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November 3, 2010 at 4:45 PM

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Murray's lead edges higher on big King County turnout

Posted by Jonathan Martin

UPDATE 6:06 p.m. Democratic U.S. Sen. Patty Murray slightly widened her lead over Republican challenger Dino Rossi as counties statewide counted about 148,000 more ballots this afternoon.

Murray now leads 50.8 percent to Rossi's 49.2 statewide, and the gap widened by more than 10,000 to a 24,834-vote margin for the 18-year incumbent Democrat.

Murray is benefitting from a 71 percent voter turnout in King County, a record for a midterm election. King County Elections had predicted 68 percent turnout, which would equate to about 720,000 votes, but the county has now received a total of 762,000 ballots as votes poured in through the mail today.

In vote counts released this afternoon, Murray's lead in King County grew to 105,639 votes, and the spread widened 62.6 percent to Rossi's 37.4 percent.

King County still has about 345,000 votes to count, and will be releasing results of an addition 65,000 ballots on Thursday, said King County Elections director Sherril Huff.

The King County trend that bodes poorly for Rossi. He took 40 percent of the King County vote in his 2004 virtual tie with Gov. Chris Gregoire.

Pat Shortridge, Rossi's campaign manager, urged supporters to be patient.

"Let's just count the ballots," he said.

If the state's turnout projections are accurate, Shortridge said perhaps 800,000 ballots remain to be counted, "which is more than enough to overcome our current deficit."

"We need to see more results. Really, that's the bottom line," he said.

University of Washington political science professor Matt Barreto said Murray won 66.9 percent of the votes counted today, versus 62.1 percent counted yesterday.

"Any suggestion of a Rossi trend is not true at all," said Barreto. "The King County numbers are devastating for Rossi."

With results still trickling in, Rossi picked up a net gain of 3,262 votes out of Spokane County today, which counted an additional 23,218 ballots. That county, which Rossi is leading 56.4 to 43.6 percent, has about 80,000 more ballots to still to count.

In Pierce County, Rossi continued to lead Murray slightly, but Murray won 51.4 percent of the votes counted today. With about 20,000 more ballots counted today, Rossi's Pierce County lead shrunk to 1,920 votes out of 195,390 counted.

Snohomish County expects to release a count of about 15,000 votes later this evening. Murray is leading slightly there.

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