Now that the primary has shaken out the Christian teabagging mouth-breathers and the U.S. Senate race is officially between Dino Rossi and Patty Murray, it is both appropriate and relevant to reflect on the last two times Rossi lost major statewide elections. Trova Heffernan's new book from Washington State University Press, An Election for the Ages, documents the 2004 governor's race between Rossi and Christine Gregoire, a contest that ended with acrimonious court battles over a few thousand lost and muddled ballots. (The final tally came down to 133 more votes for Gregoire, out of the 2.8 million votes cast that year.)

While it covers the entire gubernatorial campaign, Ages pays special attention to the months after Election Day, when nobody was certain who the next governor would be and the Democrats and Republicans were holding press conferences nearly every day to reassure the people of Washington State that their candidate would be ready to take charge as soon as some last few details were taken care of in the courts.

In the beginning, Rossi had the advantage—he appeared to lead in votes, and he projected an air of calm that Gregoire's team just couldn't muster. As misplaced ballots started appearing, though, Team Rossi started making all the wrong moves, immediately calling the Democrats out on charges of foul play and demanding a revote. A few errant Republicans tried to involve the FBI, and eventually Rossi developed the stink of a poor loser by association. Ages suggests that Rossi would be a much better candidate on his own, without extremist Republicans leaping into the fray and agitating on his behalf. If that is true, Patty Murray could be in good shape this year; one major theme of the 2010 elections seems to be fringe Republicans shooting their mouths off.

While Ages is informative, it's not a page-turner by any means; Heffernan's prose is as dry as one of Gregoire's speeches. And several statements are not sufficiently supported: Heffernan claims that Gregoire was "articulate, bright, and of the gender with a political advantage in Washington State—a female." While it's true that both our senators are female, the fact that Seattle has had only one female mayor—elected in 1926!—could easily prove the opposite to be true.

The real hero of Ages is Secretary of State Sam Reed. Reed, a Republican, faced bitter criticism and two attempted recalls from within his own party; his perceived lack of party loyalty indicated a strong desire that the voters of Washington State be heard, no matter what their decision meant for his party. Reed comes across as just the kind of Republican—a fair-minded civil servant who is willing to fight his own party on what he believes is right—that Dino Rossi isn't. recommended