In a strange election, Western political contests had their share of unusual moments ...
More than two weeks after the election, Washington finished counting votes in its tight U.S. Senate race (HCN, 10/23/00: Stalking Slade). Although Democratic challenger Maria Cantwell beat incumbent Republican Slade Gorton by 1,953 votes, the race is far from over: The slim margin mandates a recount, which is expected to take about a week, after which either candidate may request a manual recount.
After a freak storm hit eastern Montana on Election Day, the state's Democratic Party came to the rescue of stranded voters. The party paid to plow a cul-de-sac on the Fort Peck Reservation, where deep snow had prevented eight extended families from getting to the polls. The effort paid off: Montana voters elected six Native Americans to the state Legislature.
In Wyoming, just a week before the election, Republican state Rep. Carolyn Paseneaux was charged with voter fraud. She apparently filed an absentee ballot using an address where she had not resided for over a year. Paseneaux still managed to beat John Jolley, the Democratic candidate and public-lands watchdog, by 150 votes (HCN, 3/29/99: A muckraker throws a well-aimed wrench).
In Arizona, voters ousted House Speaker Jeff Groscost, a Republican, for botching an alternative fuel project. Groscost had pushed a program that gave drivers substantial cash rebates for converting their cars to burn cleaner fuels. Rebates and conversion costs, however, ran $470 million over budget. After the public learned last September that Groscost encouraged the EPA to allow even more cars to qualify for conversion, Groscost's days were numbered.
And in progressive Boulder, Colo., voters balked at an affordable housing initiative. It would have levied local sales taxes to raise $3.5 million annually for more low-cost housing. Mayor Will Toor says 52 percent voted against the measure in part because it became associated with the state's growth-harnessing initiative (HCN, 10/23/00: Colorado's growth amendment rouses voters).