Top-Two changed — almost nothing.
The top-two primary system was supposed to be the beginning of the end of politics as we know it in Washington state. Both chairs of the state's political parties (Luke Esser, Republican, and Dwight Pelz, Democrat) spent much of the last several months warning about the perverse outcomes that would result from our new system. The most perverse of all, of course, was the scenario in which two members of the same party would advance to the general election instead of the top Democrat and the top Republican.
Well, the primary votes are in, and the results are extremely ... unspectacular. Out of more than 140 candidate races on the ballot throughout the state, only a small handful — six, from my count — ended up with two members of the same party taking the top two spots.
I wouldn't call that cataclysmic. Moreover, four of those six races didn't even have a member of the other party on the ballot! So, it wasn't as if there was going to be a robust debate between the two parties going into the General Election anyway.
From what I can tell, in only two legislative districts, (the 36th and the 46th, both in Seattle) did the outcome change from what it would have otherwise been under the old pick-a-party primary. In those cases, the Republican came in third and thus will not advance; ordinarily a long-shot Republican in these Democratic strongholds would have advanced to the November ritual slaughter. Instead, we've got two good races even if, as Esser griped, it's a choice "between French vanilla and vanilla bean."
Even in the blue-as-can-be 7th Congressional District, where incumbent Jim McDermott was challenged by two Democrats, the Republican was the second-highest vote getter! So, as with the partisan system of before, the November ballot will feature a candidate from each political party.
It's hard to argue the morning after that the top-two primary had much of an impact on what would otherwise have been the outcomes.
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