Democrat Christine Gregoire will defeat Republican Dino Rossi by eight votes in the governor's race recount when King County reports results today, state Democratic Party Chairman Paul Berendt said last night.
"We are absolutely confident that she is going to be the next governor of the state of Washington," Berendt said.
Both parties have been provided with daily tallies of the county's manual recount. Berendt said those updates and results from the county canvassing board's review of unclear ballots provided the data he needed to call the race.
King County elections officials said Berendt's victory claim was premature and that the data the parties are seeing hasn't been reconciled.
"I'm not going to call the election tonight," said King County Elections spokeswoman Bobbie Egan.
Mary Lane, a spokeswoman for Rossi, said, "All we know is it's close, and we're still crunching numbers."
King County will be the last of Washington's 39 counties to report results in the hand recount of 2.8 million votes.
If Gregoire does win the statewide hand recount, it will mark an incredible turnaround for the attorney general.
She had faced pressure to concede after losing the original tally by 261 votes and the mandatory machine recount by 42 votes.
In the hand recount, Rossi was leading by 49 votes with only King County left to report its results, which consist of about 900,000 ballots.
Egan said the information the parties have is an unreconciled list of precinct data. It does not include more than 1,600 ballots that the canvassing board looked at yesterday and Monday, she said. However both parties had representatives closely observing the canvassing board this week.
Asked what the Republicans would do if Gregoire wins the hand recount, Lane said, "We will cross that bridge when we get to it. We've said all along if the election is overturned, we will reserve all our options."
As with nearly every twist in this incredible race, the Democrats' victory claim left many questions unanswered -- including what effect today's Supreme Court hearing could have.
The high court will hear arguments about whether King County should be allowed to add to the recount 700-plus ballots that weren't counted originally because of mistakes made by election workers.
Berendt's victory claim did not include those ballots, and it's unclear what their inclusion would do to the outcome, though Democrats are hopeful Gregoire would pick up votes. Berendt said Democrats would still argue that those disputed ballots should be included in the hand recount.
Kirstin Brost, spokeswoman for the state Democrats, said the uncounted votes are a wildcard and that it's possible they could, in fact, swing the lead back to Rossi.
If that were the case, Brost said the Democrats would accept that outcome.
A Pierce County judge ordered King County to stop counting those ballots. King County, the state Democratic Party and the Secretary of State appealed to the state Supreme Court.
The court will be asked to interpret a state recanvassing law and their own ruling on another recount case last week.
In that ruling, the justices said a recount should simply be a retabulation of previously counted valid ballots -- subject to the provisions of the recanvassing law.
The recanvassing law says county canvassing boards can reconsider votes when there is "an apparent discrepancy or an inconsistency in the returns."
The state Supreme Court hears an appeal about hundreds of disputed King County ballots at 9:30 a.m. The hourlong hearing will be broadcast live on TVW, channel 23 on most cable networks. Also, King County plans to announce its recount results by 3:30 p.m.
This report includes information from P-I columnist Joel Connelly and The Associated Press.
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