will certify the election on Dec. 30.

More than 2.9 million votes were cast in the election, which turned into the closest Washington governors' race in history.

The vote count had been a seesaw from the beginning, with the two candidates exchanging leads as the votes came in from across the state.

When all the votes from the Nov. 2 election were first tallied on Nov. 17, Dino Rossi appeared to have won by a margin of 261 votes. Due to the closeness of the race, a machine recount was automatically called for. That recount, completed on Nov. 24, left Rossi clinging to a 42-vote lead.

On Dec. 3, the Democratic Party and the Gregoire campaign called for a second recount, with all the ballots being checked individually by hand. A second recount by hand is allowed by state law, although the Democrats had to put up $730,000 to pay the added costs.

The hand recount giving Gregoiore the victory was not completed until last Thursday, Dec. 23.

Among them, the three gubernatorial candidates gained hundreds of votes in the hand recount. Rossi picked up an additional 748 votes, but Gregoire surpassed his early lead by gaining an extra 920 votes of her own.

Ruth Bennett, the Libertarian Party candidate, gained 50 votes in the hand recount process.

In Klickitat County, however, there were no changes after the hand recount, one of only seven counties where that was the case. In Skamania County, meanwhile, the hand recount gave Rossi a net of two additional votes.

The final vote (yet still unofficial) totals are as follows:

Christine Gregoire (D): 1,373,362 votes; 48.873%

Dino Rossi (R): 1,373,232 votes; 48.868%.

Ruth Bennett (L): 63,465 votes; 2.258%.

The race is expected to be certified on Dec. 30.

Chris Vance, chairman of the Washington Republican Party, vowed to challenge the results and have more votes counted.

"This count is not over. This battle is not over," Vance said.

Republican Party leaders in the state said they would challenge the results, possibly in court. It was unclear, however, what their legal argument would be. By state law, only two recounts are allowed.

On the evening of Dec. 23, Gregoire held a news conference and said she would not declare victory until the election is certified.

"A lot of heated words have been said during this recount," Gregoire said. "But with the election coming to a close, I am confident that we can begin to move forward as one state."

Gregoire added that she was proud of the state's election process.

"I think we have been a model to the rest of the nation and to the world at large," she said.

Late on Dec. 23, Rossi issued a statement in which he blasted the Washington Supreme Court.

"Earlier this week, I asked the Supreme Court not to change the rules of the recount," Rossi said. "On Tuesday, however, the Supreme Court did change the recount rules, and allowed previously rejected ballots to be reconsidered."

Rossi added that he would ask county canvassing boards across the state to reconsider "wrongfully rejected" ballots.

"I know many Washingtonians are hoping this will end soon," Rossi explained. "But I'm also sure that people across this state want a clean election and a legitimate governor-elect. At this point, we have neither."

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