With about 196,000 votes counted Tuesday night, Schrier had 53 percent to Rossi's 47 percent. Schrier's strongest showing was in King County.

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Issaquah pediatrician Kim Schrier opened up a lead over former state senator Dino Rossi on Tuesday night in Washington’s hard-fought and historically expensive 8th Congressional District race, giving Democrats a shot at flipping a seat that has been held only by Republicans.


With about 196,000 votes counted, Schrier had 53 percent to Rossi’s 47 percent — with her King County margin making up for Rossi’s advantage in Pierce, Chelan and Kittitas counties.

At the Democrats’ election-night celebration in Bellevue, the crowd cheered as national results showed the party taking a majority in the U.S. House even before tallies were announced in Washington.

“Check it out, check it out!” said state Democratic Party chair Tina Podlodowski, when results flashed across screens showing Schrier leading.

Schrier sounded confident addressing the room of supporters shortly after 9 p.m. “We have to make sure every vote is counted, and when they are, I believe we will have a woman doctor in the House.”

At a Republican gathering in Issaquah, the room was mostly silent as results showed Rossi behind.

Rossi briefly spoke, thanking his family, and saying it was too early to call the race. “We’ll see what happens,” he said, before leaving the event without taking questions.

At least 100,000 ballots remain to be counted in the coming days. But with turnout expected to hit 70 percent or higher, Rossi likely would need to capture around 55 percent of the remaining votes.

Anticipating a close result, both candidates spent the days leading up to Tuesday pushing for every last vote in a midterm election on pace to potentially set a turnout record.

Rossi spent Election Day personally calling undecided voters, after weeks of door-belling.

“I slept really well last night knowing I did everything I can physically do,” he said Tuesday afternoon before votes were counted.

Schrier spent part of the day canvassing homes with volunteers in the Covington area. Energized Democrats, looking to push back against President Donald Trump, had flooded her campaign with volunteers in what Schrier called the largest field-organizing effort for such a campaign in the nation.

Spanning the Cascade mountains, the 8th District has previously sent only Republicans to Congress since its creation after the 1980 Census. But with the retirement of U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, the seat came to be seen as a potential Democratic pickup.

The race pitted one of the state’s best-known Republican politicians in Rossi, a former Sammamish state senator and real-estate investor who lost three runs for statewide office in the past 15 years, against Schrier, who had never before run for elected office, but came out ahead of two rival Democrats in a contested primary in August.

Rossi, 59, ran what was in some ways an incumbent-style campaign, refusing all but one debate and declining other invitations to appear at forums alongside Schrier. He concentrated on contacting voters on his own terms, saying he had personally door-belled more than 8,000 homes.

Schrier, 50, who initially got in the race to challenge Reichert out of frustration over the Republican health-care overhaul, promoted her background as a doctor and political outsider who would not accept corporate PAC donations.

With the conduct of Trump a constant, if at times unspoken, undercurrent, Schrier emphasized a need for Congress to act as a check on the executive branch. Rossi downplayed the Trump factor, saying he’d treat the current president like previous ones.

Spending in the race topped $28 million as of last week, making it the most expensive House race in the nation in terms of outlays by general-election candidates plus outside groups, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Democrats outspent Republicans nearly 2 to 1. It also was the costliest U.S. House race in state history.

The money flooded TV screens and Facebook feeds with negative ads portraying Schrier as “Dr. Tax” and Rossi as a career politician with ties to shady businessmen.

Rossi has famously seen close elections before — most notably his 2004 run for governor against Democrat Christine Gregoire. Initially declared the winner, Rossi also won a recount but lost by 129 votes on a second, hand recount.

Republicans sued to try to overturn the election, crying foul over alleged vote irregularities in King County. But a Chelan County judge rejected their lawsuit, finding no proof of fraud and declining to order a new election.

Rossi ran again for governor in 2008 but lost in a big Democratic sweep powered by the election of Barack Obama as president. In 2010, he challenged U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, but lost again despite a tea-party wave favoring Republicans in much of the country.

If Rossi fails to overtake Schrier, this would be his fourth consecutive election loss — each time, as Democratic leaders have pointed out, to a woman.

If Schrier wins, she would join what could be a record number of women in the House.

Staff reporters Katherine Long, Justin Mayo and Mike Lindblom contributed to this report.