Election 2012: Winning another Civil War?
by Knute Berger
Ballots, of course, are still being counted, but we can draw a few conclusions from this election. For one thing, looking at the national map, it's clear to see that the North won the Civil War — again. The Obama coalition of women (God bless them!), youth and minorities showed up, against some predictions, and re-elected the president handily, and that turnout helped turn Washington very Blue once again.
Washington became the first state in the nation to legalize recreational pot use, and with bipartisan support. Same-sex marriage was leading in the returns, and so was Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee, with a narrow but significant lead over Republican Rob McKenna. Inslee seemed to be helped by the Obama tide and the loyalty of state Democrats.
Obama was carrying King County with nearly 70 percent of the vote, Inslee with 63 percent. The Democratic turnout was strong enough, and loyal enough, to give Inslee a boost even as independent voters seemed to favor McKenna. There were exceptions. While Inslee did well in King County, the bastion of McKennacrats — voters who went for an Obama-McKenna slate — appear to have been concentrated in Pierce county, the only county in central Puget Sound where McKenna was ahead.
At the Congressional level, the race to watch was between two political foxes: Republican Slade Gorton and Democrat Tim Ceis, the sly partisans responsible for drawing the boundaries of the new 1st District. In a district that is literally 50-50 R & D, who would win in the maiden campaign? Score one for Ceis, who saw Democrat Suzan DelBene beat Republican John Koster by a wide margin. She also was winning the election to fill out the balance of Jay Inslee's term in the old 1st District, which means she'll get a leg-up seniority-wise on her fellow freshman.
It turns out, the precincts in the new 1st tend to go Republican — except in presidential election years, when, probably due to turnout, they skew slightly Democratic. Thus, it was important for the Democrats to take the seat now so they can defend it from the position of incumbent strength in two years. The other redrawn Congressional districts yielded no surprises: incumbents were safe, by design, and Democrats won the two open seats in the 6th and the new 10th, also by design.
In the U.S. Senate, Maria Cantwell coasted to re-election, the Democrats look to maintain control of the state Senate, and in the Tuesday returns, Democrats held leads for all but one statewide offices, from governor on down to insurance commissioner, much as they had during the summer primary. The exception was Secretary of State. If that trend continues, state Republicans could be nearly shut out from state executive positions, and see the defeat of the best GOP candidate for governor since John Spellman, the last Republican to be elected governor of Washington (in 1980). In short, the election results could be devastating and marginalizing for the state GOP. On the other hand, McKenna hasn't conceded.
One thing we can all hope for: a final result that won't lead us into Dino Rossi recount territory.
Showing the state's independent thinking, the charter schools initiative was too close to call, but leading slightly, and no surprise that the latest measure requiring a two-thirds vote for new taxes passed handily, as it has in the past. The concept, though, is still under review by the state Supreme Court which, if there is justice, will toss it as unconstitutional.
In Seattle, the seawall bond issue was a big winner, not unexpected in a city always almost eager to raise its taxes (except on lattes) and perhaps boosted by the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, which gave everyone a reminder of the vulnerability of cities on the sea. The city too is ready to get on with the waterfront redevelopment.
The election appears to be a major setback for advocates of Cascadian secession who might have seen a boost from a Romney victory. The Obama win and Washington's big Blue year appear to keep the state in sync with the national mood. While America might be a nation narrowly divided politically, Washington appears to be on the winning side once again.