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Murray's Lead Widens, but Thousands of Votes Remain to Be Counted

Photo Courtesy - Murray [dot] Senate [dot] Gov(SEATTLE) -- Massive voter turnout in the Democratic stronghold of Seattle has Sen. Patty Murray’s campaign feeling confident that another week of ballot counting will dramatically widen her slim lead over Republican challenger Dino Rossi.

About seven in 10 registered voters cast ballots in King County, home to nearly a third of the state’s voters, and so far they overwhelmingly have supported Murray.  Another 145,000 ballots arrived Wednesday in that one county.

As all counties across the state reported vote totals Wednesday night, Murray expanded her lead to 24,834 votes from 14,005 votes Wednesday morning.

“We expect Sen. Murray to win this election in the next few days by a comfortable margin,” state Democratic Party chief Dwight Pelz told reporters on a conference call Wednesday.

The foundation of the Murray team’s confidence lies in 300,000 or so ballots they say remain uncounted in deep-blue Seattle.  But the Rossi campaign said its candidate, too, benefited from a huge turnout in the more Republican areas of the state, and insisted far more uncounted votes remain in the Republican-leaning areas that make up most of the state outside Seattle.

“The bottom line is there's still nearly 600,000 ballots left to count,” Rossi campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Morris told ABC News.

King County, she said, has only 171,000 outstanding votes –- not the 300,000 claimed by Murray’s campaign.

“We expect to add 65,000 more [Thursday] and 65,000 again on Friday,” county Elections Director Sherril Huff said in a statement released late Wednesday.  "By the end of the week, we should have counted about 72 percent of the ballots returned in this election."

That means it will be at least next week before a final vote count is tabulated on the remaining votes in King County and the rest of the counties in Washington state.

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