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Profile: Paul Berendt

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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

The Seattle Times reports that Washington State Democrats believe the White House is behind the efforts to force a recount in the November 2004 governor’s race. Christine Gregoire (D-WI) defeated Dino Rossi (R-WI) after a recount gave Gregoire a narrow victory (see December 23, 2004 - January 12, 2005). Since then Rossi and Washington State Republicans have demanded new recounts or even a new election (see December 29-30, 2004). In January 2005, they filed a lawsuit to overturn the election results, alleging voter fraud tainted the vote (see January 7, 2005, January 24-28, 2005, and February 4, 2005). The FBI and US Attorney John McKay have investigated the allegations of voter fraud and found them groundless (see December 2004 and January 4, 2005), though state Republicans have been displeased with those findings (see Late 2004 or Early 2005, Late 2004, and January 4, 2005). As the lawsuit wends its way through the courts, Democrats tell reporters that the evidence being brought to bear by state Republicans in the lawsuit is worthless. One party attorney says their list of alleged illegal voters would end up as toilet paper “in an outhouse on Blewett Pass” on the mountain highway route that leads to the Chelan County courthouse, where the case will be heard. However, solicitations sent by Washington State Democratic Party chairman Paul Berendt say the White House, led by deputy chief of staff Karl Rove, is pushing the GOP lawsuit. Berendt’s letter warns of “guerrilla tactics” by “right-wing attorneys” and “extremist operatives” who are “meticulously crafting a case to unseat Christine Gregoire.” Berendt stands behind the letter, saying: “[W]e believe this, too. We believe that Rove is in regular contact with people here.” Rossi spokesperson Mary Lane confirms that the Rossi campaign is regularly updating the White House on the case, saying: “They’re interested in what’s going on.… We talk to them about it.” However, “[t]here’s certainly no Karl Rove pulling strings.” White House spokesperson Ken Lisaius says no one in the Bush administration is involved in the lawsuit, telling a reporter: “As reluctant as I am to comment on an inflammatory fund-raising piece, those are just not the facts. The White House is not directing any sort of strategy for the Rossi campaign and to suggest otherwise is to suggest someone is not very well informed.” Berendt points to the Rossi campaign’s use of Washington, DC, attorney Mark Braden as chief counsel; Braden spent 10 years as chief counsel to the Republican National Committee. Berendt says his party uses local attorneys. He also cites Rove’s 1994 involvement in the case of an Alabama state Supreme Court election, in which Rove fought for a recount claiming that the election had been “stolen.” The Times writes: “There are parallels to the current dispute here over the governor’s election. In both cases, Republicans held a news conference with the parents of a military voter to question whether overseas ballots were handled properly. Republicans in both states filed a lawsuit that named a long list of public officials as respondents. Both held rallies; business groups financed media campaigns.” Rove’s candidate eventually won (see Early 1994 - October 1995). Berendt says that Rove was also behind failed attempts to force recalls of Republican Secretary of State Sam Reed and Democratic King County Councilman Dow Constantine. Berendt writes, “We know what they’re doing, and we’re going to tell the world that it’s the Bush team, with the Bush tactics, and Karl Rove pulling the strings that’s trying to defeat us.” [Seattle Times, 3/5/2005]

Entity Tags: Karl C. Rove, Dino Rossi, Christine O. Gregoire, Bush administration (43), Dow Constantine, John L. McKay, Mark Braden, Mary Lane, Seattle Times, Paul Berendt, Sam Reed, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Ken Lisaius

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, 2004 Elections

Lawyers for the Washington Democratic Party celebrate after the court ruling certifying Christine Gregoire as governor.Lawyers for the Washington Democratic Party celebrate after the court ruling certifying Christine Gregoire as governor. [Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer]State Attorney General Christine Gregoire (D-WA) is certified the winner of the Washington State governor’s race against challenger Dino Rossi (R-WA). Rossi was initially declared the winner (see November 2-30, 2004), but the race was so close that Gregoire asked for a recount, as was her right under the law (see December 23, 2004 - January 12, 2005). Republicans challenged the recount in court, citing 1,678 votes as “illegal” (see January 7, 2005 and January 24-28, 2005). Superior Court Judge John Bridges rules against the Republican plaintiffs. He finds that although some voting irregularities did occur in the largely Democratic King County, they were not the result of deliberate voter fraud or manipulation. “No evidence has been placed before the court to suggest fraud or intentional misconduct,” he says. “Elections officials attempted to perform their responsibilities in a fair and impartial manner.” In only five instances—five votes—was evidence presented that showed the intent of the voter in the 1,678 “illegal” votes cast. For the other 1,673, officials were unable to determine which candidate the voters in question selected on Election Day. None of those five votes were for Gregoire: Democrats presented evidence that four convicted felons had illegally voted for Rossi and a fifth for a third-party candidate. Bridges deducts those five votes from the final tally, giving Gregoire the final and official 133-vote margin of victory. Bridges refused Republicans’ demands to subtract what they called “invalid votes” from the statistical totals of vote tallies, and to statistically refigure the votes. Such an action would constitute the worst kind of judicial activism, Bridges says. As a result, “The court concludes that the election contest petition should be dismissed and the certification of Miss Gregoire as governor confirmed.” State Democratic Chairman Paul Berendt says: “It’s a huge victory. But the centerpiece was that the Republicans never had a case. They need to drop their case so the state can get on with its important business. They have shown that they will spend anything, they will say anything, and they will do anything to tear down Christine, and it’s time for that to stop.” Later in the day, Rossi says he will not appeal the ruling to the Washington Supreme Court: “With today’s decision, and because of the political makeup of the Washington State Supreme Court, which makes it almost impossible to overturn this ruling, I am ending the election contest,” he says. Bridges says that if the election process is flawed, it is up to the state legislature to fix it, not the courts. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 6/5/2005; Borders et al. v. King County et al., 6/6/2005; Washington Post, 6/7/2005; HistoryLink (.org), 6/7/2005]

Entity Tags: King County (Washington), Christine O. Gregoire, Dino Rossi, John Bridges, Washington Supreme Court, Paul Berendt

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, 2004 Elections

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