WENATCHEE, Wash. — A judge ruled Friday that even if Republicans were to win their court challenge of Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire's election, he could not legally order a revote.
"The court doesn't have that authority," Chelan County Superior Court Judge John E. Bridges told a packed courtroom in Wenatchee, about 100 miles east of Seattle.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi and the state GOP challenged Gregoire's election, saying the extremely close results were tainted by so many errors and illegal votes that the courts should throw out the results and order a new election. They sued Secretary of State Sam Reed, a Republican, and the state's counties.
Democrats have defended the election results, saying Rossi doesn't have enough proof to nullify the election and that a revote would be unconstitutional.
Even if the Republicans were to prevail in their lawsuit, it was not immediately clear what relief might be available. In some past Washington state election challenges in smaller races, a judge has simply awarded victory to the challenger.
"At the end of the day, we're very pleased because one thing has been eliminated. There will be no revote," said Jenny Durkan, a lawyer for the Democrats.
"Obviously I am pleased," Gregoire said in a statement. "This is an important step to allowing the state to move on."
Rossi spokeswoman Mary Lane said Republicans remained confident that they would prevail.
"We're convinced that this case is going to move forward in this court, that based on the evidence we have we will win, that Christine Gregoire, at some point in the future, will no longer be our governor," Lane said.
Gregoire, who took office last month, won by 129 votes after a hand recount of 2.9 million ballots. Rossi, a real estate agent and former state senator, had won the original count by 261 votes and won a machine recount by 42 votes. But the third and final count flipped the victory to Gregoire, Washington's three-term attorney general.
Since being sworn in early last month, Gregoire has been busy trying to solidify her hold on the governor's office -- and trying hard to ignore the legal challenge to her legitimacy.
Rossi and his supporters have been steadily beating the drum for a revote. Among other things, the state GOP alleges that hundreds of felons voted illegally.
"The state of Washington needs an open, transparent, public display of what happened in this election," Robert Maguire, a lawyer for the Republicans, said in court Friday. "Without it, many -- and perhaps the majority -- of Washington voters will not believe the person sitting in the governor's office truly won the election."
Bridges denied several of the Democrats' motions to dismiss the GOP lawsuit Friday, ruling that the case should go forward in the courts -- not the Legislature. Democrats had argued any challenge should be decided in the Legislature.