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Sizing up Olympia: Democrats have a chance

Inside Politics: It's a long shot but Democrats could regain control of the state Senate.
Casting a vote.

Casting a vote. Allyce Andrew

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:

Toss-ups:

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.

Lean Republican:

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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Comments:

Posted Wed, May 21, 10:06 a.m. Inappropriate

OK, I made a dumb mistake when I wrote this:

"Bottom line: To win the Senate it appears the Ds will need to win at least three of the four highly competitive races: the 28th, the 45th, the 30th and 42nd. Difficult, but not impossible."

Actually, the Ds only need to win 2 of 4. My bad. Thanks to those who brought it to my attention.

Posted Wed, May 21, 10:10 a.m. Inappropriate

Re your "So, Democrats rarely file candidates in eastern Washington; while Republicans fail to contest most Seattle seats, and we’re all OK that?"

All these one-party districts are a direct result of the two parties' absolute control of the redistricting process. They divide up the spoils between themselves, leaving a minimum number of competitive districts. Yes, it's as corrupt as Hell, but the voters opted to put it in the state constitution, and the two parties sure don't want to change it.

Posted Wed, May 21, 10:28 a.m. Inappropriate

Really? How could you redistrict Seattle or Eastern Washington to make those areas competitive?

Posted Wed, May 21, 11:19 a.m. Inappropriate

Well, first you would begin with the intent to create more competitive districts. In the current process, the intent of the four party caucuses is to create the most one-party districts.

Sure, there would still be non-competitive districts, just fewer. And likely more districts that are less non-competitive than currently, enough maybe to encourage the smaller party to at least field a candidate.

Posted Thu, May 22, 7:45 a.m. Inappropriate

That may be possible in King County, but there's absolutely no way to make that work in Eastern Washington. The thinking coming out of the Redistricting Commission was that the 6th would be a swing district--it's not, and won't be for another decade to come--and in 7 years I'm betting that the next round of redistricting will make the 3rd more competitive only because it's shrinking and will have to take in some of the highly conservative Spokane Valley population for balance.

I could see the potential for the LDs around Yakima to become competitive if the Hispanic vote ever gets fully engaged.

Ryan

Posted Wed, May 21, 12:21 p.m. Inappropriate

In order to create competitive districts in Seattle or Eastern Washington one would have to commit gerrymandering on a huge scale. It's not worth it. Most Washingtonians have already voted with their feet and live in communities with people who share their political values. So that leaves only a smaller number of truly competitive seats. Your issue is with the voters themselves, not those who drew the lines.

That's not to say the lines are good ones, far from it. There is political gerrymandering that goes on in Washington State and it should stop. But it may not produce a whole lot more competitive seats.

junipero

Posted Wed, May 21, 12:55 p.m. Inappropriate

A bipartisan commission draw our congressional and legislative districts. I think the process works very well.

Posted Wed, May 21, 9:34 p.m. Inappropriate

Spoken like a true loyal party insider. The two major parties totally control everything. The four party caucuses are represented in the redistricting process, and nobody else. No third parties are at the table. No independent voters participate. The public can offer ideas at the obligatory public hearings, but they are trumped every time by the wishes of the 4 caucuses.

Posted Thu, May 22, 11:29 a.m. Inappropriate

Actually thinking 'the process works very well'
is an actual oxymoron. Perhaps it works too well?

Warshington DOT & Transit agcencies are mostly conservative leaders with a smattering of liberal staff permitted. An organization of bipartisan error-makers encouraging each other so the next big plan won't be as bad as have been too many highway projects.
Fix the Trolleybus lines downtown! Ideal hillclimber running 40-year old models NOT well.

So warns the adversaries of Bertha Wormtunnel,
and the "Drill-Fill Sea Fence" punk that will flood geologic
underfooting below vulnerable Seattle Waterfront towers,
create 'mud-bed' below sea level north of Virginia,
transmit forceful occillating vibrations just with traffic,
catasclysmic upheaval with 9.0+ Seattle Faultline
projections plus Cascadian Subduction zone deep offshore.
Bertha will swing, slam, squish mudwater upwards,
destabilize all soils above its entire length.

Therefore BOTH conservative and progressive staff/crew
at DOTs are being replaced. It's just a matter of firing
the ones who 'knowingly' screwed up big Bertha Wormtunnel,
even widening Mercer West is a poor design: a better trench
is the best they can do? ARKM?

I am predicting a reformed conservative leadership will take the governors offices in the next few changes of the guard, not this year but the next or next after. No one is doing all that well in your DOTs & Transit Agencies. Progressives suffer from a condition known as "being over-educated" (meaning: too smart to consider contrary critical analysis).
Please get rid of more than a few of them both soon.

Wells

Posted Thu, May 22, 5:09 p.m. Inappropriate

Only can you manage to bring up the cut-and-cover in an article discussing political districts.

Treker

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