The early returns in the state showed that Washington hasn't lost its propensity for close elections. Days, or more, of vote counting could be ahead on the U.S. Senate race, as well as other contests.
The race between Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and Dino Rossi was close from the beginning and stayed there late into Tuesday night. With a little over 1.4 million votes counted as of 11:15 p.m., Murray held a 1 percentage point lead over her Republican challenger, who has had two close gubernatorial losses. Murray's lead was just over 14,000 votes, having fallen from more than 20,000 a short time earlier.
In the congressional races, Democratic Rep. Rick Larsen was trailing his challenger, John Koster, by just under 1 percentage point with fewer than 1,500 votes separating the candidates in the hard-fought contest in the Northwest corner of the state.
Incumbent state Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders was leading his challenger, Charlie Wiggins, by 2.5 percentage points.
The tight state legislative races included a closely watched House race in the Eastside suburbs where Democratic Rep. Ross Hunter was leading challenger Diane Tebelius, 50.7 to 49.2 percent. But that was a huge spread compared to a race in the Snohomish County suburbs' 44th District, where incumbent Democratic Sen. Steve Hobbs led Republican Dave Schmidt by eight votes out of more than 29,000 counted at 11 p.m.
In southwest Washington, Republicans picked up a congressional seat as Jaime Herrera beat Denny Heck.
The returns broke strongly against a number of ballot measures on the statewide level, but at least three survived the campaign season.
Tim Eyman's Initiative 1053, which would impose supermajority constraints on the legislature's approval of tax increases, was cruising to an easy victory, as was a measure to allow judges to deny bail to some suspects, including those facing possible life sentences. Voters were also overwhelmingly repealing soda and candy taxes, passing the big-money I-1107.
A measure on state debt was on the bubble, but slightly ahead shortly before 11 p.m. The so-called Costco measure to lift the state monopoly on liquor sales was also on the bubble, but trailing by more than 3 percentage points, 51.6 to 48.3 with more than half of the expected vote counted.
The Seattle Times noted that I-1098, the state income tax measure, was losing even in King County. Other big losers were another alcohol-controls measure, I-1105, backed by the beer industry and I-1082, a business-backed attempt to change industrial insurance.
In Seattle, a supplemental operations levy for Seattle Public Schools was headed to an easy victory, with more than 63 percent yes votes with more than 100,000 ballots counted. Two municipal court judges, Edsonya Charles and Michael Hurtado, were being beaten by their respective challengers, Ed McKenna and Karen Donohue.
Even before the first returns came in, King County already had its first reports of voting problems. The Seattle Times reported long lines as voting hours neared an end at the three polling stations countywide.
In Spokane, The Spokesman Review reported that the Secretary of State's computers were overwhelmed, preventing Spokane County officials from uploading their results to the state. And the county's vote counting was going more slowly than expected.
To the south, The Oregonian reported a neck-and-neck race between newcomer Chris Dudley and former Gov. John Kitzhaber. One more state to the south, though, it appeared clear that a boomerang governor was just fine, as The Los Angeles Times projected Jerry Brown was winning his campaign to return to the office he held decades ago.
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