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Thursday, December 09, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Gregoire: I had no role in lawsuit
By David Postman
Gregoire, a career attorney and three-term Democratic attorney general, said she didn't see the suit before it was filed and wasn't consulted.
Though she expressed no disagreements with the Democrats' strategy, she has distanced herself from the recount. She did not appear at the Democratic Party announcement of the call for the state's first hand recount of a statewide race.
"This recount is being run by the party, paid for by the party, and the lawsuit is all about that," Gregoire said.
Her name isn't listed among the plaintiffs in the suit. The alleged injured parties are said to be voters who say their vote wasn't counted, not the candidate who could become governor.
"I'm not the lawyer here. I'm not the client. I am an extremely interested third party," Gregoire said yesterday.
Governor-elect Dino Rossi, the Republican who won the first recount by 42 votes, is more publicly attached to the litigation. He is named in the Republican Party's motion to intervene in the lawsuit, a petition that says he has much at stake from the outcome.
"She's trying to distance herself from it because this has left a bad taste in the public's mouth," Rossi said. "The average person out there wants this to be done."
Democrats filed a lawsuit in the Washington Supreme Court asking that Secretary of State Sam Reed order county canvassing boards to reconsider thousands of ballots rejected in the first two counts. They argue that there are not adequate statewide standards for ballot counting and that voters were disenfranchised because election officials chose "expediency over accuracy and equality."
While the Attorney General's Office normally would have the responsibility of defending Reed's office from lawsuits, in this case, to avoid potential conflict of interest, the state hired outside counsel to fill that role.
The court will hear the case Monday. The recount began yesterday and is expected to take at least two weeks.
"They said, 'Do you want your name on it or not?' I figure she's contesting the election I won. I guess I'm in the middle of it. Let's put my name on it."
Rossi said some in the room argued against that for reasons he described as "more political."
Gregoire did not appear Friday when Democrats announced they had raised enough money to ask for a statewide hand recount of the nearly 3 million ballots cast in the race.
She said the more than $700,000 needed to begin the count was raised by the party, not her, because her campaign was shut down and state law doesn't allow post-election fund raising by campaigns.
Most of her campaign staff is now on the Democratic Party payroll.
And her name is noticeable by its absence from the Democrats' lawsuit filed Friday. The brief named as plaintiffs the party and several voters who alleged their votes had not been counted.
"What's important and of interest to the party isn't necessarily, absolutely in sync with me and my interests," Gregoire said.
And she suggested she had hoped there'd be no litigation.
"To me this is an issue for the parties. I would have hoped that they would have agreed, frankly, but they haven't, so it will have to be resolved by the court."
Gregoire expressed no specific disagreements with the Democratic Party's litigation strategy. She said she agrees with the premise that canvassing boards should reconsider previously rejected ballots. But she maintains the lawsuit is not about her candidacy.
"This has gone well beyond Dino Rossi and Christine Gregoire," she said. It is now about the system used in the state to count and recount ballots, she said.
In court papers filed Tuesday, Reed included a memorandum from his predecessor, fellow Republican Ralph Munro, about a recount that said the Attorney General's Office had said there was no provision in state law for reconsidering previously rejected ballots.
That 1996 memo came while Gregoire was attorney general. But she said yesterday there is no written legal opinion from her office on the subject, either from 1996 or earlier.
David Postman: 360-943-9882 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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