OLYMPIA – Republican Rob McKenna’s campaign insisted he would overtake Democrat Jay Inslee “next week or the week after” as ballot counting continued in Washington’s close gubernatorial race.
But while the percentages improved slightly for Attorney General McKenna, the gap in their vote totals remained about the same – 50,000 more votes for Inslee, the former congressman.
In one of the state’s other close contests, opponents of Referendum 74 conceded defeat Thursday afternoon, acknowledging a trend that showed them falling farther behind. Joseph Backholm of Preserve Marriage Washington said the group was “disappointed but not defeated” and insisted they will continue to lobby for their belief that marriage is only between one man and one woman.
“Washington is a deep blue state and one of the most secular states in the country,” Backholm said in explaining the loss.
The concession prompted a second round of celebratory comments from supporters of same-sex marriage, who on Wednesday claimed victory after their analysts concluded they wouldn’t fall behind in the protracted vote counts.
“This is a day that historians will look back on as a turning point for equality,” said Gov. Chris Gregoire, who had pushed for the legislation that was the basis for Ref. 74. “It is a day I will look back on as Washington state leading the nation.”
Washington was one of three states that approved same-sex marriage in Tuesday’s election, although the results in Maine and Maryland were clear on Election Night.
In the governor’s race, Randy Pepple, McKenna campaign manager said public and internal polls showed later voters were more favorable to McKenna and “we have built this campaign around data.”
The Secretary of State’s office said counties have about 646,000 ballots on hand to be processed, but that number continues to grow as ballots continue to arrive in the mail. Right now, more than a third of the ballots still to be counted are in King County, where Inslee is collecting about 62.5 percent of the vote to McKenna’s 37.5 percent. That’s more than twice as many votes currently on hand in the three largest counties in which McKenna leads, Spokane, Pierce and Clark.
Both campaigns have already been contacted by Gregoire’s office about transition plans, and “if it goes into next week, there may some joint transition planning,” Pepple said.
Washington has two other close races that hang on the late ballot counts.
Initiative 1240, which would allow a total of 40 charter schools within the public school system over the next five years, opened up a lead of about 45,000 votes out of 2.3 million cast.
Republican Kim Wyman, the Thurston County auditor, lead former state Sen. Kathleen Drew, a Democrat, by about 35,000 votes for the Secretary of State’s position.