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Originally published November 4, 2010 at 5:26 PM | Page modified November 5, 2010 at 9:50 AM

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Rossi concedes; Sen. Patty Murray wins fourth term

Democrat Patty Murray has won a fourth term to the U.S. Senate. Her Republican challenger, Dino Rossi, conceded the race Thursday evening after new vote totals showed Murray widening her lead.

Seattle Times political reporter

Sen. Patty Murray has survived the national Republican wave, riding strong Democratic turnout in King County to defeat Republican Dino Rossi and win a fourth term.

Murray joined a crowd of jubilant supporters at a Seattle pizzeria Thursday evening, shortly after Rossi conceded in what she termed a "gracious" phone call.

"Woo! Senator in the house," yelled King County Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz, raising a beer as Murray arrived to boisterous cheers.

"I am just deeply honored," Murray told the crowd, wearing her trademark tennis shoes, along with bluejeans and a gray hooded sweatshirt. "I want to thank all of the voters of Washington for this tremendous opportunity to once again be the voice for all of you."

Rossi's concession came at about 6 p.m., after new vote totals saw him falling further behind.

"I ran for the Senate because I believe we need a basic course correction from where Washington, D.C., has been taking us and to make sure this country is as free, as strong and as prosperous in the future as it has been in the past to preserve the best of America for future generations," Rossi said in a statement released by his campaign.

"That was a message that found a very receptive audience all across this state, though not quite receptive enough," he said.

Rossi said he hoped both political parties would work together in the next few years to solve the country's problems, especially the economy and massive federal debt.

Murray said "we have to get to work" now that the race is over.

"I want to make sure that Washington state has what it needs to get our economy back on its feet — win that (Boeing) tanker contract," she said, drawing cheers from the crowd, "and make sure our middle-class families get the tax cuts they need during this time, and we put people back to work."

During a brief news conference, Murray said she was open to listening to Republicans in the newly divided Congress but rejected calls to substantially alter the new health-care law or rein in federal earmarks — two issues of dispute in the hard-fought Senate race.

As of Thursday night, Murray led Rossi by more than 46,000 votes statewide, taking 51 percent to Rossi's 49 percent. That was up from a 14,000-vote lead on Election Day.

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According to a Seattle Times analysis, Rossi would need to get about 54 percent of the estimated 541,000 uncounted ballots statewide to overcome Murray's lead.

But nearly 264,000 of those ballots are in King County. Murray's already commanding lead there has only expanded since Election Day. She took 68 percent of the 69,000 King County ballots counted Thursday.

To overcome his disadvantage in King County, Rossi would have to collect roughly two-thirds of the remaining ballots in the rest of the state — an impossible feat.

Former state Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance said Rossi ran a good campaign and attributed the loss to the difficulty of beating an incumbent U.S. senator — especially one who had been fairly popular before the national mood turned against Democrats.

"Patty Murray was not in any way damaged goods. The only thing that made her vulnerable was the national tide. It wasn't enough to oust her," Vance said.

King County Executive Dow Constantine, a Democrat, said voters recognize Murray as their champion despite millions of dollars in attack ads from out-of-state political committees.

"She has been absolutely tenacious in pursuit of the interests of the people of the state of Washington, and folks recognize that. So even with all the big anonymous money coming in, and these sort of standard Republican campaign lines being issued, a lot of folks saw through that," he said.

Murray's victory helped Democrats maintain a majority in the U.S. Senate in a year that saw many Democratic incumbents fall, and the Republicans seize control of the U.S. House.

It was the third statewide defeat for Rossi, a former state legislator and a real-estate investor from Sammamish. He lost the bitterly contested 2004 gubernatorial race to then-Attorney General Chris Gregoire, after two recounts and a failed lawsuit. He lost to Gregoire by a wider margin in 2008.

Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or jbrunner@seattletimes.com

2nd Congressional District

The battle for the 2nd Congressional District seat continued Thursday with incumbent Democratic Rep. Rick Larsen maintaining a narrow lead over Snohomish County Councilman John Koster in the latest vote tallies.

Larsen trailed on Election Day by about 1,200 votes. On Thursday, he had pulled ahead by 1,451 votes, or 0.66 percent.

A recount is required if the candidates are less than one-half a percentage point and fewer than 2,000 votes apart.

Koster's campaign said it was monitoring the ballot counting.

"Though John Koster remains in a position to win, we are keenly aware that there are those who will do everything they can to keep this seat out of the hands of the new House majority," Koster's campaign manager Larry Stickney said in a statement.

"We are working with attorneys and election experts at the state and federal levels in anticipation of a possible recount scenario," he said.

— Staff reporter Lynn Thompson

State Supreme Court

State Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders and Bainbridge Island attorney Charlie Wiggins remained locked in a tight race for the state's highest court after Thursday's latest vote count.

Sanders, seeking a fourth term, saw his numbers drop slightly since Wednesday but was still leading with 50.64 percent of the vote.

Wiggins continued to gain ground in populous King County, where his total increased to more than 57 percent of the vote with an estimated 272,000 King County votes still to be counted.

The race appears to hinge on whether Wiggins' strong showing in King County will allow him to overtake Sanders.

— Staff reporter Steve Miletich

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