SPOKESMAN: Okay, on hand recount two, ballot A, motion is to count this vote for Christine Gregoire. All in favor, aye.
LEE HOCHBERG: When the latest recount finished yesterday, Democrat Christine Gregoire emerged as the apparent winner. Out of 2.9 million ballots cast, Gregoire received 130 more than Republican Dino Rossi.
Soon afterwards, a beaming Gregoire told supporters that one of the closest races in state history, fought over for the last 51 days, had finally come to an end.
CHRISTINE GREGOIRE: It is time for this election to be over. It is time for us to move forward.
LEE HOCHBERG: But Dino Rossi and his Republican supporters are not giving up, especially after a race where the Republican had led until just yesterday. Washington State Republican chair Chris Vance.
CHRIS VANCE: You counted three times, got two different winners and three different results. No one trusts this at this point. No one trusts the results at this point.
LEE HOCHBERG: Rossi, a real estate agent and former state senator, won the original election day count by 261 votes and a subsequent machine recount by 42 votes.
Democrats then paid for a hand recount, which put Gregoire, a three-term attorney general, up ten votes. That lead widened to 130 after a state Supreme Court decision on Wednesday allowed 732 ballots to be reconsidered in King County, a Democratic stronghold that includes Seattle.
Those ballots had been disqualified because of an error by state election officials who mishandled the coordination of matching signatures with voter records.
Republicans have now asked county auditors statewide to reconsider other ballots that might have been rejected for the same reason on Election Day.
CHRIS VANCE: If they can do it in heavily- Democratic King County, they have to be able to do it in Republican counties in this state.
Our objective now is to spend the next few days before final certification, trying to make Dino Rossi votes count in other counties. If we are unsuccessful to do that and win the election that way, then we'll start looking at an election contest procedure.
LEE HOCHBERG: As of now, it is unclear whether any auditors will comply with the Republicans' request. Some have said their canvassing boards would at least meet with Republican leaders, but most had already decided not to reevaluate ballots they believe were properly rejected.
Gregoire has not officially declared victory, but she is urging her rival to accept the results and move on.
CHRISTINE GREGOIRE: At some point, the election is over. And it's over when the auditors of each of counties certify the result. And they've all done that.
So the election is over. To now go out and say "we're going to find more votes" will cause chaos.
LEE HOCHBERG: But Republican Party Chairman Vance says after all this controversy, chaos will ensue if the current vote count is allowed to stand.
CHRIS VANCE: I think if she is sworn in based on this result, believe me, there's going to be several more weeks of rancor and acrimony go on here, if she eventually becomes governor, I don't think anybody but the most partisan Democrats in this state are going to accept that.
LEE HOCHBERG: Washington's secretary of state is scheduled to certify the election next Thursday. Republicans have asked that it be postponed to allow further reconsideration of other counties' rejected ballots.
RAY SUAREZ: And Jeffrey Brown takes it from there.
JEFFREY BROWN: And to help shed some light on this bizarre political story, I'm joined by Joel Connolly, a columnist with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Joel, you wrote in your column yesterday that the deadlock of democracy isn't pretty. So tell us, what has it been like to watch all of this unfold?
JOEL CONNELLY: It has been kind of like an accordion watching the lead expand and then the lead shrink and finally the tables reversed at the last minute in favor of Christine Gregoire.
There has been a great deal of partisan rancor. The he has added to the rancor by questioning the integrity of the King County officials or at least their ability. This has gone on and on and on.
Remember the election was the first Tuesday in November. We used to talk about our turkey of an electoral system in our state where you could not decide elections before Thanksgiving.
This one has gone on all the way to Christmas, may actually go on past the feast of the epiphany in early January and we may ultimately have three wise men in the form of a panel in the form of a circuit court of appeals judges ruling on it.
JEFFREY BROWN: Some of this, I gather is because of the unusual election system you have there where the majority of voters actually vote by mail.
JOEL CONNELLY: About 70 percent vote by mail. The ballots only need to be postmarked by Election Day. They don't need to be in by Election Day.
So thousands of them come flowing into county elections offices for days after the election is over. In the case of King County where the controversy is focused here, they've had something like, handled something like 900,000 ballots with the great majority of them coming in by mail and many thousands of them coming in long after Election Day.
JEFFREY BROWN: Now we heard the Republican county... the Republican chairman there talk about what he is planning to do next. What is the likely scenario, what are the prospects, what are the avenues open to them?
JOEL CONNELLY: This has been a battle in which the high ground has been fought over as intensely as Little Round Top at Gettysburg.
The Democrats have it now in terms of having a lead, having all 39 counties having certified their results. For the Republicans, the strategy becomes one two of things.
Create chaos in order to conquer; namely, try to reopen county votes, try to challenge the results of the election; perhaps even take it to federal court.
Or act like the noble aggrieved party, accept the results and so on and assume that their troops will be mad and that they will turn out for Dino Rossi for another office in the next election. That decision is yet to be made.
The troops at the moment are extremely angry. The political right in this country has never managed to win with grace. Based on what I was listening to on talk radio coming down here to be on this program, they certainly aren't losing with grace.
JEFFREY BROWN: Either way, it is going to be very close obviously. So have you a very divided state.
JOEL CONNELLY: We have red state, blue state differences within our state, namely in very conservative parts of it, eastern Washington voting up to 70 percent for Mr. Rossi.
King County by contrast giving the majority to Ms. Gregoire by 150,000 votes. Productive parts of our political culture, the conservative Democrats, the modern urban environmentalist pro-civil rights Republicans are even more endangered as a species as the spotted owl out here.
JEFFREY BROWN: Now Inauguration Day is scheduled for Jan. 12. Knowing what you do of your fellow citizens out there, do you see a way for people to come together?
JOEL CONNELLY: They certainly haven't in recent elections. We've had a more and more polarized situation.
We may not even have the gubernatorial race resolved in which the outgoing governor, Gary Loft, will have to commute back and forth 56 miles to his office from his new home in Seattle; but at the same time, this is part of what is happening in the country as a whole, namely nonstop electioneering, nonstop confrontation and losers both on the left and on the right and unable to accept the famous maxim of Chicago mayor Richard Daley, he lost because he didn't get enough votes.
JEFFREY BROWN: Joel Connolly, thanks very much and Merry Christmas to you and everyone there.
JOEL CONNELLY: Merry Christmas to you.