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Originally published Wednesday, January 12, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Democrats challenge GOP lawsuit

The state Democratic Party will intervene in the lawsuit Republicans filed against election officials, saying the party "has a substantial interest in ensuring that the results...

Seattle Times chief political reporter

The state Democratic Party will intervene in the lawsuit Republicans filed against election officials, saying the party "has a substantial interest in ensuring that the results of this election stand."

Republicans want a judge to throw out the governor's election between Democrat Christine Gregoire and Republican Dino Rossi and set a new election.

Republicans agreed yesterday the Democratic Party could join the suit on the side of Secretary of State Sam Reed and county auditors.

In addition to defending Gregoire's victory, Democrats said in papers filed in Chelan County Superior Court that the Republican election contest means the Democrats can't get $730,000 back from Reed.

That's how much the Democratic Party had to pay to order the hand recount that found Gregoire the winner by 129 votes.

The money was to be returned — and the costs paid by the counties — since the outcome was reversed. But state Elections Director Nick Handy said yesterday that if Republicans are successful in court "there are serious legal questions about refunding the money."

The lawsuit will be heard by Judge T.W. Small, one of three Chelan County judges.

Small was appointed by former Democratic Gov. Booth Gardner. His wife is a Republican and a donor to the Republican National Committee, according to a letter he sent attorneys in the case outlining any potential conflicts of interest.

Small said he also has been discussing a potential federal appointment "with both partisan and nonpartisan individuals," but could not reveal details.

He has some experience with election challenges. As an attorney in 1979, he unsuccessfully challenged the election of the mayor of Chelan.

David Postman: 360-943-9882 or dpostman@seattletimes.com

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