SEATTLE - In the battle for King County Executive, Dow Constantine declared victory over Susan Hutchison after initial returns Tuesday night, but Hutchison wasn't ready to concede.
In initial returns, Constantine had a lead of more than 34,000 votes, carrying 57 percent of the 244,000 ballots tallied Tuesday. The next results are not expected be released until Wednesday afternoon.
Taking the podium at his election night party a short time after seeing the results, Constantine joked to ebullient supporters, "nine months of work and just 15 minutes of waiting for those results."
Constantine later sounded a conciliatory tone toward Hutchison and her supporters.
"She ran a very vigorous campaign, a very strong campaign," Constantine said. "To her supporters, I say, give us a chance. I share your concerns about King county."
Earlier, Hutchison sounded as if she knew it was over, telling KING 5 "it's been great. It's been exhilarating. It's been hard work. I don't think any campaign has worked as hard," Hutchison said. "Hard work is good. That's why I wanted to be county executive."
When she addressed her supporters, she didn't sound as if she believed she would win, but she didn't concede, saying she would be looking forward to the days ahead.
And she rallied supporters, saying the campaign was a force for change. "No matter what, we have already changed the culture of the county."
While this is a non-partisan race, Constantine's campaign painted Hutchison as a Republican, which resonated with Democratic leaning King County, political analyst Josh Feit said during a live election night Web cast here on KING5.com. Hutchison's supporters pointed out Constantine was a Democrat and tried to label him as a free-spender.
Hutchison is a former KIRO TV News anchor, who is now the executive director of the two person non-profit Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences. She touted her experience as the chairwoman of the Seattle Symphony's board of directors. and campaigned on a budget reform platform. She took aim at Constantine's career in politics, blaming him for the county's financial budget crisis.
Constantine, who has been in elected office since 1997, has served on the King County Council since 2002 and is currently the council chair. He positioned himself as the experienced candidate who has the knowledge of county government to make the tough choices during the economic crisis.
In a final KING 5 News poll Constantine pulled ahead of Hutchison among likely voters.
The poll of 614 likely and actual voters, conducted by SurveyUSA, gave Constantine 53 percent of the vote over Hutchison's 43 percent. Five percent of voters remained undecided when the poll was taken between last Friday and Sunday.
It was the first time that Constantine, the King County Council president, led the former TV news anchor in a KING 5 poll. The last survey, taken three weeks ago, had Hutchison with a five point lead.
Sixty percent of respondents said they had already mailed in their ballots. Of those who had already voted, Constantine led by 12 percent.