Democrat Patty Murray won a fourth term in the U.S. Senate, building a lead of nearly 50,000 votes over Republican rival Dino Rossi as counting continued Thursday.
Faced with a near mathematical impossibility of catching her even though hundreds of thousands of votes remain to be counted, Rossi conceded Thursday evening.
Murray built a victory on strong support in King County and other areas around Puget Sound. She made appeals to veterans, aircraft workers and women as she turned back Rossi’s criticism of her use of earmarks.
She was proud of her support of Democratic initiatives like health care reform and financial regulation. He advocated scaling back the former and repealing the latter.
Early in the year, Murray was considered a near lock to retain her seat. But Rossi entered the campaign in May, crowding out some of the early GOP hopefuls and eventually beating tea party favorite Clint Didier in the primary.
As the race tightened, Democratic stars Barack and Michelle Obama, Joe Biden and Bill Clinton made trips to the state to campaign. The national political parties and independent groups weighed in with millions of dollars of advertising that filled the airwaves, and the race became the closest of Murray’s career.
By Thursday afternoon news organizations around the state began to call the race for Murray. Rossi issued a statement at 6:15 p.m., saying he had called Murray to congratulate her, and conceding the contest.
“I ran for the Senate because I believe we need a basic course correction from where Washington, D.C., has been taking us and to make sure this country is as free, as strong and as prosperous in the future as it has been in the past to preserve the best of America for future generations,” he said in the prepared statement. “That was a message that found a very receptive audience all across this state, though not quite receptive enough.”
Because ballots in Washington state must only be postmarked by Election Day, ballots will continue to arrive at county elections offices for days, or in some cases more than a week.
Like most counties, Spokane County tallied ballots Thursday, and, like the U.S. Senate race, local races that are close got a bit farther apart. But in each case it was Republican challengers gaining distance from Democratic incumbents.
Al French increased his lead over Spokane County Commissioner Bonnie Mager to 1,791 votes, up from 1,471 votes on Wednesday.
Rob Chase increased his lead over County Treasurer Skip Chilberg to 1,354 votes, up from 1,063 votes on Wednesday.
John Ahern increased his lead over State Rep. John Driscoll in Spokane’s 6th Legislative District to 1,759 votes, up from 1,617 votes on Wednesday.