In a rematch of their historically close 2004 election, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire defeated Republican Dino Rossi Tuesday night to gain a second term. With support from large numbers of voters who backed Democratic President-elect Barack Obama, Gov. Gregoire won re-election by a larger margin than expected.
“Tonight the voters in Washington sent a message that they want a governor who shares their values of providing children health care, protecting the environment and creating jobs,” Gregoire told supporters gathered in a Seattle hotel.
Rossi did not concede defeat Tuesday night, however; a spokeswoman told reporters that the campaign would wait to see later returns. But by Wednesday morning Rossi trailed by 100,000 votes. After it became clear he could not make up the difference, he conceded.
“A few minutes ago I called Christine Gregoire to congratulate her on her victory,” Rossi said in a speech in Redmond. “I want to offer my services and help, and want her to be successful as governor.”
Gregoire, a former state attorney general, defeated Rossi in their 2004 contest by the closest percentage margin of any governor’s race in U.S. history — 133 votes out of about 2.8 million cast, after two recounts and a court challenge.
In recent weeks, polls showed the candidates essentially tied, leading many to believe that a replay of the 2004 election was a possibility, but Gregoire began to pull ahead in the days leading to Election Day.
Gregoire’s victory ends an often bitter and acrimonious race, which was the most expensive in state history and filled with negative ads and personal attacks. It even included a court-ordered deposition by Rossi about alleged illegal campaign financing.
In his concession speech Rossi suggested that nationwide voter opposition to Republicans did not help his bid, and he mentioned that Sen. John McCain did worse than President Bush in the 2004 presidential election.
Kelly Steele, a spokesman for the state Democratic Party, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that strong turnout from Democrats nationally was the key to Gregoire’s success.
Indeed, Gregoire spoke of Obama’s win in her victory speech.
“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.”