Updated as of 10:45 p.m.
Gay marriage is on track to becoming legal in Washington as of Dec. 6. We're in favor of smoking pot if the feds'll let us. And Jay Inslee seized a lead to become Washington's next governor, which means that he is the more likely one to be forced to break the campaign promise that the state's education funding woes be can fixed mostly by a really good economy showing up.
In the early returns, it appears that the 27-22 Democrat-to-Republican split in the Washington Senate will remain the same — although margins in two races are razor thin.
More than half of Washington's mail-in ballots have been received with the rest expected to show and be counted by the end of this week.
Washington could become one of the first states in which voters approved gay marriage in public referendums. Washingtonians support gay marriage 51.8 percent to 48.2 percent so far, a lead that has held up since just after the first set of vote totals came out. Maine and Maryland also appeared on their ways to approving gay marriage. And Minnesota is rejecting a ban on gay marriage. Going into Tuesday, six states and Washington, D.C., allowed gay marriages and 31 banned it by public referendums. Now Washington plus Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota join Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusets, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York in allowing gay marriages to be conducted.
Meanwhile, Initiative 502 on marijuana legalization was passing 55.5 percent to 44.5 percent. Now the question is what the federal government — whose laws still say marijuana is illegal in all 50 states — will do in response. I-502 allows Washington to license and regulate marijuana production, distribution, and possession for persons older than 21; remove state-law criminal and civil penalties; and taxes marijuana sales.
In the Jay Inslee-Rob McKenna race for governor, Inslee led 51.3 percent to 48.7 percent at 10:15 p.m. (How to view incomplete returns in the governor's race? Seattlepi.com's Joel Connelly and Washington State Wire's Erik Smith recently provided rundown on what to look for as you try to read Tuesday's gubernatorial tea leaves on the Washington Secretary of State's Web site.)
"We're pretty optimistic about it," said Inslee spokeswoman Jaimie Smith late Tuesday evening. The appropriate McKenna spokesman could not be reached Tuesday evening.
Washington politcal conventional wisdom says that McKenna needs more than 40 percent of liberal-leaning King County's votes to have a chance to win a statewide elelction. Inslee captured 63 percent of King County's votes in the one count done Tuesday night. "It's still a pretty good place to be," Smith said.
Meanwhile, here's a rundown of other high-profile and a few low-profile races and measures.
In the battle for the state Senate majority, Democrats entered the election holding a 27-22 lead. Republicans need to gain three seats to become the majority party in the Senate. Or maybe they needed to gain only two because maverick Democrat Tim Sheldon of Potlatch tends to vote with Republicans on many issues. And Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Bellevue, tends to cross party lines at times.
As 10:05 p.m., the split appears to remain 27-22 in the Democrats' favor. Democrats were losing two Senate seats to Republicans. And Republicans were losing two Senate seats to Democrats.
In the First District, which represents suburbs in King and Snohomish counties northeast of Seattle, Democratic incumbent Rosemary McAuliffe led Republican challenger Dawn McCravey 55.5 percent to 45.5 percent. McAuliffe is chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, a staunch ally of the Washington Education Association, and an opponent of charter school and other proposed education reforms. Education interests have poured in massive amounts of money to both sides. McAuliffe collected $195,226 and spent $173,466. McCravey collected $247,051 and spent $222,881, according to the Washington Public Disclosure Commission .
In the Fifth District covering much of the Eastside, centrist Republican and gay marriage supporter Cheryl Pflug resigned at literally the last minute to be appointed by Gov. Chris Gregoire to the Washington Growth Management Hearings Board. The Republican leadership cried "Judas" at Pflug since it did not have time to find a successor for her other than already-entered but little-known candidate, Brad Toft, who was believed to be a sacrificial lamb. Pflug endorsed Democrat Mark Mullet. Mullet led 54-46 percent. This was another money-burner with Mullet collecting $315,166 and spending $295,811, while Toft collected $304,343 and spent $292,294.
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