A review of Trova Heffernan's "An Election for the Ages," which reconstructs the photo-finish defeat of Dino Rossi by Christine Gregoire in the 2004 gubernatorial election and the multiple recounts and controversies that came afterward.

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‘An Election for the Ages: Rossi vs. Gregoire, 2004’

by Trova Heffernan

Washington State University Press, 162 pp., $19.95

News stories written about Dino Rossi as he campaigns for the U.S. Senate seat this election season frequently refer to him as the candidate who lost the state’s 2004 gubernatorial race by 133 votes.

Which is like saying a sports team lost by one point without mentioning the game’s triple overtime and a critical call by the refs.

“An Election for the Ages: Rossi vs. Gregoire, 2004” by Trova Heffernan gives the complete play-by-play of how Rossi lost to Christine Gregoire by 133 votes out of more than 2.8 million cast, a margin of forty six ten thousandth (.0046) of 1 percent.

The Nov. 2, 2004, election wasn’t decided until June 6, 2005, when Rossi announced he would not appeal a court decision declaring Gregoire the winner. This came after the original count of the ballots, a machine recount and a hand recount, all taking place in a swirl of charges and countercharges by Democrats and Republicans that included accusations of voter fraud, mishandled and/or lost ballots, impropriety in county elections offices and legal misinterpretations and mishandling by Sam Reed, the secretary of state.

The book ends by quoting Gonzaga University’s praise for Reed when awarding him its law medal for his “integrity and actions in respect of the rule of law” during the election. But the book is remarkably evenhanded concerning Reed, especially given that it was written by Reed’s communications director.

If, as is often said, journalism is the first draft of history, this book is version 1.1 at best. It’s valuable for gathering in one place newspaper and broadcast reports, press releases and court opinions about the drawn-out election. But don’t expect further analysis, commentary or much in the way of added detail. And you already know the ending: Rossi lost by 133 votes.

John B. Saul is a former editor at The Seattle Times.