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Rossi certified as Washington governor-elect

Hand recount expected

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(CNN) -- Republican Dino Rossi was officially certified Tuesday as Washington state's new governor-elect, giving Democrats until Friday to decide whether they want to challenge his election by paying for a hand recount that could push the uncertainty over the closest gubernatorial race in state history to Christmas -- or beyond.

Rossi, a state senator from suburban Seattle, defeated Democratic Attorney General Christine Gregoire by just 42 votes out of more than 2.8 million cast, a margin of less than two thousandths of one percent, according to the official results certified Tuesday by Secretary of State Sam Reed.

"We are going to move forward now. We are putting people in place," Rossi said at a news conference after Reed made the tally official. "The reality is that we've won."

While he stopped short of calling on Gregoire to concede, Rossi said, "She has to decide what she wants to do and what she believes is in the best interests of the state of Washington -- not what's in the best interest of her.

"If you count and recount and recount and just keeping recounting until you finally win, what do you really have in the end? An illegitimate governorship, that's what you have in the end."

However, Reed, the state's chief election officer, said Tuesday that he believes that given the closeness of the race, a hand recount is "almost a certainty."

Rossi led by 261 votes after the initial vote count, triggering a mandatory machine recount in all of the state's 39 counties, which was completed last week. Gregoire cut the lead to 42 votes during the retabulation but failed to overtake him.

Under state law, Gregoire and the Democrats now have until Friday at 5 p.m. to ask for a hand recount, either statewide or in selected counties or precincts where she might pick up votes. But if they do, they will have to pay an up-front fee of 25 cents per vote, or more than $700,000 for a statewide recount.

Calling the contest a "tied race," Gregoire said last week that she would pursue a hand recount, paid for by the state Democratic Party, which is soliciting contributions on its Web site. But she has not said whether the count would be conducted statewide or only in selected areas, which would cost less.

"Some folks have suggested that we ought to flip a coin or stage a duel with Senator Rossi," she said. "My personal preference is we ought to count every vote."

But in an interview with CNN's Judy Woodruff Tuesday, Rossi disputed Gregoire's suggestion that the race between them amounts to a tie.

"A tie is actually when you tie," he said. "It definitely is not a tie."

He has joined several state newspapers in calling on Gregoire and Democrats to ask for a full-blown statewide recount, rather than counting in selected areas.

"They really should pay for the whole state of Washington if they really do want every vote counted," Rossi told Woodruff. "If she calls for a hand recount in selected areas, I think that that would be difficult for many people."

The Democratic Party has said it would prefer a statewide recount, if it can raise the money by Friday.

If a hand recount limited to certain counties or precincts were to flip the outcome of the race from Rossi to Gregoire, Democrats would get their money back and Reed would have to order a hand recount across the rest of the state -- with taxpayers, not Democrats, picking up the tab.

"I'm not sure what value there is in doing another recount, but I also believe that it is the right of these candidates and the parties to do it," said Reed, a Republican. "I don't question them exercising their right because when you're behind, you want to exhaust every possible opportunity you have to win the race."

If a hand recount were requested in King County -- the state's largest, which includes Seattle -- it would take 10 days, with less time required in smaller counties, Reed said. A request for King County is considered likely, because it is a Democratic bastion where Gregoire picked up most of her additional votes in the machine recount.

That would mean the second recount would not be completed until December 23. If it changed the outcome, then a statewide hand recount would ensue, which could push the timetable into January.

The inauguration of the new governor is scheduled for January 12.

Republicans also argue that a hand count would be cumbersome, would trigger a host of lawsuits and, because it is subject to human error and biases, would not be as accurate as the machine recount already completed.

"The most accurate count that we have is the count we have currently," Rossi said.

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