Local political races often forecast wider statewide changes in the future
Around Washington State much attention has been paid to a limited Republican showing in the statewide races. The Republicans picked up a State Treasurer with the election of Duane Davidson. This will be the first time a Republican has held this position since 1952, and combined with the reelection of Secretary of State Kim Wyman, Davidson’s election means there are now two Republicans elected to statewide office in Washington State. With Dennis Richardson’s election as Oregon’s Secretary of State, this means there will be a total of three Republicans holding statewide office on the west coast of the United States. This is progress for the Republican Party even if not as much as they would like.
The Republicans in Washington State were able to hold their own in the state house – losing two seats (Linda Kochmar and Terri Hickel in the 30th Legislative District (Federal Way), and picking up two seats – James Walsh in the 19th (SW Washington) and Phil Fortunato in the 31st (Auburn). The Republicans lost one seat in the state Senate with the defeat of Litzow in the 41st (Mercer Island/Bellevue), but still retain a slight majority in that chamber.
However, many local county races were worth watching as they tend to be indicative of future political trends as well. A review of these races is in order as most of these stories will not be widely reported in traditional news outlets.
Thurston County Commission- First time since statehood – no Democrats or Republicans
We wrote in more detail about this race here. However, in a shocking change of political control, Thurston County flipped from Democrat control to having all three Commissioners unaligned with any party. First time since statehood. Part of the shock with these results was the fact that the Democrats were openly bragging about the impending “coronation” of their candidates even a few weeks before the election. Independants Gary Edwards and John Hutchings will join incumbent independent Commissioner Bud Blake to manage Thurston County next year.
Only three years ago, this year’s election results would have seemed a fantastic delusion at best. It is now reality. Three years ago, the commission consisted entirely of liberal/leftist Democrat women, and it will now be led by three independent men who have pledged to clean up many of the problems created by the previous commissioners. They have their work cut out for them. Nobody can blame Trump for this election result. Clinton easily carried Thurston County leaving Trump with less than 38% of the vote. Clearly a lot of Clinton voters couldn’t stand the Democrat choices for Commissioner either.
Much local political drama preceded this election. Unpopular policies like the pocket gopher tax, crap tax, rural car tax, attempted fireworks ban, plastic bag ban, and other extreme agendas helped sour many residents and motivated a large turnout of voters who wanted change. Many voters recognized their property rights were under direct assault from arrogant politicians and bureaucrats. This, in combination with a variety of local scandals like the losing $12.3 million Maytown lawsuit, the 5 year empty jail, and other incompetent actions ensured change was coming.
The incumbent Democrats decided to retire, so political change was certain. The anointed and chosen Democrat successors were younger, but their agendas were just as extreme. These new Democrat candidates did a good job raising large sums of money, including using $110,000 from local spirit channeller JZ Knight who funded a political action committee and used a 35,000 year old Lemurian warrior spirit named Ramtha to dictate the Thurston County Democrat’s election plans. The political drama also included death threats, robocalls, restraining orders, lawsuits, public disclosure complaints, and a lot of controversy. This added some local color and angst, but the final result was total political change.
Grays Harbor loses the last sign-stealing Democrat on the county commission
Grays Harbor County had long been dominated by the Democrat Party since the 1930s, however, in 2012, the voters elected Republican Wes Cormier to the county commission. Additionally, another independent was elected in 2014. This year, the voters handily returned Republican Commissioner Cormier, but they also removed longtime incumbent Democrat Commissioner Frank Gordon and chose independant candidate Randy Ross instead. Commissioner Gordon did himself no political favors by getting caught red-handed on camera stealing his opponent’s campaign signs while in his suit in between committee meetings. Grays Harbor will now join neighboring Thurston County with a County Commission with no Democrats, and a majority of independents.
Pacific County – elects first Republican since Roosevelt administration
In neighboring Pacific County, political history was also made when Lisa Olsen was elected as the first Republican County Commissioner to fill this office since the 1930s. She handily defeated incumbent Democrat Commissioner Steve Rogers who had been instrumental in harassing local businesses like Oysterville Sea Farms. Additionally, Olsen was well known in the community and any efforts by the local Democratic Party to demonize her failed to gain traction. This is a big change of political direction in a small county.
Snohomish County goes Low by dumping Dunshee
In another sign of the times, former Democrat legislator Hans Dunshee lost his appointed seat on the Snohomish County Council (position 5). He was soundly defeated by Republican Sam Low. A former Lake Stevens City Councilman and a Snohomish County native, Low was able to match Dunshee with fundraising. Despite Dunshee’s extensive experience in the state legislature and the natural advantage of incumbency , Snohomish County went Low. The election was to fill the remaining year of the 4-year term for this seat remaining after former Snohomish Councilman Dave Somers won his election to be Snohomish County Executive and Dunshee was appointed to fill his seat. That appointment didn’t last long. Now Low will need to win this election again next year to continue in this position for the remainder of the term.
This election doesn’t dramatically change political control of the Snohomish County Council, which is dominated by Democrats, but it does bring a little bipartisan balance to the County Council which has been experiencing a variety of scandals and challenges over the past few years. Low has a high hurdle to clear in an attempt to restore balance to this council.
Republicans have a good election week in Pierce County
The balance of power has been close in Pierce County with Republicans holding a slight edge on the County Council for several years now. A serious challenge on many fronts was made by the Democrats, but it looks like the Republicans managed to hold their majority. This was an impressive feat.
The first results on election night cast doubt on this outcome because Republican Senator Pam Roach appeared to be trailing in her race for Pierce Council position #2 and Republican Doug Richardson appeared to have difficulty maintaining Pierce Council position #6. As the late ballots trickled in over the next few days, however, Richardson developed a decent lead and Pam Roach came from behind for the win. Former Republican legislator for the 2nd District and incumbent Republican Council member Jim McCune cruised to an easy reelection.
However, former Republican State Senator (25th District) Bruce Dammeier had an epic and expensive battle for Pierce County Executive. Including an expensive primary battle with Republican Pierce County Councilman Dan Roach (son of Pam Roach) who had also decided to run for County Executive. According to the Public Disclosure Commission, almost $750,000 was spent on this race alone by all the candidates.
The Pierce County Council was in a state of flux and political change partly because Councilwoman Joyce McDonald was running for the state legislature (25th District). McDonald won her race, and it looks like Pam Roach will now take her place on the Pierce County Council. For a time, the Pierce County Council will have son Dan Roach and mother Pam Roach on the council at together until 2018 when term limits kick in for Dan Roach. At the same time, it looks like Pierce County also passed a charter amendment that will no longer allow county councilmembers to hold other elected offices, so with Pam Roach’s successful election, she is expected to resign from the state senate. There will be an appointment to her soon-to-be vacated State Senate seat (31st District).
Douglas County looks favorably on change
As mentioned in an article about the primary results from earlier in the season, there was a strong indication that the winds of change were blowing across Douglas County. As we discussed in a series of articles linked here, here, and here, there were clear problems with the old business as usual in Douglas. All candidates identified as Republican, so this was less about partisan politics than it was about changing leadership.
Challenger Kyle Steinburg handily defeated incumbent Dale Snyder, and in the other contested seat – challenger Dan Sutton squeaked out a victory over hand-picked successor Pat Haley. These results carry forward the trends seen in the primary back in August, and they should give hope to those who desire change and fiscal cleanup. While there were other local issues that impacted this race, this youtube video had an impact as well – making Haley look like he was just running for Commissioner for the pay.
Cowlitz, Clark, and Spokane Counties – little good news for Democrats
Incumbent Democrat Cowlitz County Commissioner Michael Karnofski was defeated this election cycle by Republican challenger Arne Mortensen. Combined with the reelection of incumbent Republican Commissioner Dennis Weber, the Republicans will now control this county seat as well. Trump carried Cowlitz County, so these results were probably not a surprising, although both Republican commissioner candidates carried a higher percentage of the county than Trump.
Although there was bitter infighting on the Clark County Council for the past few years and substantial division within the Clark County Republican Party, it looks like the Republicans have swept the Clark County Council seats as well. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. The whole point of the Clark County Charter effort was to ensure Democrats could have control over this council, and while they may have influence with some of the council members, their electoral failure to elect anyone formally associated with their party does not bode well for their party’s future in Clark County. This should be a bit surprising because the Republican Party has been divided with a lot of bitter infighting over the past few years, however, even in this perfect storm the Democrats are shut out of the Clark County Council.
The Spokane County Commission has been controlled by Republicans for years, and this fact doesn’t change with the recent election. Republican Josh Kerns was able to decisively win his race for Commissioner Position 1 after ousting incumbent Republican Nancy McLaughlin in the primary. Kerns decisive defeat of Democrat candidate Candace Mumm and the reelection of incumbent Republican Shelley O’Quinn in Commissioner Position 2, ensures Republican control over this commission for the next four years in Spokane County.
There were many other local elections around the state that merit discussion, but these are just a few of the highlights. Most of the local political commentary will focus on statewide races and control of the legislature – important and critical political events to be sure. However, local political results often forecast future changes for wider state office.
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…