Candidate filing has come and gone. Now we know far more about who is truly running, and which seats are really in play. At the national level, things are beginning to look bleak for the Democrats, but is that true here at home?
Nationally, Democrats must defend seven U.S. Senate seats this year in states won by Mitt Romney. That’s a tall order, and the fact that Republicans appear poised to gain Senate seats is creating a national narrative that the Ds are in trouble. But what happens in Arkansas, Montana, Louisiana and other red states actually has nothing to do with election outcomes here.
Yes, President Obama’s approval rating is abysmal. Yes, Obamacare is unpopular. But Republicans have done nothing to improve their own approval rating with the American people, which stands at 34%, far below even Obama’s miserable 44% approval.
The last two national polls have actually shown a very slight Democratic advantage in the generic ballot poll. This is the normal state of affairs when it comes to generic ballot polling in non-landslide elections. Remember, Republicans had a 9% advantage just before their landslide wins in 2010, while Democrats had an 11% lead just before their big wins in 2006. The atmosphere could certainly change, but right now this still looks like a year without a tide for either party.
Here are the biggest political races in Washington state this year.
U.S. House of Representatives
1st Congressional District
Four Republicans have filed against freshmen Democrat Rep. Suzan DelBene, but Pedro Celis, a retired Microsoft engineer who has long been a leader in the Republican Party and the Hispanic community, is the candidate considered to be a serious contender. Celis raised just over $200,000 in the first quarter of 2014, and national Republican groups are fully engaged in helping him. The 1st CD, which runs from Redmond to Canada, was drawn to be a competitive district.This is a race to watch, but for now it leans to the Democrats.
4th Congressional District
Eight Republicans have filed to replace veteran Congressman Doc Hastings in central Washington’s 4th district. Will the final be between two Rs? Will the new Republican House member ultimately be Tea Partier Clint Didier, or a more mainstream choice, such as State Senator, Janea Holmquist Newbry, or former State Rep. Dan Newhouse?
Other congressional districts
Candidate filing did nothing to alter the conclusion that our state’s other eight members of Congress appear to be cruising to re-election.
State Senate Outlook
The battle for the state Senate is really the main event this year, with Democrats and their allies determined to gain the two seats they need to retake nominal control of the Senate. Both sides have gotten some breaks with incumbents dropping out and strong challengers emerging.
One very important thing to remember about legislative races is the ability both parties have to move money into a race if they choose to do so. Both parties can use their caucus political committees, or independent expenditures by allies, to suddenly and dramatically affect a race. What this means is, a challenger may be getting a late start and may not have raised much money today, but that the race could still get hot later this year if the party decides to pour money in.
Here is the outlook on competitive Senate races now that we know who is actually running:
28th Legislative District (Lakewood, University Place): As expected, Sen. Steve O’Ban (R) will battle Rep. Tami Green (D): The district is evenly divided between Rs and Ds. Both these candidates won their respective races with 55% of the vote two years ago. Flip a coin; this is going to be close.
45th LD (Redmond/Woodinville): Sen. Andy Hill (R) vs. Matt Isenhower (D): I have moved this race from “Toss Up” to “Lean R” based on the fact that Hill has raised nearly four times what Isenhower has raised, and what I am hearing about how hard Hill is working within the district. Still, Hill barely unseated a Democratic incumbent four years ago in a very good Republican year, and the 45th is a tough district for the GOP. This race will likely be close.
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