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Profile: Chris Vance

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Chris Vance was a participant or observer in the following events:

Christine Gregoire and Dino Rossi.Christine Gregoire and Dino Rossi. [Source: Associated Press / KomoNews]State Attorney General Christine Gregoire (D-WA) is apparently defeated in the Washington State gubernatorial race in the closest such race in US history, losing to former state senator and current real-estate mogul Dino Rossi (R-WA) by 261 votes. The percentage vote is split evenly, 49-49, with 2 percent of the vote going to Libertarian Ruth Bennett. Democrats John Kerry (D-MA) and Patty Murray (D-WA) won the state’s presidential and Senate races, respectively. Both Gregoire and Rossi attempted to run as relatively moderate members of their parties, though their stance on health care, in particular, showed striking differences between them: Rossi ran on a platform of limiting lawsuit awards and drastically cutting state spending on Medicare and other expenditures, while Gregoire promised to expand coverage by finding ways to cut spending in other areas. Both candidates attacked the other relentlessly on the health care issue. On the evening of the election, November 2, Gregoire leads by some 7,000 votes, but as absentee votes are counted over the next few days, her lead dwindles and vanishes. By November 17, when all 39 counties complete their vote tallies, Rossi leads by 261 votes. State law mandates a machine recount, and the recount cuts Rossi’s lead to 42 votes. On November 30, Secretary of State Sam Reed certifies Rossi as the winner. Gregoire requests an additional recount, to be paid for by the Washington Democratic Party, and also files suit asking that ballots rejected in the first count be reconsidered, citing what the suit calls “[p]rior errors and inconsistencies in the initial canvassing and machine recount of ballots.” State Democratic Party chair Paul Berendt says: “I’ve never stopped believing Chris Gregoire was elected governor. It would be easy to demand a recount in a few counties, but she wanted every vote or no vote, and that’s what we’re going to do.” Rossi campaign spokesperson Mary Lane retorts: “As far as we’re concerned, it’s trying to overturn the legitimate result of this election by any means necessary, ethical or not. Christine Gregoire cares more about her own political ambition than what the voters actually think.” Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance calls the lawsuit to reconsider rejected votes “a nuclear bomb. It will blow up our election system in Washington state.” The suit is filed on behalf of four voters who claim they were denied the opportunity to vote. One of those voters, Ronald Taro Suyematsu of King County, says he never received his absentee ballot in the mail. He voted on Election Day using a provisional ballot, but he was not listed as a registered voter and his vote was discarded. Democrats allege that many ballots were inappropriately challenged by Republican observers, that county canvassing board rejected qualified ballots, and voters were denied meaningful notice of challenges. The lawsuit also says counties used varying standards “regarding signature-matching for absentee and provisional ballots.” The suit does not allege deliberate manipulation by county officials. “In some respects, the problems might not be more frequent than in a typical election, but the narrow margin between the candidates means that, unlike the typical election, they are not harmless,” the suit alleges. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 10/20/2004; 2004 General Election - First Recount > Statewide Offices > Results, 11/17/2004; Seattle Times, 12/3/2004; HistoryLink (.org), 6/7/2005]

Entity Tags: Mary Lane, Dino Rossi, Christine O. Gregoire, Chris Vance, John Kerry, Washington Republican Party, Ruth Bennett, Dino Rossi gubernatorial campaign (2004), Washington Democratic Party, Paul Berendt, Sam Reed, Ronald Taro Suyematsu, Patty Murray

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, 2004 Elections

US Attorney John McKay of the Western District of Washington State (see October 24, 2001) is told by Tom McCabe of the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) that the recounts in the disputed gubernatorial race for Washington State between Christine Gregoire (D-WA) and Dino Rossi (R-WA—see November 2-30, 2004) revealed forged signatures on provisional ballots. McKay informs Craig Donsanto, the head of the election crimes branch of the criminal division’s public integrity section in the Justice Department, and asks Donsanto if his office can open a federal investigation if the allegations only involve a state election. Donsanto advises McKay to take no action until election authorities certify the winner and any court cases stemming from the election have run their course. McKay disagrees with Donsanto’s advice, and directs the FBI to open a preliminary inquiry into the allegations. FBI agents interview McCabe, but neither McKay nor the FBI take further action because the election is not yet certified. McKay advises McCabe to provide any evidence he might have of voter fraud to the local prosecutor, because the complaint involves a state race. When the race is certified in Gregoire’s favor on December 30, cases are immediately filed in state court challenging the results. [US Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, 9/29/2008] Around this same time, McKay receives a telephone call from Chris Vance, the chair of the Washington Republican Party, asking about the investigation. McKay cites the prohibition against revealing information concerning an ongoing investigation and refuses to answer Vance’s questions (see Late 2004 or Early 2005). McCabe soon decides that McKay is not pursuing the fraud allegations quickly enough and begins pressuring the White House to fire him (see Late 2004 and July 5, 2005). McKay allows Justice Department agents to examine what he will call the “so-called evidence,” and will recall one agent “laugh[ing] out loud” because the evidence was “that flimsy.” He will recall that he could find no framework to follow in pursuing voter fraud cases. “I was looking for a benchmark,” he will say. “The impression I got [from the Justice Department] was that I should make it up as I went along. The preference, at least as it was expressed from the attorney general’s office, was simply to file as many such cases as possible. I wasn’t willing to do that, certainly not in the gubernatorial race.… [W]as there a conspiracy to steal the election? Absolutely not.” [Iglesias and Seay, 5/2008, pp. 134-135]

Entity Tags: Tom McCabe, Christine O. Gregoire, Chris Vance, Craig Donsanto, John L. McKay, Dino Rossi, US Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Christine Gregoire (D-WA), declared the loser in her gubernatorial race against Dino Rossi (R-WA) by a mere 42 votes (see November 2-30, 2004), is shown to be the winner after a full recount. On December 23, 2004, Gregoire is certified to have gained 919 votes in the recount, and Rossi gained 748, giving Gregoire a 129-vote lead. The State Legislature certifies the vote, and Gregoire is sworn in as governor on January 12, 2005. [Washington Secretary of State, 12/23/2004; Seattle Times, 12/30/2004; HistoryLink (.org), 6/7/2005] 1,555 votes in Democratic stronghold King County were initially not counted, 573 of them because their signatures had not been entered into the computer database. It is certain that these 573 votes were improperly rejected, and perhaps many of the others as well, the King County Elections Board determines. The error comes to light when Larry Phillips, chairman of the Metropolitan King County Council, discovers that his vote was disqualified. His request to find out why he was disqualified leads to the discovery of the 573 uncounted votes. Republican Party chairman Chris Vance says of the findings that he and his fellow Republicans are now “absolutely convinced that King County is trying to steal this election.… There are Republicans urging us to organize mass protests, to take to the streets. At some point people’s patience just runs out.” He adds: “It’s either gross incompetence or vote fraud. I guess we should just keep expecting King County to find votes until they find enough.” Republicans accuse state Democrats of attempting to rewrite Washington’s election laws to ensure Gregoire is named the victor. [Seattle Times, 12/14/2004; Seattle Times, 12/14/2004] As many as 162 absentee ballots in King County were “misplaced” and not counted. King County Elections Director Dean Logan said before the recount was complete that “we knew as fact” those voters were improperly disenfranchised. [Seattle Times, 12/17/2004] King County Republican Dan Satterberg, a member of the King County Canvassing Board, says: “We’re determining the validity of votes and ballots one at a time.… It reminds me of when I would umpire Little League games. You never want the umpire’s call to make the decision in the game.” Satterberg attempts to block the counting of disputed absentee ballots, but is outvoted by the canvassing board’s two Democratic members. The State Supreme Court reverses a lower court ruling and allows the absentee ballots to be counted in the larger totals. On December 21, just before the vote totals are announced and Gregoire is named the winner, some 350 protesters gathered in front of the Supreme Court building, demanding that Rossi be named the winner, accusing the Gregoire campaign of orchestrating a systematic voter fraud effort, and comparing Washington State to Ukraine, a nation whose recent elections were marred by massive voter fraud. The rally was sponsored by a conservative talk radio station. [Associated Press, 12/22/2004; Seattle Times, 12/23/2004] Washington State Republicans file a lawsuit challenging the recount and demanding that Rossi be sworn in as governor, citing as evidence their claims that hundreds of convicted felons voted without going through the procedure to have their civil rights restored. They also claim a raft of other irregularities benefited Gregoire, particularly in the Democratic stronghold of King County, and will challenge 1,678 votes cast as “illegal” and “fraudulent.” [HistoryLink (.org), 6/7/2005] Rossi will demand a new election (see December 29-30, 2004), a demand that will not be honored (see February 4, 2005).

Entity Tags: Chris Vance, Dean Logan, Dan Satterberg, King County (Washington), Christine O. Gregoire, Dino Rossi, Larry Phillips, King County Elections Board, Washington Supreme Court

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, 2004 Elections

John McKay, the US Attorney for Western Washington State (see October 24, 2001), receives a telephone call from Chris Vance, the state’s Republican Party chair. Vance is unhappy with the results of the Washington gubernatorial election between Christine Gregoire (D-WA) and Dino Rossi (R-WA); Rossi was initially declared the winner, but Gregoire forced a recount and was declared the winner, a declaration Vance and state Republicans are disputing (see December 23, 2004 - January 12, 2005). Vance will later say he feels it necessary to call McKay as a fellow Republican. He will later recall the gist of his discussion with McKay, saying, “Republican activists were furious because they felt that you had a Republican secretary of state, a Republican county prosecutor… and a Republican US Attorney, but still they saw the governorship slipping away, and they were just angry.” He will recall McKay saying something like: “Stop right there, I can’t talk about this. If we are doing any kind of investigation or not, I can’t comment.” Vance will recall, “I dropped it.” Vance is in regular contact with White House political chief Karl Rove, and it is likely that the two discuss the gubernatorial election, though Vance will deny any memory of speaking with Rove about McKay or any desire for a federal investigation of the election. At the same time, prominent businessman and Republican activist Tom McCabe, angry that McKay is not pursuing allegations of voter fraud against Gregoire, begins contacting the White House to demand McKay’s firing (see Late 2004). McKay will later testify that he “vaguely remembered” receiving the call from Vance, but remembers nothing “significant” from the conversation. McKay will later be placed on a list of US Attorneys to be fired, most likely for political reasons (see December 7, 2006 and December 20, 2006). White House emails will not clarify why McKay is targeted for firing, though McKay will recall that White House counsels Harriet Miers and William Kelley cite the anger among Washington State Republicans over the 2004 elections and his refusal to pursue allegations of voter fraud as one reason behind his firing. [Seattle Times, 3/14/2007; Talking Points Memo, 2011] In January 2005, McKay is contacted by the chief of staff of US Representative Doc Hastings (R-WA) about the possibility of voter fraud in the election (see January 4, 2005). In early 2005, Vance and prominent state Republicans will call on McKay and the Justice Department to launch probes into voter fraud allegations that they say benefited Gregoire. [Seattle Times, 3/13/2007] Gregoire will win the election by 133 votes after a lengthy judicial review. Allegations from state Republicans of voter fraud that supposedly benefited Gregoire will be dismissed as baseless. Both sides will allege that mistakes in vote counting and voting reports led to erroneous vote tallies, and both will allege that hundreds of disenfranchised felons cast ballots in the election. The court will find that 1,678 illegal votes were cast in the elections, though it will remain unclear who received the most benefit from those votes. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 6/5/2005]

Entity Tags: Dino Rossi, Karl C. Rove, Harriet E. Miers, Richard (“Doc”) Hastings, Chris Vance, John L. McKay, Tom McCabe, Christine O. Gregoire, William Kelley

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

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