OLYMPIA, Wash. – For Dino Rossi (search), a 42-vote lead was enough to declare victory in the Washington governor's race. Christine Gregoire (search), however, begged to differ. And so, with a slim margin and a candidate unwilling to concede Wednesday, the state probably has another recount — a third — to look forward to.
Rossi, a self-made real estate millionaire and former state Senate budget chairman, was the underdog throughout the campaign but emerged with a 261-vote lead after the initial vote tally ended last week. The margin was so tiny that it triggered the automatic recount.
The recount that wrapped up Wednesday was done by machine. The campaigns or their parties can now request a hand recount in some or all the counties, but they have to pay for it.
Gregoire, the state attorney general, said the Democratic party has indicated that it is willing to pay for the recount. A statewide recount would cost the Democrats about $700,000.
Secretary of State Sam Reed, the state's chief elections officer, said he plans to certify the machine recount on Tuesday. The campaigns or their parties have three business days to request a full or partial manual recount.
Reed said he would probably direct that such a recount begin Dec. 6, and that the job could last until about Christmas. If a partial recount changes the outcome, state law requires a manual recount in the rest of the state. That would extend the uncertainty past Christmas. Inauguration day is Jan. 12.
Rossi, 45, was hoping to become the first Republican since 1980 to get elected governor. He ran on a platform of change and job-creation and billed himself as a "conservative with a social conscience."
Gregoire, 57, was hoping to become the state's second woman governor. She carried eight of the 39 counties, most notably the largest, King, which includes heavily Democratic Seattle. Gregoire was strongly backed by the women's movement and was best known for battling America's tobacco industry.
Rossi said there was no point in dragging the state through a third count and it was time for the state to move forward. His campaign has begun calling him "governor-elect."
Gregoire said the race continues.
"A 42-vote margin, my friends, that is a tied race," she told reporters and supporters in Seattle.
The vote-count drama has provided an endless source of fascination for political junkies, and it even attracted the attention of national parties and the White House, which dispatched its election experts to the state. The winner succeeds retiring two-term Gov. Gary Locke.