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Democrats pull out squeakers in Illinois, Washington state

2 governor’s races still undecided

- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 4, 2010

Battered Democrats claimed a couple of consolation prizes Thursday from the midterm elections, as their candidates hung on for cliffhanger wins in Illinois and Washington state while nearly a dozen other races were still to be decided.

President Obama avoided an embarrassing loss in his home state as Democratic incumbent Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn was declared the winner over Republican challenger Bill Brady, resolving one of about a dozen congressional and gubernatorial races still undecided from Tuesday's vote.

And the Associated Press Thursday evening declared that three-term Washington Sen. Patty Murray had narrowly defeated GOP businessman Dino Rossi, bumping up the Democrats' diminished Senate majority to 53 — including two independents — with just the Alaska Senate race still to be determined. Mr. Rossi conceded the race Thursday night.

Mr. Brady, a state senator, said Thursday he would not concede until every vote is counted, including absentee ballots from military members serving outside Illinois. But an analysis by the Associated Press of the outstanding ballots concluded he was too far behind to catch up and declared the governor the victor.

Mr. Quinn, then the state's lieutenant governor, inherited the governor's post nearly two years ago when Democratic Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich was ousted after his arrest on federal corruption charges. With the final votes coming in, he led Mr. Brady 47 percent to 46 percent.

"We'll wait for the election authorities to officially declare it, but I think the result is obvious," Mr. Quinn told reporters in Chicago while talking to customers in a downtown deli. "If you did well in arithmetic, you can figure it out."

Connecticut officials had hoped to announce a final, unofficial tally Thursday in another cliffhanger gubernatorial race, between Democrat Dan Malloy and Republican Tom Foley, but are still waiting for a final count from the city of Bridgeport. Mr. Malloy leads by about 6,000 votes and earlier projections show him likely to be the winner.

State election officials announced late Thursday that no updated tally would be released until Friday.

The races in Connecticut and Minnesota are the only two of nation's 37 gubernatorial races yet to be determined, while the Alaska Senate race and 10 House races — all but one with Democratic incumbents — are also hanging in the balance

In Washington state, Mr. Rossi had been trailing Mrs. Murray by 2 percentage points in the early returns, with about a third of the state's mail ballots still to be tallied.

Democratic officials had been increasingly confident that Mrs. Murray would prevail, as many of the remaining votes had been cast in King County, home to nearly a third of the state's roughly 3.6 million registered voters. The county, which includes Seattle, is heavily Democratic.

Declaring a winner in the Senate race in Alaska is likely to stretch into early December because incumbent Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski is a "write-in" candidate, greatly complicating the vote-counting process.

Mrs. Murkowski launched her write-in bid after she lost the Republican primary in August to Fairbanks lawyer Joe Miller, a "tea party" favorite.

Right now, the "write-in" candidate is leading Mr. Miller 41 percent to 34 percent. Democratic candidate Scott McAdams had 24 percent. However, how many of those write-in ballots are for Mrs. Murkowski remains unclear, and that has already resulted in legal wrangling and a likely recount.

Mr. Miller's attorneys are arguing that election workers should not be allowed to use discretion in determining whether an ambiguous write-in vote counts for Mrs. Murkowski.

"As with any write-in campaign, the burden of execution rests with the candidate whose name is not on the ballot," Mr. Miller told supporters. "At this point, without a single write-in ballot counted, Lisa Murkowski has no claim on a victory."

Out-of-state election monitors are expected to arrive soon in Alaska for the ballot count that begins Wednesday. The deadline for a recount request is Dec. 4.

In Minnesota, Democrat Mark Dayton, a former U.S. senator, clung to a lead over Republican Tom Emmer of less than 1 percentage point in the three-way race, close enough likely to trigger a recount.

In the House, Republicans have already gained a net of at least 60 seats and could increase their new majority, depending on how the final handful of undecided races break.

Republican challengers hold the lead over Democratic incumbents in at least three seats in California, Illinois and Texas.

In Texas' 27th District, for example, GOP challenger Blake Farenthold has been declared the winner, but 14-term incumbent Democratic Rep. Solomon P. Ortiz said election officials have discovered a bag of uncounted votes that could change the outcome.

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