In the biggest case of sour grapes since Al Gore demanded multiple Florida recounts, Washington State Democrats last week called for a third counting of the photo-finish November election that gave their state its first Republican governor in 20 years.
As John Kerry was taking more than 55% of the state’s votes, conservative GOP State Sen. Dino Rossi narrowly edged out Democrat Christine Gregoire, a three-term state attorney general, for the governorship. After a count that took nearly two weeks (70% of the 2.8 million ballots were absentee), Rossi held a lead of 261 votes.
Following a machine recount, which state law required, his margin was shaved to just 42 votes.
Republican Secretary of State Sam Reed certified that result last week. Gregorie refused to accept it, demanding a hand recount that could last until January 12, the day the new governor is scheduled to be inaugurated.
Under state law, Gregoire must pay 25 cents per ballot, or about $700,000, for a new statewide hand count.
Should a partial recount put her ahead, however, the state would then be required to conduct a full manual recount courtesy of the taxpayers.
In a state where most GOP statewide office-holders have come from the moderate and liberal wings of the party, the 45-year-old Rossi is an unabashed conservative. As state voters turned down a proposed one-cent sales tax increase by a 3-to-2 vote, Rossi rode the anti-tax tide, reminding voters that as chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee last year he had helped erase a state deficit without a tax increase. He also called for tort reforms, including limits on damages, and contrasted his position with Gregoire’s backing from trial lawyers. He called for the state to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman and never wavered from his strong pro-life stance.
The long Democratic lock on the governorship also may have helped Rossi. “There were so many people who voted for [John] Kerry, [Sen. Patty] Murray and the other Democrats who also felt it was time for a change in Olympia,” said GOP state legislator Mark Schoesler. “You might call them ‘Dino-crats.'”
Most newspaper editorials are calling on Gregoire to concede. But the Democratic National Committee last week sent out a nationwide mailing soliciting contributions for the recount.