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Based on election returns last week, the Washington State legislative races were looking miserable for Republicans, however due to Washington State’s mail-in ballot program, the actual ballot counting stretches for several weeks of daily drama. One week later, the late counted ballots are shifting the results and providing political analysts with more clarity. These late mailed ballots are, in most districts, trending in favor of the Republican candidates. The general election in November will still be a slugfest in many places, but the Republicans drowning in a blue-wave tsunami scenario seems less likely now, although the initial primary results probably helped with improved fundraising for the Democratic Party this cycle.
Some Republican examples (please note direct links to Secretary of State results, and results will change as final ballots are counted):
- Jeff Holy (6th LD) in the state Senate seat has moved into the lead from primary night results of 48.99% to 51.95% with more positive trending ballots to count. If voters figure out exactly how unqualified for any political office his opponent is, this gap will widen.
- Incumbent Mike Volz (6th LD) has moved from 46.92% to 49.92% so far
- Incumbent Jim Wash (19th LD) came from behind election night at 48.43% to regain the lead with 50.19% so far with late ballots breaking his way despite or perhaps inspired by the massive blitz of out of state funded ads against him in the district.
- Incumbent Drew MacEwen (35th LD) moved from 48.3% to 49.31%, and is expected to ultimately win the primary when the last of the ballots are counted.
- Incumbent Brandon Vick (18th LD) extended his razor thin lead of 50.58% election night to 51.9% with late breaking ballots growing the Republican lead.
- Challenger Larry Hoff (18th LD) has shifted from 46.49% primary night to a more respectable 47.9% and growing, which puts him in strong contention for victory in this open seat in November. It is still certain to be a hard fought fight.
- Incumbent Vicki Kraft (17th LD) has climbed from 48.51% to 49.17% now with more ballots to count. I forecast a contentious November for sure, but far better to enter the home stretch with better numbers
- Incumbent Norma Smith (10th LD) improved from 48.73% primary night to 49.39% now.
- Incumbent Dave Hayes (10th LD) also positively improved from 46.51% to 47.21%. This district is going to be have intensive campaigning until November with these tight results.
- In the 42nd LD(North Whatcom County)– all three Republican incumbents improved their results, but only by .2 %, which is positive, but not by much. Expect this district to include massive cash influxes by out of state donors for the Democrat challengers. This is a Republican majority district, but residency isn’t enough. Republicans have to actually vote to have an impact
- Incumbent Mark Harmsworth (44th LD) has also improved his primary night result of 45.08% to 46.68% with more late ballots trending his way.
- In the 30th LD (Federal Way) – all three Republicans including both challengers had micro improvements in their primary night’s standing, but nothing has changed the primary night’s assessment here – it will be a slog through November with Senator Miloscia the target of most Democratic Party allies and their piles of cash.
- In the 25th LD (Puyallup) – both Republican front runners for these two open seats have improved their numbers by another percentage point or so, and they are well positioned to prevail in both tough fights assuming Republicans do a decent job with voter turnout.
- In the 26th LD (Kitsap, Western Pierce) – all three Republicans improved their numbers by a few percentage points with late ballots trending Republican. Still a battleground district, and both parties will be fighting tooth and nail until the last hour as well.
Some examples where Republicans were not improving with late ballots were as follows:
In the 5th LD (Eastern King County) – both the incumbent Republican Paul Graves and the challenger candidate Chad Magendanz slipped slightly behind their primary night numbers. Both are still in strong contention for November, but good ground games will be necessary for Republican wins here.
- In the 47thLD (Eastern Kent) – both Republican Senator Joe Fain and Legislator Mark Hargrove slipped slightly, which still leaves Fain winning this seat, but Hargrove is going to be facing a fight. Both the 47th and 5th are impacted by the influx of Democratic Party battles for the overlapping 8th Congressional fight (Dino Rossi vs. hodgepodge of challengers, and in the 47th the Smith v. Smith intramural Democrat fight in the 9th Congressional District – see below)
- In the 28th LD (Southwest Pierce County) – incumbent Republican Dick Muri has slipped a percent lower since primary night, although challenger Maia Espinoza improved her standing with a slightly less disappointing 41.34%. Cash and boots on the ground activity from both parties will flood this battleground district over the next few months.
As the final counts get closer to final certification, there are a few other interesting results, strange outcomes, and some sleeper races which are worth noting.
Democrats owe Tacoma Republican candidate a medal and a big thank you
Representative David Sawyer (29th LD) was one of three Democrat legislators (including two former legislators) who became mired in scandals beginning in late 2017 related to widespread accusations of sexual harassment from a variety of women. While two of these legislators were already out of office, Sawyer was still serving in the legislature and he refused to relinquish his seat despite repeated calls by Democrats to do so. On Tuesday, the voters did this for him, but this result was only possible if a Republican did well in the primary. Sawyer fell to third place, which doesn’t even merit a participation ribbon, so he won’t be returning to Olympia next year.
The Democratic Party breathed a collective #Metoo sigh of relief and they are happy to see the scandal plagued Sawyer go away. No official Democratic Party note of thanks will be sent to Republican Terry Harder, but they should send one – he deserves it. This is a very Democrat leaning district, so Harder is considered a long shot in the General, but his strong primary performance in this 4-way primary merits attention and kudos from both major political parties. Perhaps a little bipartisan opportunity to find common ground?
The Matrix – Smith versus Smith in South King County
Most national attention on Washington State is directed towards the three battleground Congressional Districts. These include the 8th Congressional District where the Republican leaning vote didn’t break 50% and Republican Dino Rossi leads the pack after a 12-person contest. The 3rd Congressional District is under scrutiny, where the total Republican vote was over 50% and the incumbent received just over 42% in a seven-candidate primary. Finally, the last battleground is the 5th Congressional District where the total Republican vote was over 54%, but the incumbent Cathy McMorris-Rogers received 49.06%. All three of these Republican leaning districts posted mediocre Republican results which inspired a tidal wave of Left-leaning funding and giddy, out of state support for the Democratic Party challengers. The Republicans probably still have an edge in these three districts, but there will be breathless reporting and a lot of exaggerated hype on these political battles until November.
However, in the 9th Congressional district (South King County) from where it is certain no Republican will represent the voters in DC next year, longtime Democrat incumbent Adam Smith failed to get over 50% and is facing young newcomer Democrat Sarah Smith (no known relation to each other). Washington State’s top two primary system allowed the two Democratic Party candidates to squeeze out the sole Republican in the race due to the bitterness of the Democrats’ intramural fight between the Establishment Democrats (Adam Smith) and the insurgent/Bernie Democrats (Sarah Smith).
While Smith versus Smith sounds like a plot line from the Matrix (Reloaded and Revolutions), Republicans will have to pick their poison in that race and whoever Republicans decide to back could very well influence the final election outcome in this Congressional District in November. Some Republicans will back an old warhorse like Adam just because he may get weaker over time. Some Republicans will want to vote for Sarah Smith just to stick it to the Democrat incumbent.
Blue collar union-backed Republican newcomer survives to challenge Democrat domination in 40th Legislative District
Another race which received scant state-wide attention from Republicans is the 40th Legislative District, which includes most of Bellingham, part of Skagit County and the San Juan Islands. All three seats in this district are currently held by Democrats, but the retirement by longtime incumbent Representative Kristine Lytton led to a clown show race between four Democrat contestants trying to out-Left each other and two Republicans. One of these Republicans was Michael Petrish, who comes from a longtime political family in Skagit County. Petrish is also a union worker at the refinery near Anacortes and has been concerned about Gang Green’s efforts to destroy highly paid private sector jobs locally. He has brought unusual private sector union support to his campaign and was able to barely squeeze out a second place in the 6-way primary results with 20.96% of the vote. The Democrats decided that Debora Lekanoff was the most radical choice with 28.2% of the vote.
This district still leans heavy Democrat, but the shifting of private sector unions away from the Democratic Party due to their support for job destroying Gang Green grifter scams like carbon taxes and their relentless war on the Cherry Point Refinery high paid blue-collar jobs in nearby Whatcom County creates more volatility than normal for this district. Petrish has genuine credibility with union workers in these locations and the Gang Green crowd has been working hard to alienate working people locally. Petrish also led the 6-way primary pack with over 30% of the total vote in Skagit County (district spans three counties). If he can significantly improve his standing in Whatcom and San Juan Counties in November, this district’s representation could look very different next year. Petrish is considered a long-shot by insiders, but local Democrats who want less crazy and more normal representing them in Olympia may shift significant votes to Petrish this cycle.
New Republican surprise candidate rising against unpopular Democrat State Senator
Democrat incumbent state Senator John McCoy (38th LD) performed poorly in the primary, struggling to clear 40% of the vote in a three-way runoff. This is terrible for an incumbent. His Democratic Party challenger, Bruce Overstreet, convinced almost 30% of the voters in this district that McCoy didn’t represent them very well in Olympia. However, Overstreet was bounced off the ballot by new Republican challenger Savio Pham, who will face McCoy in the fall.
Savio will be courting the Democrat voters who rejected McCoy in the primary as well as the Republican voters who are always under assault by McCoy since he has been “representing” them in Olympia. Pham brings an energized and growing base of Washingtonian Vietnamese voters who have also been ignored and attacked by McCoy during his time in Olympia. If Pham continues to aggressively campaign and bring in enough money to effectively confront McCoy in the general election while courting the local disgruntled Democrats, there could be a surprise upset in this district.
McCoy has also been rated as one of the worst state senators in Washington State today with his voting record in the state on private property rights. Not even the state senators from Seattle have voting records that exceed McCoy’s outright hostility to property owners in his district and throughout the state.
Libertarian Party’s brand suffers in Republican free elections
This author has a soft spot for libertarian perspectives in many policy areas. Frequently, I have been a cheerleader from the sidelines as this political party struggles to achieve some measure of electoral successes. A unique opportunity presented itself in Washington’s 36th Legislative District (NW Seattle) where no Republicans ran for the state senate or legislator races. The Libertarians fielded a full slate of candidates for all three positions challenging the incumbent Democrats. One Libertarian candidate – Matt Dubin was well funded (According to the Public Disclosure Commission, he raised over $58,000), he had a compelling message and he ran a serious campaign. However, despite this opportunity, all three Libertarian candidates demonstrated disappointing results with 10.86%, 10.63%, and Dubin at 13.16%. This was discouraging. As a contrast, Republican challenger Sarina Forbes in 2014 was able to receive 15.81% in a low budget campaign in this district.
Results like this support the theory that Libertarians might make more headway influencing Republican candidates to carry some or most of their policy messages. These disappointing results strengthen this argument, and probably builds a bit of resentment in the Libertarian Party. The Socialists and the Green Party have demonstrated significant policy success following exactly this model of influence from inside the Democratic Party. While the Greens and Socialists have shifted the Democratic Party towards a more abusive, elitist, and harmful policy positions, their organizing efforts have helped them obtain some of their goals more than their independent parties have on their own. A small, committed group of activists can often have a greater impact wielding influence within a party rather than trying to start from scratch.
(Note: When I originally wrote this article – I overlooked the 2nd Congressional District where Libertarian Brian Luke might make the second spot in a six way primary. If he pulls this off, it is a significant accomplishment for a 3rd party candidate)
Projecting November’s results today
Political outcomes are influenced by a variety of factors, and it is hard to be certain about the outcome. Several issues are likely to add even more volatility to November’s election results in Washington State. Not everything is about Republican vs. Democrat. However, in the absence of other metrics, when looking at the control of the Washington State legislature, which is very closely divided right now, even one seat changing party hands can make a real policy shift in Olympia next year.
Despite the delirious boasting last week, it seems unlikely the Democrats will gain some type of super majority in the Washington State legislature. However, the primary election results should serve as a warning for the Republicans who tend to view the political process as a part-time civic duty rather than a full-time political war – which is how the Democratic Party (and many of their well-funded special interests) view politics. If the Republicans run a traditional, sleepy campaign across the state, then they will lose seats in both the state senate and the house. If the Democrats fail to keep the Trump hatred burning white hot through November, they will also fall far short of their expectations.
Washington State is not California. Washington is a divided state, with divisions most clearly running the traditional rural/urban line. The rural and suburban areas of Washington are trending more conservative. Downtown Seattle is trending Socialist. This creates stark clashes on the political battlefield and in districts impacted by these political shifts.
The Democrats have built up expectations to a level where they are perfectly postured to induce a backlash of anger in their base if they fail to achieve their goals. At the same time, the Republicans live in a perpetual state of Stockholm Syndrome, even when they win and are in the majority. Republican leadership and the professional class of consultants often view themselves as subservient to the Democratic Party’s monolithic hive mind connected to Seattle’s political fun house.
It would be wise for the Republicans to point out the clear harm the Seattle-centric policies cause for the rest of the state and focus on getting out the Republican vote in November. Republicans can continue to win Democrats left behind by the more extreme policies pushed by Seattle’s policy circus. The Republicans also have no reason to abandon any part of urban Washington as the Democrats are creating tomorrow’s opposition today with their destructive local policies of Gang Green grant grifter scams, the homeless cartel expansion, the fraud of Sound Transit, head-taxes, etc. Republicans should advance and champion a rational alternative to crazy, not wring their hands apologetically when presenting fiscally sane options.
There is much hard work to do between now and November, but it won’t be boring.
OUR CONSTITUTION BEGINS WITH THE PHRASE “WE THE PEOPLE.” IT WAS THE FOUNDER’S INTENT THAT GOVERNMENT BE CREATED BY THE PEOPLE, TO SERVE THE PEOPLE. IT WASN’T THEIR INTENTION FOR THE PEOPLE TO SERVE THE GOVERNMENT. IT WAS ALWAYS INTENDED THAT GOVERNMENT WHICH FAILED TO SERVE THE PEOPLE SHOULD BE “ALTERED OR ABOLISHED.” UNTIL WE RETURN TO THE FOUNDER’S INTENT, WE REMAIN WE THE GOVERNED…
Washington State Independents (Chris Vance project)