Gregoire headed toward victory
Gov. Christine Gregoire was leading Republican challenger Dino Rossi, but tens of thousands of votes remain to be counted.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Gov. Christine Gregoire appeared headed for re-election Tuesday, but Republican challenger Dino Rossi said the race wasn't over yet.
Appearing before supporters, Gregoire noted that several national news organizations were calling the race for her.
When Barack Obama can be elected president and a daughter of a short-order cook can be elected governor, she said, "every one of our children can do anything and everything they want to do."
The main trend in her favor: Gregoire was leading Rossi in most of Western Washington in early returns, including the state's population centers of King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.
In 2004, Rossi was ahead in statewide returns at this point in the election.
But there are still thousands of votes to be counted, especially in King County. "We still don't know who is governor yet," Rossi said not long before Gregoire spoke.
A statement from Rossi's campaign said it wasn't "in a position to know who will win. We expect to give a new statement tomorrow after we see a second round of returns in the lower-turnout counties."
Rossi argued that there was still a chance for Snohomish County to turn in his favor as more precincts were tallied. Rossi won Snohomish four years ago.
Just like 2004, Rossi this time was getting much of his support from more rural counties in central and Eastern Washington.
And Gregoire was getting the bulk of her votes from the largest urban areas.
But that's where the similarity ended.
In 2004, Gregoire won the election by 133 votes after two recounts and a lawsuit. The outcome remained in doubt for weeks.
It's highly unlikely that will happen this time.
There were several factors that may have influenced the vote.
President-elect Obama was carrying Washington by a large margin. Gregoire had hoped voters who checked Obama's name would continue down the Democratic side of the ballot to her.
That appears to be the case, said Matt Barreto, a political-science professor at the University of Washington. "Obama pulled her up," Barreto said.
The governor tried to tie herself to Obama as much as possible, giving him a very public endorsement back in February. Supporters sent out campaign material featuring the two candidates as a team.
A recent University of Washington poll also indicated that the majority of voters who were worried about the economy were supporting Gregoire, 57 percent, compared with 41 percent for Rossi.
Yet the same poll found that younger voters, ages 18 to 34, who were expected to vote heavily for Obama, appeared to be breaking for Rossi in Washington, 56 percent compared with 40 percent for Gregoire.
If true, that could prove significant this election. State records indicate that more than 340,000 new voters registered this year, and roughly 60 percent are in that 18-34 age group.
Secretary of State Sam Reed said he had only one wish this election — that one of the candidates wins by a large enough margin to avoid a recount. He may have gotten his wish.
State law requires a recount if the difference is less than one-half of 1 percent and fewer than 2,000 votes.
Democrats have won six straight elections and controlled the governor's office for 24 years, the longest reign for either party. The last Republican elected governor was John Spellman, in 1980.
This year's race was by far the most expensive in state history.
The previous record was the $12.5 million spent in 2004 by Gregoire and Rossi. As of Tuesday, the candidates combined had spent nearly $25 million. On top of that, special-interest groups spent an additional $20 million on the race.
Money raised by independent campaigns run by the Building Industry Association of Washington and the Republican Governors Association gave Rossi a significant money advantage this election. Combined, Rossi and his supporters outspent Gregoire and her backers by about $5 million.
This was a different election from 2004. As bitter as the race was four years ago, this was more so. Both Gregoire and Rossi, as well as their supporters, ran largely negative campaigns and filled the airwaves with attack ads.
All that firepower was aimed at a relatively small group of undecided voters. Polls indicated that most people had decided how they were going to vote a long time ago.
Rossi spent most of his time talking about the increased spending during Gregoire's term and how the state faces a projected $3.2 billion shortfall when it puts together its next two-year budget.
Gregoire ran on her record in office and blamed the budget shortfall on President Bush and his "failed economic policies."
Both candidates pledged they would not increase taxes or fees to balance the budget next year if elected.
Andrew Garber: 360-236-8268
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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