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Washington Senate: Headed for a Republican power shift?

Inside Politics: A handful of close state senate races put a more conservative future for Olympia firmly on the table.
Lawmakers continue to huddle behind closed doors at the capitol.

Lawmakers continue to huddle behind closed doors at the capitol. MathTeacherGuy/Flickr

Washington's new legislative districts.

Washington's new legislative districts. Washington House Democrats

Followers of the presidential race are treated to a new poll just about every 15 minutes. At the other end of the spectrum though are races for state legislature positions, where public polls are virtually non-existent. Without polling, a pundit is left with just three indicators to a race's outcome: the partisan make-up of the district, the results of the primary election and what information a person can glean from talking to consultants working directly on key legislative races.

Individual campaigns and the Republican and Democratic legislative campaign committees do engage in private polling. I have been talking to Republican consultants working on legislative races. Here is where they believe things stand in the battle for control of the House and Senate.

Senate

In the State Senate, only 4 races appear competitive heading into the fall.  Republicans will have to win at least 3 of those to gain a 25-24 majority. 

Republicans believe polling shows they are on track to defeat veteran Democratic incumbent Mary Margaret Haugen in the 10th district (Parts of Island, Skagit, and Snohomish counties). Running head to head in the August primary, Republican Rep. Barbara Bailey led Haugen 53 percent to 47 percent. Haugen is a tough campaigner, but the 10th leans heavily Republican. All signs point to Republican pick up here.

Republicans also believe Sen. Don Benton is ahead in his race against Democrat Rep. Tim Probst in the 17th district (Vancouver suburbs). Benton led Probst 52 percent to 48 percent in the primary, and the 17th is a very Republican district. Again, this seems a likely win for the GOP.

Control of the Senate, therefore, is likely to come down to two races: the open seat race in the 5th district (Sammamish and Issaquah) and the battle in the 1st district (Bothell, Northshore).

The 5th district race has been unusual, to say the least. GOP Senator Cheryl Pflug withdrew at the last possible moment, was appointed by our Democratic governor to a high paying state job, and is now supporting Democrat Mark Mullet over Republican Brad Toft. Mullet led Toft 53 percent to 47 percent in the primary, but the 5th leans heavily Republican and Republican consultants claim to have polling showing Toft slightly ahead. This race is too close to call.

The 1st district, on the other hand, leans heavily Democratic. This race pits Democrat Rosemary McAuliffe, Chair of the Senate Education Committee, against Republican Dawn McCravey, a school board member. Republicans acknowledge that polls show McAuliffe ahead, but claim that McCravey is within striking distance.

One other race deserves attention. The conventional wisdom holds that uber-moderate Republican, Steve Litzow, will be re-elected in the 41st district (Mercer Island, Bellevue), but the 41st is now a very Democratic district. If there is a surprise in the Senate it will probably happen here.

House

All 98 seats are up. Republicans need a net gain of eight to take a 50-48 majority. Consistent with the results of the August primary, Republican consultants see 12 seats seriously in play, with  four of those held by the GOP. A Republican majority still appears unlikely, but the GOP appears poised to gain House seats, just as they have in the past two elections.

Based on polling and other factors, Republican strategists believe they are likely to win open Democratic seats in the 17th (Suburban Vancouver), 28th (Lakewood) and 35th (Shelton) districts.

That leaves nine races that Republicans believe are very competitive:

  • 25th Open Republican (Puyallup and Sumner). Republican chamber of commerce executive Shelly Shlumpf vs. Democratic former Rep. Dawn Morrell.
  • 28th (Lakewood, University Place). Democratic Rep. Tami Green vs. Republican Paul Wagemann.
  • 30th (Federal Way). Republican Rep. Katrina Asay vs. Democrat Roger Freeman. 
  • 10th Open Republican (Skagit and Island counties). Republican David Hayes vs. Democrat Tom Riggs. 
  • 30th Open Democratic (Federal Way). Republican Linda Kochmar vs. Democrat Roger Flygare. 
  • 47th (Kent, Auburn, Covington). GOP Rep. Mark Hargrove vs. Democrat Bud Sizemore.  
  • 35th (Shelton). Democratic Rep. Kathy Haigh vs. Republican Dan Griffey.
  • 44th (Marysville, Mill Creek). Democratic Rep. Hans Dunshee vs. Republican Mark Harmsworth. 
  • 45th (Redmond, Woodinville). Democratic Rep. Roger Goodman vs. Republican Joel Hussey.

My best guess? Control of the Senate will be decided by the outcome of the brawl in the 5th district. Either way, Seattle Democrats will not have effective control of the Senate floor given the number of moderate, “roadkill” Democrats who will be willing to work with the GOP.


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Comments:

Posted Mon, Oct 15, 7:43 a.m. Inappropriate

I live in the 28th. Wagemann doesn't have a chance. Tami Green is a well liked and top performing representative. Your GOP campaign people are living in fantasyland. They can "believe" all they want but that won't make it true.

Posted Mon, Oct 15, 7:51 a.m. Inappropriate

Green barely won two years ago and she only got 51% in the primary. I would make Green the favorite, but clearly this race is competitive.

Posted Wed, Oct 17, 2:16 p.m. Inappropriate

I live on the border between the 29th and 28th. Green is well-liked and safe. Wagemann is actively disliked by many in both parties. He doesn't have a prayer.

quiller

Posted Mon, Oct 15, 8:11 a.m. Inappropriate

McCravey has no chance in the democratic 1st. She is a far right Christian conservative who is against gay marriage, against a woman's right to choose, for personhood and endorsed by Pastor Joe Fuiten. No way somebody with that profile is getting elected in the 1st.

And how can you say Toft will win in the 5th given all his legal trouble and lying about his résumé and he lost the primary?

johnq

Posted Mon, Oct 15, 8:29 a.m. Inappropriate

I said the 1st is competitive, but McCravey is probably behind.

I didn't say Toft would win. I said Republican consultants claim to have polling showing him ahead at this point.

Posted Tue, Oct 16, 9:32 a.m. Inappropriate

What in the world does "for personhood" mean? Are persons a good thing to have?

dbreneman

Posted Mon, Oct 15, 10:37 a.m. Inappropriate

I think content here is accurate, though with a probably overstated headline. Democratic players are feeling pretty good with Haugen, though. So, hard to know what's real there. Benton is always tough, though Probst is running a great campaign.

I think in the end, though, the real winner will continue to be the moderates in Olympia, on both sides. That puts folks like Sen. Hobbs, Sen. Hatfield, Sen. Litzow and Sen. Parlette (assuming re-election) in pretty strong positions moving forward. I think this becomes the storyline heading out of the state Senate elections - expect more in the way of practical, centrist policies out of that body.

DJ Wilson

Posted Mon, Oct 15, 10:59 a.m. Inappropriate

Editors write headlines, not writers! (I agree with you,)

Posted Thu, Oct 18, 2:19 a.m. Inappropriate

Chris, how about the 25th District Senate seat previously held by Jim Kastama (D). Bruce Dammeier (R) got 63% in the primary. Wouldn't that be a Republican pickup? Or are you including that in your calculation without mentioning it (since Benton isn't a Republican pickup)?

TobyNixon

Posted Thu, Oct 18, 4:03 p.m. Inappropriate

I am including in my calculations.

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