December 31, 2004 in City

Gregoire pledges to heal political rifts

Richard Roesler Staff writer
 
Associated Press photo

Democrat Christine Gregoire smiles during a news conference Thursday after she was declared Washington’s governor-elect.
(Full-size photo)

OLYMPIA – Hours after being declared the state’s new governor-elect, Christine Gregoire on Thursday stood in the state Capitol reception room, beamed at supporters, and vowed to heal the political rifts created by this year’s ultra-close election.

“The bottom line is the election is over. … It’s time to move forward,” Gregoire said, flanked by her family in the marble-lined room. She said she’s ready to be sworn in on Jan. 12.

Her Republican opponent, however, continued to call for a new vote in the race, which Gregoire won after three counts by just 129 votes. Dino Rossi, who won the first two counts, said he’s been flooded with e-mails and calls urging him to not concede the election.

“Quite frankly, nobody really believes – nobody that I know – that everything is quite right with this election,” Rossi said. “The waters have been so muddied and it’s such a mess that to really have confidence, we’ll have to go back to voters and say ‘What do you want to do?’ ”

Republicans say that many members of the military got their ballots late, and that a list of voters provided Wednesday by King County election officials lists 3,539 fewer names than there were votes.

“What is going on in King County?” state GOP chairman Chris Vance said in a written statement.

King County officials said the list was just preliminary and does not yet include people who cast federal write-in ballots or whose addresses are hidden because they’re domestic-violence victims. Poll books and absentee ballot data are also still being reconciled, according to the county. An updated list should be done by the end of next week.

Gregoire said Thursday that she won’t agree to a revote.

“If Senator Rossi had only won by one vote (after the third and final count), I was prepared to concede at that moment,” she said.

Rossi’s only option now, it seems, is to challenge the election in court or before the state Legislature. Republicans have been gathering data for days, looking for potential avenues for such a challenge. By law, any citizen can challenge the election until Jan. 22.

“If we don’t press forward, we aren’t going to find out what’s really wrong,” said Rossi. And that’s the only way the flaws in the state’s election system will be fixed, he said.

One of Rossi’s former colleagues in the state Senate backed him up.

“This election has exposed flaws in our elections system and has shattered many of our citizens’ confidence in it,” Senate Minority Leader Bill Finkbeiner said. He said he believes that King County’s election process “was biased in favor of Christine Gregoire.” Several Senate Republicans want to force a new election in January, he said.

The problem with that, however, is that Republicans no longer control the Senate. Or the House of Representatives. And it’s a pretty safe bet that Democratic House Speaker Frank Chopp isn’t going to allow a revote bill to pass – he was standing beside Gregoire, clapping, at her press conference Thursday.

Also, Republican Secretary of State Sam Reed says that he’s so far seen no evidence of the kind of large-scale problems that would be required for the Republicans to prevail in a court or statehouse fight. He also says he felt the third count – done by hand, in front of observers from both parties – was the most accurate of the three.

“I feel that this election has been fair,” he said. “… Nothing that I’ve been informed about rises to the level of fraud. There appears to have been human errors, human mistakes.”

And when those errors were found, he said, they were fixed.

Still, Reed said, Rossi would be well within his rights to challenge the election, which he lost by just 15 ten-thousandths of a percent.

“If I were in Senator Rossi’s shoes, I would do what he is doing,” said Reed.

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