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Originally published Friday, November 9, 2012 at 6:11 PM

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McKenna concedes Washington governor's race

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna is conceding defeat.

Associated Press

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OLYMPIA, Wash. —

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna is conceding defeat.

Campaign manager Randy Pepple told reporters Friday night that McKenna called Democrat Jay Inslee to congratulate him. Inslee had steadily held a 51 percent advantage in the race as ballots were counted this week.

The decision brings to end one of the most watched, most expensive gubernatorial races in the country. The two candidates and outside political groups raised and spent some $40 million in the race.

McKenna had portrayed himself as a moderate with a plan to increase funding for education. Inslee had touted his plans to spur job growth by investing in clean energy and other specific sectors.

Both candidates vowed to not raise taxes. Those policies will be put to the test in January, when lawmakers begin negotiations over how to deal with a budget shortfall and the need for more education funding.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

A fresh tally of votes Friday didn't do much to help Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna, who has held out hope that late ballots would break in his direction.

Counties that posted new totals on Friday evening pushed McKenna upward to a little above 49 percent of the vote. But the Democratic-leaning King County was set to release its updated results later in the night, likely erasing those gains.

McKenna believes late ballots will turn in his favor because the campaign says its internal tracking numbers suggested they would. However, in several of the counties he actually performed worse on Friday than he had earlier in the week.

The campaign emphasized earlier in the week that numbers wouldn't shift in their direction until Friday, over the weekend or early next week.

"We have no intention of unnecessarily dragging everyone along," McKenna spokesman Charles McCray said. "We saw an important data point in our tracking, and we want to follow it through."

So far, more than 2.5 million ballots have been counted. Counties estimate they still have another 500,000 on hand to process. That leaves McKenna with very little opportunity to make up ground.

Democratic candidate Jay Inslee, meanwhile, has been confident that the numbers will stay in his favor, so he has started forming a team to help him transition into office. He hasn't declared victory.

Both sides have separately been working on trying to ensure that thousands of challenged ballots - due to mismatched signatures or other problems - eventually get counted.

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