Cantwell: 40-50% 50-60%
Gorton: 40-50% 50-60% 60-70%
The 2000 United States Senate election in Washington was held on November 7, 2000. Incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Slade Gorton was seeking reelection to a third consecutive term, and his fourth overall, but he was unseated for a second time by a very narrow margin (the first time being in 1986) by former Congresswoman Maria Cantwell. By a margin of 0.09%, this election was the closest race of the 2000 Senate election cycle.
In the general election, Cantwell campaigned as a modern candidate with experience in high tech who understood the modern economy; she accused Gorton of offering "19th-century solutions to 21st-century problems".
The victor of the race was at first unclear; the initial count reported that Cantwell was ahead by 1,953 votes. Following the recount, Cantwell was certified the winner of the election by 2,229 votes out of more than 2.4 million. Cantwell carried only five of the state's 39 counties, but won King County (home to Seattle) by more than a 150,000-vote margin. The result was the second loss in Gorton's political career, after he lost re-election to a second Senate term in 1986.
|Republican||Slade Gorton (incumbent)||1,197,208||48.64%||-7.11%|
|Democratic gain from Republican|
After her victory, Cantwell announced that there was only "One Washington"; she also said she would work to make sure the entire state benefited from the Puget Sound region's prosperity, and that each year she would visit each of the state's 39 counties, interpreted as a gesture to the counties which she had lost. Her victory meant that both of Washington's senators were female (the other being Patty Murray); it was at that time one of three states to hold the distinction, along with California and Maine. Cantwell also became the thirteenth woman to serve in the Senate at the same time.
Cantwell's election also meant that Democrats and Republicans would have a 50-50 tie in the Senate. At the time the race was called, it was still unclear whether Dick Cheney or Joe Lieberman would be vice-president and thus cast the tie-breaking vote. At the time, it was noted that if the Gore-Lieberman ticket were victorious, then Connecticut's Republican governor would appoint Senator Lieberman's replacement, thereby giving Republicans a majority in the chamber; if the Bush-Cheney ticket were elected (the ultimate outcome), with Cantwell the winner of her race, there would be a tie in the chamber.
In a January 2002 appearance on C-Span's Booknotes, Ralph Nader (the 2000 Green Party presidential nominee) stated that when he met with Democratic Senator Harry Reid after the election, Reid had credited his candidacy with aiding Cantwell's victory; Nader had received 103,000 votes in the state, and since the party didn't run a Senate candidate, his supporters backed Cantwell down the ballot.
And I met with Senator Harry Reid, the number two Democrat in the Senate. And he acknowledged that the Green spillover votes elected Maria Cantwell. She won by 2,300 votes. I got 103,000 in Washington state, and there was no Green Party Senate candidate. And these folks were overwhelmingly for her.