OLYMPIA, Wash. – Come Tuesday, it'll be official: Republican Dino Rossi (search) will be certified as Washington's governor-elect. But it'll be far from over.
After a machine recount last week, only 42 votes separated Rossi and Democrat Christine Gregoire (search) in the closest gubernatorial race in the state's history.
Since Rossi edged Gregoire in both the regular count — by 261 votes — and in the automatic machine recount, the state's chief elections officer planned to certify the self-made real estate millionaire as the governor-elect Tuesday.
But Gregoire, a three-term attorney general, wasn't giving up.
On Friday, Democrats are expected to request a hand recount of all or part of the 2.8 million ballots, and the Republicans may weigh in as well. The uncertainty could last until Christmas. Some are even worrying about whether a winner will be known in time for the inauguration on Jan. 12.
"Right now, the state is divided smack down the middle," Gregoire's spokesman, Morton Brilliant, said Monday. "If all the ballots aren't counted, we will go through the next four years with one candidate's supporters not believing the winner was legitimately elected."
Kirstin Brost, the state Democrats spokeswoman, added: "There's a long list of counties where ballot numbers don't match up — where ballots either materialized or ballots evaporated. There may be perfectly reasonable explanations, but it needs to be explored."
Republicans, meanwhile, will respond with their own recount request, while stepping up the heat on Gregoire to concede, said Rossi spokeswoman Mary Lane.
"We'll be prepared for them, whatever strategy they decide to go with," Lane said.
Incumbent Gov. Gary Locke (search), a Democrat, did not run for a third term.