OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Democrats gained more breathing room in the Senate with the victory of Washington U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, whose fourth term was secured after a three-day vote count.
Murray’s win over Republican Dino Rossi was confirmed Thursday as tallies pushed her lead to about 46,000 votes out of more than 1.8 million counted, or about 51 percent to 49 percent. About three-quarters of the expected ballots had been counted in unofficial returns.
Though many ballots still await processing, but an Associated Press analysis determined Murray’s lead would be insurmountable.
“Now we have to get to work,” Murray said Thursday night. “I want to make sure Washington state has what it needs to get its economy back on its feet.” Rossi conceded defeat.
Murray said her priorities in a fourth term will include securing tax cuts for the middle class and helping the Boeing Co. win a lucrative Air Force refueling tanker contract.
Her victory preserves a small cushion for her party in the Senate. Republicans made inroads there Tuesday, handing Democrats a slimmed-down majority, and took control of the House.
Murray’s campaign offered a strong defense of her ability to win federal spending, even in a year when economic jitters threatened to derail that traditional strength for sitting senators. The list of projects she touted was seemingly endless: Bridges, highways, veterans’ hospitals, dams, port construction and more.
Murray also sought to paint Rossi as a friend of big business, pointing to his call to repeal the Democrats’ new Wall Street regulations.
Rossi’s campaign was relentlessly focused on Murray’s spending record, including the sometimes intertwining paths of Murray’s campaign contributors and her “earmarks” for pet projects. He argued that the one-time underdog candidate had changed over 18 years in Washington, D.C., and had to be replaced to secure the nation’s economic future.
The campaign was expensive and smothered Washington airwaves with advertising — much of it sharply negative in tone. Murray spent nearly $15 million through September to Rossi’s roughly $2.5 million, but a flood of outside money helped Rossi keep up.
Associated Press exit polling showed Murray won strong support from women, suburban voters and those who considered themselves moderates.
Rossi chipped away at Murray’s base of independents, urbanites, people aged 30-49 and white male voters, but the Democrat gained some ground with rural voters and people whose family income is between $30,000 and less than $50,000, compared to 2004 when she ran for re-election.
The poll results showed Murray did well among voters who had a more positive view of the federal government, who felt better about their financial situation compared to two years ago and who wanted Congress to work on spending to create jobs over reducing the budget deficit or cutting taxes.
The survey of Washington voters was conducted for AP by Edison Research. It included preliminary results from a survey of 1,129 voters who voted early or absentee and were interviewed by landline or cell phone from Oct. 22 through Oct. 31. Results for the full sample were subject to sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, higher for subgroups.
Associated Press writers Phuong Le and Manuel Valdes in Seattle contributed to this report.