Cantwell Wins Washington Senate Recount

ByDavid Ammons

O L Y M P I A, Wash., Dec. 1, 2000 -- Democrat Maria Cantwell, a dot-commillionaire who financed her own campaign, narrowly defeatedveteran Republican Sen. Slade Gorton, results of a recountconfirmed today. Her victory creates the possibility of a 50-50tie in the new Senate.

Cantwell, a former one-term U.S. House member waging her firststatewide campaign, ousted the 18-year incumbent by 2,229 votes outof nearly 2.5 million cast as the last of Washington’s 39 countiesreported their recount results. The initial unofficial count,reported last week, had given her a margin of 1,953 votes.

It was America’s last unsettled Senate race.

“This has been the longest three weeks of our lives,” saidCantwell’s campaign manager, Ron Dotzauer.

Lame Duck

Gorton, who has been mentioned for a cabinet position shouldGeorge W. Bush win the presidency, was expected to concede latertoday. He has no immediate plans other than attending a lame-ducksession of Congress next week, spokeswoman Cynthia Bergman said.

“It is absolutely, incredibly difficult for everyone,especially him,” she said of the loss.

King County, home of heavily Democratic Seattle, won the racefor Cantwell, giving her a margin of more than 150,000 votes. Thecounty was the last to report results of the automatic recountrequired under state law because election results ended withinone-half of 1 percentage point.

Cantwell carried only five counties, but Gorton’s big lead inthe less populous areas couldn’t overcome his challenger’s enormousadvantage in Seattle.

Cantwell, 42, will join freshmen at orientation sessions next week.

50-50 Senate?

Her victory could draw Senate Democrats into a tie withRepublicans.

If Bush wins the White House and Dick Cheney becomes vicepresident, Republicans would still maintain nominal control of theSenate even if there is a 50-50 tie. But a protracted negotiationwould likely ensue before the two parties came to terms on theallocation of committee seats as well as staff funding.

If Sen. Joseph Lieberman wins the vice presidency, Connecticut’sRepublican governor would likely appoint a Republican to hisvacated seat, putting the GOP back into a 51-49 advantage.

Washington, for the first time, joins California and Maine inhaving two female senators. Fellow Democrat Patty Murray is in hersecond term.

Political Vet Defeated

Gorton had won six statewide races in Democratic-leaningWashington, three terms as attorney general and three as U.S.senator. His lone previous loss was his first Senate re-electionbid, to Democrat Brock Adams in 1986. He came back with a narrowvictory two years later and was re-elected easily in the GOPlandslide year of 1994.

But he failed to persuade voters that his clout was tooimportant to give up. The same state dumped a sitting speaker ofthe House, Tom Foley, in 1994.

Cantwell didn’t directly raise the age issue, but called Gortona man who offered “19th-century solutions to 21st-centuryproblems.” She ran as someone who understands the high-techindustry and the New Economy from the inside out.

She also benefitted from Gorton’s long list of enemies,including Indian tribes, environmentalists, trial lawyers andabortion-rights activists, who all ran campaigns against thesenator.

When Cantwell started her campaign early this year, she waslittle known outside her Seattle-area congressional district. Whileshe swore off “soft money” help and refused contributions frompolitical action committees, she plowed $10 million into hercampaign with personal wealth from five years at the Seattle-basedInternet company RealNetworks.

That allowed her to run a steady barrage of televisioncommercials, starting last May.

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