WASHINGTON — The race for governor of Washington state was still up for grabs Wednesday, with state Atty. Gen. Christine Gregoire hanging on to a narrow lead over Republican candidate Dino Rossi.
But the final results may be days away.
Rossi is hoping to become the state's first governor from his party in 24 years. But his edge over Gregoire on Wednesday morning was erased when several thousand more votes from the Seattle area were counted.
As of Wednesday night, Gregoire was leading Rossi by more than 14,000 votes -- with thousands of votes still to be counted.
Rossi, 45, who resigned his state Senate seat to run for governor, had the strong support of business interests. His campaign website notes that his family named its dog "Dubya" in honor of President Bush.
Gregoire, 57, a lawyer who has been attorney general for 12 years, was vying to become the state's second female governor.
Neither side was surprised at the lack of a clear winner, since late polls had shown the race tightening.
"We're trying to turn the tide against 20 years of Democratic control in the state," said Rossi's press secretary, Janelle Guthrie.
"This is a state that has had photo finishes in the past, and we'll probably have them in the future," said Morton Brilliant, Gregoire's communications director.
In 2000, Democrat Maria Cantwell won election to the U.S. Senate after a recount that took nearly a month to complete. It was too soon to say Wednesday whether a recount would be necessary in the governor's race.
The winner will take over for two-term Democratic Gov. Gary Locke, who chose not to seek reelection.
The contest was the state's most expensive gubernatorial race in history, with each candidate spending about $6 million. The Republican Governors Assn. spent $1.5 million, and the Democratic Governors Assn. spent $2.4 million.
Voters in Washington favored Democrat John F. Kerry over Bush in the presidential race, 53% to 46%.
Nationwide, Republicans and Democrats split the remaining 10 governors' seats up for grabs, though in four states the outcomes did not follow presidential voting patterns.
In Montana, which went for Bush, the open governor's seat went to Democrat Brian Schweitzer, a wealthy rancher and farmer who has never held public office. Schweitzer, who chose a Republican as his running mate, will be the first Democratic governor of Montana in 16 years.
In Vermont, which went for Kerry, incumbent GOP Gov. Jim Douglas retained his seat.
In North Carolina, which voted for Bush, incumbent Democratic Gov. Michael F. Easley won reelection.
In West Virginia, which went for Bush, Democratic Secretary of State Joe Manchin easily beat his GOP rival.
Four states switched party allegiances. The GOP gained the executive mansions in Indiana and Missouri, while Democrats took the governorships in Montana and New Hampshire.
Going into Tuesday's elections, the GOP had 28 governors and the Democrats 22. That ratio could shift -- or stay the same -- depending on the outcome in Washington state.