Trova Heffernan
WSU Press, 2010

Every couple of years, we engage in the most basic of democratic activities: voting. Elections typically run smoothly and uneventfully. Sometimes they whip up a tornado of controversy, such as Washington’s whisker-thin gubernatorial election in 2004, following on the heels of Bush vs. Gore in 2000, with Florida’s hanging chads and legal wrangling.

Dino Rossi and Chris Gregoire faced off to be Washington’s next governor in 2004. After the ballot-counting deadline arrived in late November, merely 261 out of 2.8 million votes separated the candidates. An Election for the Ages takes up the story of the historic election and its aftermath in the courts, the media, the legislature, and the public forum.

Author Trova Heffernan details the back and forth of election results that swung from Gregoire to Rossi and back while political parties engaged in legal and PR battles and the state’s citizens watched intently. Heffernan also delves into the role of Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed (’63 BA, ’68 MA) as he was thrust into the limelight as the state’s chief elections officer.

As criticism and praise came at him, Reed oversaw the application of election laws (and eventually reforms in the election system). Finally, after two recounts, courtroom drama, and a nail-biting seven months of controversy, the new governor, Gregoire, won by only 133 votes.

An Election for the Ages does an excellent job of capturing the closest governor’s race in American history. Sidebars clearly explain the intricacies of election law, profile many characters in this historical drama, and tell the stories surrounding the election.

More than just a treat for political junkies, the book chronicles a defining moment in election history with compelling narrative and insight into voting and political battles.