By Laura L. Myers
SEATTLE (Reuters) - Former Democratic U.S. Representative Jay Inslee will be Washington state's next governor after Republican state Attorney General Rob McKenna conceded defeat on Friday.
Inslee, who was first elected to Congress in 1999, resigned in March to run for the governorship after Democratic incumbent Christine Gregoire said she would not seek a third term.
"It's time for all of us to unite across the state of Washington to build a working Washington," Inslee said following McKenna's concession. "Let's get to work."
"It appears we will fall short of victory when the last ballots are counted," McKenna said in a video concession statement posted to his campaign website. "After 17 months of hard work, that is a very disappointing result."
McKenna had hoped to become the first Republican governor in Washington state in 30 years. He said he called Inslee to congratulate him and wish him luck.
Inslee said at the time of his announcement that seeing state Republicans pursue plans to slash education funding was a factor in his decision to leave the U.S. House of Representatives and run for governor.
Washington uses mail-in voting exclusively, and final results in the race took several days to tally. The most recent results, with nearly 2.6 million votes counted, had Inslee leading with 50.7 percent of the vote to 49.3 percent for McKenna.
Gregoire, the outgoing governor, won by just a handful of votes after multiple recounts and legal battles in 2004.
(Writing and additional reporting by Mary Slosson; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Peter Cooney)