It’s almost voting time for citizens across Washington State, as county auditors can legally start mailing general election ballots starting today. So, to help frame your choices in the coming weeks, Shift thought we’d bring to you the perspective from different writers on which state legislative races will be tasked with deciding how much taxes go up and how big government grows in 2017.
Not unsurprisingly, there is relative consensus on which races are the ones to watch in our narrowly divided legislative. The Associated Press points out points out “A handful of races could decide whether there’s a shake-up in the Washington Legislature this November, as Democrats hope to regain control of the Senate and Republicans have their eye on a majority in the House. All 98 seats in the House are up for election Nov. 8, and 26 of the Senate’s 49 seats will also be decided by voters.”
The Seattle-focused blog Crosscut comes to a very similar conclusion. In the Senate, “three of the four races we’ve rated as up-for-grabs were previously controlled by Republicans. That could show fertile ground for Democrats to grow into Republican territory, but it also gives Republicans an edge in these races. Political parties usually have advantages in places they have already won.” And in the House, Crosscut sees slightly better news for House Speaker Frank Chopp, writing “Democrats have 48 seats rated as either safe or close to it, while Republicans only have 41 seats matching that description. Of the remaining nine “toss-up” districts, eight were previously held by Republicans. Like in the Senate, previously holding a seat can give Republicans an advantage.
According to AP, whether the Republicans maintain (with the ongoing Majority Coalition Caucus support of Democrat Tim Sheldon) their two-vote edge in the Senate largely depends on three races, and “Democrats see a path to the majority with two seats: Republican Sen. Steve Litzow of Mercer Island, who trailed Democrat Lisa Wellman by more than a percentage point in August’s ‘top two’ primary for the 41st District; and the open seat in Vancouver’s 17th district, where Democrat Tim Probst and Republican Rep. Lynda Wilson are in a tight race. Wilson led Probst by just 50 votes in the primary.”
The GOP is not just playing defense though, as incumbent Democrat Mark Mullett, who won by a fluke (or Pflug) in 2012, is being challenged by Chad Magendanz, with Crosscut noting “Magendanz, who has served as a representative for the 5th Legislative District since 2012, is a strong challenger who has raised over $330,000.”
Crosscut puts one more race into the most competitive column, the 10th District challenge to incumbent Republican Barbara Bailey. Crosscut says “we nearly put this race in the “likely Republican” column – 51 percent of the primary vote went to incumbent Republican Sen. Barbara Bailey, and her challenger only won 38 percent,” while the AP points out that the Democrats “are also eyeing” this race.
More House races are competitive, mainly because there are more House races. And as the AP writes, “Republicans, who have steadily chipped away a near supermajority Democratic advantage in the House over the past decade, are optimistic that this is the year the scale will tip in their favor. Kevin Carns, director of the Reagan Fund, the House Republicans’ political action committee, is confident about Republicans’ chances in an open seat in Pierce County, as well as a few others.”
The Democrats appear to be conceding that open seat race, in the 31st District, to former Republican representative Phil Fortunato, after he won big in the primary. That essentially ties the House heading into the general.
That leaves a few other races to determine if Democrats maintain the majority they’ve held since 2002. Two of the most closely watched are for open seats being vacated by Republican House members running for the Senate, in the 5th and 17th. Additionally, two Republicans incumbents were running behind their Democrat challengers in Federal Way’s 30th District. A third Republican incumbent – Jesse Young – faces a former State Rep (Larry Seaquist) in Pierce County’s 26th District.
The GOP is on the offensive in two districts – an open seat in the 19th District in rural Southwest Washington district, and in Snohomish County’s 44th District, where appointed rep (and defeated former County Executive) John Lovick is trying to resurrect his career.
You should hear plenty more about these races very soon, as the AP notes that “More than $22 million has been raised in legislative campaigns, of which $13 million has been spent so far. More than $4 million has been spent by third-party groups in independent expenditures. Mullet has been the target of the most independent expenditure spending, at more than $400,000, followed by Probst and Litzow.”
Watch out for flying mud!