Rossi has no plans to concede, says spokesperson

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Associated Press and KING Staff Reports

OLYMPIA, Wash. — A spokeswoman for Republican Dino Rossi says he is not conceding the race for Washington governor.

Spokeswoman Mary Lane said he'll use a news conference at his headquarters in Bellevue this evening to explain why. He says there are too many questions remaining from the election.

But time may be running out.

Secretary of State Sam Reed is set to certify the election Thursday, making Democrat Christine Gregoire the governor-elect.

After more than 2.8 million votes were counted three times, she won by 129 votes. Rossi had won the first count by 261 votes and the first recount by 42.

The turnaround means Democrats will get a refund of the $730,000 they paid for the second recount. Counties will have to pay the costs.

Counties have refused to reopen the vote count in Washington’s ultra-close governor’s race, and Rossi was reported under pressure Tuesday to carry a last-ditch fight into the courts.

The three vote counts in America’s closest governor’s race are over, and on Thursday morning, Secretary of State Sam Reed is prepared to certify Democrat Christine Gregoire as the victor by 129 votes, state elections chief Nick Handy said.

Canvassing boards in Grays Harbor, Kittitas, Lewis and Clark counties on Tuesday decided to not reconsider ballots some previously rejected ballots at the request of Republicans.

Rossi trails Gregoire, the state attorney general, by a tiny fraction of 1 percent, and the state GOP wants counties to take another look at ballots that the party contends may have been improperly counted or left out. The party also is doing the groundwork for a possible election “contest.”

Reed has warned against counties reopening their tallies.

Rossi is under pressure to fight on, although some backers have worried about damage from a “sore-loser” image. Spokeswoman Mary Lane said Rossi’s campaign office was being flooded with e-mails and calls from people who don’t want him to give up.

“People do not want him to concede — it’s pretty overwhelming,” Lane said Tuesday in an interview. “There’s a feeling that this was not a fair election.”

The final 129-vote margin is one fewer than announced at the end of the hand recount last week. One vote for Gregoire was subtracted from Thurston County’s tally because it had been added after the county’s initial certification, Handy said.

After certification, “the window opens” for contesting the election in the courts, he said. The election can be challenged until Jan. 22, 10 days after the Legislature issues the certificate of election and the new governor is inaugurated, Handy said in an interview.

State Republicans have gotten nowhere with their request that county auditors reopen their vote canvass to consider ballots that may have been improperly excluded or counted.

Most counties ignored the request. A smattering of counties were convening their canvassing boards, so far without further change to the tally.

Lewis County’s board voted unanimously Tuesday to leave the county’s certified returns alone. “State law says once we certify, we can no longer add any ballots,” said Marianne Zuhmbul, county elections director.

"At least the rule of law is alive and well here in Lewis County. I don't know if I can say that across the state," said Mark Anders, Lewis County Republican.

That meant five potential Rossi votes weren’t considered. But it later turned out those votes had been already counted.

Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey said his board also was unanimous in not considering 24 affidavits from Republicans and four from the Democrats.

Other counties, including Kittitas and Grays Harbor, were reaching the same conclusion.

Handy said that’s in keeping with a directive from the secretary of state’s office.

“The door closed when the counties certified the manual recount,” he said. “We will not accept a second certification. Even if they do reopen, we will accept only the original certification. We’ve been very clear on that.”

State Democratic Chairman Paul Berendt said, “Canvassing boards have spoken, and they have clearly stated this election is done. The secretary of state has said this election is over.

“Chris Gregoire will be the next governor of Washington state. She will be certified on Thursday and sworn into office on Jan. 12.”

Berendt went on to say in a statement released Tuesday:

"A few weeks ago, the Democratic Party went all the way to the State Supreme Court, seeking to have canvassing boards reexamine ballots. Dino Rossi didn't want these votes looked at, fought us in court, and the Court unanimously agreed with him. Now Senator Rossi has tried to convince canvassing boards across the state to give him a do-over. Republican and Democratic county auditors alike have refused, backed up by the Republican Secretary of State.

"Republicans and Democrats across the state have worked together to have an accurate hand count. Rossi just didn't like the results. His last shot at overturning the election faded today, when Democratic and Republican auditors turned him down."

Rossi, the former state Senate budget chairman from the Seattle suburb of Sammamish, won the original count by 261 votes out of 2.8 million votes. That tiny margin triggered an automatic machine recount, which he also won, by 42 votes.

Democrats paid $730,000 for an unprecedented hand recount. After they won the state Supreme Court’s permission for King County to tally 573 previously uncounted ballots, Gregoire won last week’s count. Even without the King County extras, she would have won by 10 votes.

Rossi and the Republicans were mulling whether to contest the election. The GOP on Monday requested a raft of information from King County, hoping to find legal grounds for a lawsuit.

“Our attorneys are looking at what it takes to get to an election contest,” Lane said in an interview. “It’s not easy. Dino will take the time he needs to decide what the next step is.”

Both Gregoire and Rossi have maintained transition offices, appointing teams to work on a state budget, cabinet appointments and an agenda for the upcoming Legislature.

The new governor will be sworn in January 12th. Republicans have until January 20th to contest the election in court.



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