Updated ballot counts from across the state still show GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna trailing Democrat Jay Inslee by about 50,000 votes, and McKenna's share of the King County vote is not growing enough to overcome Inslee's total.
The McKenna campaign maintains it's too soon to call the race, since as many as 1 million ballots may be left to count statewide. Republicans point to polls taken late in the campaign that showed a higher share of the late vote for McKenna.
As of Wednesday morning, there were an estimated 400,000 uncounted ballots in King County, and election officials were projecting that 90,000 more would be counted by the end of the day.
King's results are critical not just because the county makes up anywhere from a quarter to a third of the state's electorate, but also because a statewide Republican candidate's performance in the heavily Democratic county weighs heavily on his chances for victory.
Election experts from both parties routinely say a statewide GOP candidate must win 40 percent or more of King County's vote to win. As of late Thursday afternoon, Republican nominee rob McKenna had won about 37.5 percent of votes counted in King. Democrat Jay Inslee continues to lead by around 50,000 votes. Roughly three-quarters of the ballots that officials expect to receive have been counted so far.
McKenna campaign manager Randy Pepple said they believe votes will break toward them on Friday, over the weekend and early next week. Roughly three-quarters of the ballots officials expect to receive have been counted so far.
"We expect to see those numbers go back up on Friday, over the weekend, and into early next week. We look forward to declaring victory and announcing governor-elect Rob McKenna to you sometime soon," said Pepple. “We wish the process were going a little faster, but based on our internal tracking showing that the folks who decided late or who were still holding onto their ballot, that they were voting for Rob McKenna.”
McKenna is also focusing efforts on trying to rehabilitee about 16,000 ballots around the state that may go uncounted due to mismatched signatures or other issues.
McKenna's campaign also has attorneys in every county that are prepared to deal with any issues that arise.
"We'll take it beyond this week if that's what it takes to make sure he's the next governor," said McKenna spokesman Charles McCray.
Inslee spokesman Sterling Clifford said the campaign also was reaching out to people with challenged ballots. But he said it was because it was in everyone's interest to have ballots counted -- not because of fears that the campaign's lead may disappear.
"We continue to have tremendous confidence in what the final results will be," Clifford said.
Because of Washington's shift to all-mail voting, in which ballots only have to be postmarked by Election Day, the state is used to prolonged counts. Voters also have experience with close governor's races after current Gov. Chris Gregoire won the 2004 contest by a mere 133 votes after two recounts and a court challenge.
Full election results at www.king5.com/vote.
Associated Press and KING 5's Lori Matsukawa contributed to this report.