Six weeks post-Election Day and after millions of dollars in campaign spending and the largest hand recount in King County in 16 years, the 5th Legislative District race finally has a winner — incumbent Mark Mullet.

Mullet won the Washington state Senate race by 58 votes over challenger Ingrid Anderson and gained one vote more than he had before the recount, King County Elections said Wednesday morning, when the results were certified. In total, Mullet won by less than 1 percentage point out of the 97,471 ballots cast for the East King County contest.

2020 campaign handout photo of state senator Mark Mullet, running for reelection n the 5th Legislative District.  (campaign handout)
2020 campaign handout photo of state senator Mark Mullet, running for reelection n the 5th Legislative District. (campaign handout)

The results certification concludes what was an expensive race between two Democrats who largely agreed on big issues but differed on hotly debated ones like taxes on capital gains, which Anderson supports. Outside groups spent more than $3 million in total for Mullet, an Issaquah business owner, and Anderson, an Overlake Hospital psychiatric department nurse.

Anderson initially held a razor-thin lead over Mullet but was overtaken a few days later. When other races were certified in late November, their race triggered an automatic hand recount, which is required when the difference is fewer than 150 votes and less than .25% of the total ballots cast.

Mullet said Wednesday that he looks forward to representing residents of the district and to “find bipartisan solutions for the challenges facing Washington state.”

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Anderson expressed gratitude to her supporters for giving her the opportunity to engage with district residents.

“I appreciate all the conversations and how engaged people were,” she said. “My favorite part of being a candidate was getting to talk to so many amazing constituents and hear about their stories. It was a true privilege.”

The hand recount involves a 15-step process with two-person teams where each counter looks at a ballot, says the chosen candidate’s name out loud, then hands it to the other person, who does the same.

This recount required pulling nearly 100,000 ballots from more than 5,000 boxes, then sorting them into 180 different precincts, according to King County Elections ballot processing manager Jerelyn Hampton. Thirty-nine outside visitors observed the process held earlier this month.

The race was the largest to require a hand recount in King County since the 2004 gubernatorial race, when the agency counted nearly 900,000 ballots. Ultimately, Christine Gregoire won the state race by just 133 votes.