Rossi concedes defeat to Gregoire
Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire today began rolling out her agenda for a second term, shortly after Republican Dino Rossi conceded that she had won.
Seattle Times staff reporters
Declaring that jobs for Washingtonians will be priority number one of her second term, Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire began rolling out her agenda a day after defeating Republican opponent Dino Rossi in a bitter race for re-election.
Rossi had conceded the race moments before, offering his help to make Gregoire a successful governor.
"I told him I would take him up on his offer because we are going to have tough times ahead," said Gregoire, who plans to offer a state economic stimulus package for the 2009 Legislature to consider.
Calling it "a work in progress," Gregoire said the proposal likely would focus on creating jobs through water, road and other infrastructure projects that would be ready to start within 90 days after the plan is adopted.
"We don't need a stimulus package with one $300 check," she said during a news conference in downtown Seattle. "We need a stimulus package that puts people back to work."
She said she intends to work with state Republicans to help stimulate the economy. She said she does not intend to raise state taxes during the next four years.
"Now is not the time you put taxes on people," she said, adding that during the campaign she has met people across the state who are suffering from the economic problems. "We need to be there helping them get through these tough times, and raising taxes is not going to help them."
She said she looked forward to working with President-elect Barack Obama, whom Gregoire endorsed during the primaries.
"I am so excited to have him as a partner in the White House," she said. "Barack Obama is an individual who shares our values, who shares our visions, who shares what we want to accomplish in Washington state."
Asked about the possibility of serving in Obama's Cabinet, Gregoire said it would be an honor to be considered, but then attempted to put speculation to rest: "Do you have any idea how hard I've worked to run to be governor? I want to be governor of the great state of Washington."
Time to move forward
Gregoire called for putting the race against Rossi in the past.
"It is time for us to unite again as one Washington and move forward," she said.
But she did address the negative tone of the campaign.
"I was chagrined when the negative attack ads against me began in June, and it was kind of a warmup of what was to come," she said. "I hope we don't see that in the state of Washington again."
She then added: "Do you know how nice it was to wake up this morning and see no ads?"
Rossi conceded the race during an 11:35 a.m. news conference in Redmond, after placing his call to Gregoire.
"I want to offer my services and help, and want her to be successful as governor," he said.
Rossi trailed by more than 100,000 votes this morning, and it was clear he couldn't bridge the gap.
Gregoire had claimed victory late Tuesday after several national news organizations said she'd won.
Rossi said today he believes his campaign, even though it was unsuccessful, had a positive effect on state government, such as extracting what he called "an ironclad promise" from Gregoire to not raise taxes.
He gave special thanks to younger, split-ticket voters who supported Barack Obama for president and Rossi for governor. "I guess we call them 'Dinocrats,' " he said.
Rossi, a former state senator who also lost to Gregoire in 2004, said he now will return to the business world.
He suggested the difference between this election and the one four years ago, which he lost by 133 votes after a protracted recount and a court challenge, may have been increased voter opposition against Republicans. John McCain fared worse in Washington than President Bush did in 2004, he noted.
"In Olympia, we have a lot of problems that need to be fixed," Rossi said, but then added: "We have a terrific state here, with a lot of opportunities ."
Just like 2004, Rossi this time got much of his support from more rural counties in Central and Eastern Washington.
And Gregoire got 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.
Factors in voters' minds
There were several factors that may have influenced the vote.
President-elect Obama carried 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.
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 got 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.
An expensive, negative race
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.
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 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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