Gary Locke won the governor’s race by a lopsided margin Tuesday, cruising to a victory he was heavily favored to win from the start.
The Seattle Democrat was declared the winner within minutes of the polls closing. His opponent, Ellen Craswell, urged hundreds of supporters gathered at a Bellevue convention center Tuesday night to pray and believe in miracles, but the scene remained grim.
Locke was soon onstage at a packed ballroom at the Westin Hotel, flanked by top Democratic elected officials, family members, and the head of the state party, celebrating victory.
He called his election a “special moment” for Asian Americans. Locke is the first Asian-American governor ever elected outside of Hawaii.
“It is a testimony to democracy and our nation that more and more ethnic groups are participating in the democracy of our great land,” he said. “My victory is testimony to the American dream.”
Locke, a Chinese-American, was raised in public housing in Seattle. He is the son of a former houseboy who used to work not far from the governor’s mansion in Olympia.
He used his victory speech to call for bipartisan cooperation. “Beginning tonight, it is time to put aside what divides us and focus on what unites us for a better tomorrow.
“It’s time to lower the rhetoric … Voters are tired of divisiveness. Little of the work that has to be done has anything to do with partisan politics. I pledge to work with both chambers to find common ground and meet the needs of our state as we enter a new century.”
Locke repeated his pledge to make education his top priority in the governor’s mansion. He promised to forge partnerships between Eastern and Western Washington, and across both sides of the statehouse aisle.
In electing Locke, voters chose a familiar face. He is the King County executive, and served 11 years in the state House, including five as chairman of the House budget writing committee.
While there he voted for one of the largest tax increases in state history, but Craswell’s effort to tar him as a tax and spend liberal never stuck.
From the beginning of her candidacy two years ago, she was dismissed by many as too conservative to win.
She out-organized a crowded field of Republican candidates to win the primary, but her race in the general election was uphill from the start.
Craswell amassed nearly 20,000 dedicated volunteers, and kept pace with Locke in fund raising, with much of her money coming from thousands of supporters sending in as little as $10 a month.
But in the end, her call to repeal three of the four largest sources of state revenue, throw out the Growth Management Act, phase out welfare, and align state government with “God’s plan” was too much for most voters.
Craswell declared her army of volunteers wasn’t something she could take credit for, but “a miracle of the Lord.
“I couldn’t have done it. I don’t even know that many people,” Craswell said Tuesday, surveying a sea of supporters gathered in a cement-floored convention hall decorated with bales of hay, cowboy boots and hats and red white and blue stars and balloons.
Her party felt like a family reunion more than a campaign event, with kids everywhere, and not a single high-powered lobbyist or GOP party bigwig in the room.
Instead, hundreds of the foot soldiers in “Ellen’s Army,” turned out for one last muster for their candidate.
Craswell wove her way through the crowd, hugging, kissing and thanking supporters, many of whom received signed plaques from her thanking them for their work.
Her race brought hundreds of people into politics who had never bothered to get involved in campaigns before. That in itself was something to feel good about, Craswell said.
“This was a victory of a sort, for people who lost faith and hope, they needed to hear that someone cares about these issues.”
Craswell said she had no regrets and would change nothing about her campaign. But she said the media “overplayed” her faith. She ran as a self-proclaimed radical Christian conservative and the tag never left her.
“I just tried to be as open as I could be. If that’s not what the people want, that’s what elections are for.”
Craswell said she doesn’t know what she’ll do next but her husband, Bruce, was quick with his answer. “Retire,” he exclaimed.
As for Locke, he hopes to take a little time off to fix a stuck door at home, change the oil in the car, and tend his neglected orchids.
“It’s time to get back to normal life for a while,” Locke said.
But not for long.
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