New vote counts Wednesday evening showed the race tightening slightly with an estimated 1 million more ballots to count in the vote-by-mail election. Inslee was maintaining his lead at just under 49,000 votes, as of 8 p.m. Wednesday, with more vote counting expected in Pierce County.
Washingtons is the nations lone gubernatorial race still undecided after Tuesdays elections.
McKenna, the state attorney general, said Democrats did a good job getting their voters out early but that late voters favored Republicans. He believes that shift will reverse the outcome, making him Washingtons 23rd governor.
Inslee said he is well aware vote-counting is ongoing. But he plans to announce the names of key transition leaders once his victory is confirmed perhaps at the end of the week.
We feel it is important to do that, the former congressman said. We have some big challenges and great opportunities, and we want to hit the ground running. Im very excited to get that ball running.
Inslee said his staff announcements would include names of transition-team co-chairs, a committee advisory team and transition staffers. He said his appointments would bring a breath of fresh air to Olympia and that he is looking for people who also have experience in job creation.
McKennas campaign spokesman Charles McCray insisted the election is too close to call. The campaign posted a video on YouTube in which McKenna sought to reassure supporters.
...we believe that my advantage among later voters is what is ultimately going to carry me to victory in this election, McKenna said in the short video. So stay tuned. Be patient. I know its hard. But its going the right way. And by late Friday evening certainly by early next week it should be pretty clear that were going to be able to take this state in a new direction with a victory in this campaign.
A key point of dispute between the campaigns is the significance of King County votes and what has happened in past elections. Another is whether Democrats emphasis on getting voters to turn in ballots early really means that late returns will favor Republicans.
First-day returns showed Inslee commanding Seattle and its suburbs with 63 percent of the King County vote, keeping McKenna well under the 40 percent level thought needed to overcome a Democrat in a statewide election. After King County counted roughly 50,000 more ballots Wednesday, Inslee was still at 62.6 percent, although McKenna edged closer to the target in the new batch.
An analysis by experts at the state Democrats coordinated campaign concluded McKenna would have to win 60 percent of outstanding ballots outside King County while raising his share of King County votes to at least 40 percent. That would buck the trend in the 2008 governors race, where Gov. Chris Gregoire expanded her lead after Election Day, and in 2010 when many Democrats gained heavily after election night.
Randy Pepple, campaign manager for McKenna, said that internal polling showed last week that late voters favored McKenna by a 2-to-1 margin. I still remain bullish on the projection model I have that Rob will pull ahead, Pepple said in a Wednesday evening teleconference with reporters.
McKennas team said there are enough votes left statewide with 3.1 million expected to be cast and roughly 2.1 million counted as of Wednesday to swing the result even if he doesnt dramatically overcome Inslees King County edge.
Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688 firstname.lastname@example.org @BradShannon2 theolympian.com/politicsblog