Seattle Courant Archive

Gregoire triumphs as close race fails to materialize

Gregoire triumphs as close race fails to materialize

By Tom Paulson
November 05, 2008

He said he wanted her to be a success.

"We had a fantastic campaign," he said. "Of course it wasn't enough in the end."

Rossi said that despite losing, his campaign had a positive impact on state government.

"Christine Gregoire made an iron-clad promise in this term of office not to raise taxes or fees to solve the deficit problem and I think that voters will have a right to hold her to that promise," he said.

Now that his campaign is over, Rossi said he would go back to being a businessman.

"I'm very comfortable in the business world," he said. "When I told people that I was happy before I got into politics and I'll be happy after, that's exactly what I meant. In this happy after, some good things are going to be happening in the Rossi family. I'm going to be home for dinner tonight."

With only a few exceptions, Gregoire was leading in Western Washington counties including King County, Pierce County, Snohomish County and Kitsap County. In Eastern Washington, she was also slightly ahead in Spokane County.

"I feel I am probably one of the most blessed people in the world," she told a jubilant crowd at the Westin Hotel in Seattle.

"By the end of the day today, we had called 1 million Washingtonians. We had knocked on a quarter-million voters," she said. "No matter who you voted for, thank you for participating in history."

"All of the negative ads are down," Gregoire said to great cheers before congratulating Rossi and wishing his family will. "It is time for us to come together as one great state. ... We are going to make the dreams of every one of our children come true in the great state of Washington."

She was already looking toward the future.

"With Barack Obama as a partner every one of our children will be able to have a world-class education. It will start with early learning, every kid who wants to go to college will go. Every kid who wants to get involved in the trades will go," she said. "We are going to make the dreams of every one of our children come true in the great state of Washington."

Before the election, polls had indicated that the $44 million political battle was heading toward another close race -- but in that scenario, Gregoire was expected to pull ahead only after King County tallied votes for several days.

She was expected to be trailing on election night.

Her early lead indicated that the margin would only grow in the days to come.

Kelly Steele, a spokesman for the state Democrats, said the early results spoke volumes.

"We've seen the lead widen as the night's gone on. The minutes and hours of Rossi's political career are ticking down," he said.

Steele said the strong turnout from Democrats nationally was the key to Gregoire's success.

Gregoire's win brings an end to a grueling gubernatorial rematch that not only smashed state spending records, but also challenged most voters' tolerance for hyperbole, acrimony and all fashion of political advertisements.

The political action committees of the Building Industry Association of Washington, the Republican Governors Association, unions representing state employees, teachers, service workers and the trades spent almost $20 million on caustic ads. Some were still airing right up until the polls closed.

"It was a scandal," state Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz said. "For one, they used money that was created for them by the government. I think there were lies, and the members of the BIAW should be ashamed."

Because metropolitan votes will be tallied over several days, Gregoire's campaign has been bracing for a slow start in the first rounds of tallies in which less populous counties tip the balance.

Gregoire, who beat Rossi in 2004 by just 133 votes after two recounts and a court battle, most likely will benefit from early endorsement of President-elect Barack Obama in the Democratic districts that provided him a tidal wave of support.

Internal e-mails from Gregoire's campaign indicated the campaign expected to be trailing in the polls by as much as 4 percent at the end of the first night of counting.

In King County, Gregoire's main stronghold of support, election officials expect to tally only about 40 percent of more than 940,000 anticipated ballots. Gregoire likely will grab roughly 60 percent of the vote in King County.

Early returns showed voters following through after voting for Obama.

To counter stalwart Republican counties east of the Cascades, Democrats have historically relied on good showings in closely divided counties along central Puget Sound.

Gregoire had a healthy lead in Snohomish County and Kitsap County in the first offering of results. Notably, she also led narrowly in Spokane County.

In Tacoma, Larry Bennett, 36, runs an ice-cream parlor and a nonprofit gang-prevention program in Tacoma.

Despite Rossi's assertion that he is the candidate for small business, Bennett said he would vote for Gregoire.

"I feel Rossi is for Rossi," Bennett said. "As a small-business owner, I feel that Rossi isn't all that he makes himself out to be."

Sean Slote, 42, said he voted for Gregoire in 2004, but split his ticket this year with a vote for Barack Obama for president and Rossi for governor.

The Kenmore resident said his choice had more to do with the balance of power in Olympia than anything Gregoire had done wrong.

Frank Shea, 86, spent the better part of his working years as a traffic manager for the Rainier Brewery.

He proudly displayed his "I voted" sticker.