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Gay marriage, marijuana, Inslee take early leads

Jay Inslee, left, and Rob McKenna at a debate. Credit: State of Reform

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?'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. 

In the 10th District, which includes Camano and most of Whidbey Island, Republican challenger Barbara Bailey is slightly ahead of longtime Democratic incumbent Mary Margaret Haugen of Camano Island with a 52.7 percent to 47.3 percent margin. As Transportation Committee chair, Haugen is in the thick of  ferry system controversies that frequently affect her district. And she voted for gay marriage while representing a district split on the issue. Haugen collected $480,163 and spent $420,461. Bailey picked up $83,311 and spent $74,716, according to the PDC.

In the 17th District, which includes part of Vancouver, longtime incumbent Republican Don Benton is trailing Democrat Tim Probst 50.3 percent to 49.7 percent. Benton collected $457,290 and spent $384,349 while Probst raised $328,242 and spent $306,242. 

In the 41st District  — Mercer Island and the southern half of the Eastside — incumbent centrist Republican Steve Litzow is leading Democrat challenger  Maureen Judge 53.5 percent to 47.5 percent. Early this year, Litzow crossed party lines to vote for gay marrIage. Litzow collected $487,290 and spent $424,872. Judge raised $153,409 and spent $134,861. 

Republicans were expected to gain the Senate seat in the Republican-leaning 25th District in Pierce County. Republican Bruce Dammeier is swamping  Democrat Eric Herde 61 percent to 39 percent to replace centrist Democrat Jim Kastama, who left to unsuccessfully run for secretary of state. Dammeier outspent Herde $230,386 to $5,601.

In House races around Seattle, some of the big contests featured Democrats running against one another. In the 36th District, Gael Tarleton held off Noel Frame 57 percent to 43 percent. Tarleton raised $179,596 and spent $165,005. Frame collected $157,929 and spent $137,371.

In the 46th District, incumbent Gerald Pollet outpolled challenger Sylvester Cann 67 percent to 33 percent. Pollet raised $120,295 and spent $106,900. Cann collected $126,716 and spent $108,584. In the other all-Dem 46th District race, Jessyn Farrell was beating Sarajane Siegfriedt 64 percent to 36 percent. Farrell raised $104,917 and spent $82,838. Siegfiedt spent $86,618 out of $90,910 collected.

In West Seattle's 34th District, incumbent Eileen Cody knocked out William Giammarese 86 percent to 14 percent. She raised $76,261 and spent $57,776. Giammarese raised zilch and spent zero.

Tacoma also had Democrat vs. Democrat contests, with Jeannie Darneille beating Jack Connelly 58 percent to 42 percent in the 27th District's Senate contest. Darneille raised $264,808 and spent $256,269.Connelly raised a whopping $1.068 million and spent $914,367. Also in an all-D 27th House race, Jake Fey led Lauren Walker 63 percent to 37 percent 

In Eastern Washington, R-vs.-R contests featured incumbent Republican Maureen Walsh of Walla Walla, who delivered an impassioned and widely circulated YouTube speech for gay marriage last February, was turning back a challenger from the right, Mary Ruth Edwards, by a 56-46 percent margin in the 16th District.

Other state votes include:

  • Charter schools (I-1240): This measure was winning 51.2 percent to 48.8 percent. Proponents outraised opponents  $10.9 million to $722,408, according the PDC.
  • Two-thirds legislative majority to raise taxes (I-1185): Washingtonians were backing I-1185, which keeps that two-thirds-majority rule in place. The votes were 64 percent for and 36 percent against. But if the Washington Supreme Court rules that the two-thirds requirement is unconstitutional, then I-1185 becomes moot. If the court rules for the two-thirds majority, then initiative king Tim Eyman and Democrat legislators will continue a back-and-forth duel over this issue.
  • State Supreme Court: Sheryl Gordon McCloud led 55 to 45 percent over Richard Sanders, who is attempting a return to the court.
  • Lt. Governor: Republican Bill Finkbeiner was trailing incumbent Democrat Brad Owen 53.7 percent to 46.3 percent.
  • State Auditor: Democrat Troy Kelley led Republican James Watkins 52 percent to 48 percent in the most mudslinging race in Washington.
  • Attorney General: Democrat Bob Ferguson led over Republican Reagan Dunn 52.9 percent to 47.1 percent in the contest to replace McKenna.
  • Secretary of State: Republican Kim Wyman narrowly led Democrat Kathleen Drew 50.4 percent to 49.6 percent.
  • State Treasurer: Democrat incumbent Jim McIntire led Republican Sharon Hanek 58 percent to 42 percent.
  • Commissioner of Public Lands: Incumbent Democrat Peter Goldmark led Republican Clint Didier 58 percent to 42 percent.
  • Insurance Commissioner: Democrat incumbent Mike Kreidler led Republican John R. Adams 58 percent to 42 percent.
  • Engrossed Senate Joint Resolution No. 8221: It's passing 63 percent to 37 percent. That means the state will begin phasing down its debt limit percentage from 9 percent to 8 percent in 2014.
  • Senate Joint Resolution No. 8223: It's failing 56 percent to 44 percent.  Failure denies the University of Washington and Washington State University can invest some funds in private companies or stock.

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