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Control of Olympia: It's a primary free-for-all

Inside Politics: There's no overwhelming national trend this year, leaving Democrats with a chance to regain a free hand in state government.
The Washington State Capitol

The Washington State Capitol Apaschen/Wikimedia Commons

Ballots have arrived, along with campaign mailings. Campaign signs sprout like weeds along arterials. The primary election is only two weeks away, and it will serve as the most reliable predictor of the November election results.

History has shown that in our wide open, essentially non-partisan system, the results in November rarely differ more than a few percentage points from the primary results. But what do we know about where the key races stand now?

As usual, I have heard bits and pieces of polling data from various consultants, but the most reliable pre-primary data comes from fundraising totals. One candidate does not have to out-raise another to win. But at this point, if you have two candidates who have raised credible amounts of money in a district that has produced close results in the past, you know you are likely looking at a competitive race.

By the way, there are many highly competitive races around the state pitting candidates from the same party against one another, but policy is driven by the party in the majority. So, my focus this year is on congressional races, and legislative races that can affect the balance of power in Olympia.

In the big picture, this continues to look like a year without a prevailing national tide. Democrats are struggling to maintain control of the U.S. Senate because they must defend seven seats this year in states won by Mitt Romney in 2012. But the most recent national polls have actually shown a very slight Democratic advantage in the generic ballot poll, which is normal in a year without a big partisan tide running either way. Today, it appears candidates are going to win or lose on their own, rather than be swept in or out of office by a partisan landslide.

U.S. Congressional Districts

Washington state has two competitive races for the U.S. House of Representatives this year, in Western Washington's First Congressional District in Western Washington and the Fourth Congressional District in Central Washington.

In the First District, which runs from Redmond to Canada, 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 here against freshman Democrat, Suzan DelBene. Celis has raised just over $400,000, a respectable total for a challenger, and national Republican groups are fully engaged in helping him. The 1st CD,  was drawn to be a competitive district. This is a race to watch, but for now it leans to the Democrats, as it has for months.

Eight Republicans have filed to replace veteran Congressman Doc Hastings in central Washington’s 4th district.  Former state Rep. Dan Newhouse, a Republican, has raised the most money and run the most active campaign.  Will the final be between Newhouse and Tea Partier Clint Didier, or can a Democrat make it into the Top Two? Who will be on the November ballot?

July fundraising totals appear to confirm that our state’s other eight members of Congress are on the road to easy re-elections.

With the July fundraising totals, we now have enough data to further narrow the field of truly competitive races. There are a host of competitive Senate races, as had been expected. On the House side, however, many races we thought might be competitive have failed to materialize.

State Senate Outlook

Democrats need a net gain of two seats to retake control of the Senate floor. They effectively got one of those two seats when Sen. Rodney Tom chose to retire in Bellevue’s 48th Legislative District. Democratic Rep. Cyrus Habib faces scant GOP opposition now to win that seat. Can the Ds find one more net gain?

Toss Up:

28th Legislative District (Lakewood, University Place): Sen. Steve O’Ban (R) vs. Rep. Tami Green (D). Two very strong candidates battling it out in a 50/50 district. 


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Comments:

Posted Mon, Jul 28, 11:01 a.m. Inappropriate

As usual, thorough research and fair-minded analysis from Vance. The trend is that there is no trend, which probably is good for the D's since the most likely alternative would be a rightward stampede. Will the Sarah Palin Channel change all that? If so, in which direction? I can see Russia from my front porch...

woofer

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 8:09 a.m. Inappropriate

Sarah Palin might have some slight impact on the 2016 presidential race, but I don't think she will affect legislative races this year.

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