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Democrats Gain Control in Wash. Legislature

November 11, 2001|From Associated Press

OLYMPIA, Wash. — The state Legislature now has one party in control for the first time in three years.

A count of absentee ballots on Friday showed that two Democrats won seats in Tuesday's election to break a 49-49 tie. The outcome gave the party control of the Legislature and the governor's mansion for the first time in seven years.

Democratic Rep. Jean Berkey was assured of keeping her seat in the 38th District. She held a 676-vote margin Friday, and the ballots still uncounted won't be enough to change the outcome.

In the 21st District, Democrat Brian Sullivan ousted Republican Rep. Joe Marine. His margin late Friday was 3,790 votes.

Marine and Berkey had been appointed in January to fill vacancies. No other legislative races were on the ballot, so control of the House rested on the outcome of the two races.

The long tie in the House was blamed for gridlock over the budget and legislation to fix the state's popular "blanket" primary system, as well as dooming a plan to improve transportation networks in the state.

When Sullivan is sworn in this month, Democrats will enjoy a 50-48 edge in the House. They control the Senate, 25 to 24, and Gov. Gary Locke is also a Democrat.

The governor has vetoed many GOP-sponsored bills and in turn has had some of his agenda blocked.

"He's pretty thrilled," spokeswoman Dana Middleton said. "It certainly opens up all kinds of opportunities--and new challenges at the same time."

Frank Chopp, who is in line to become speaker of the House, said Democrats welcomed the opportunity to end gridlock.

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