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Meet the Swing Districts

A handful of voters in a handful of districts may decide the future of our state. Who are they and how will they vote? Starting with the 35th in timber country, it's time to get to know the districts.
Lumber remains important in the 35th District

Lumber remains important in the 35th District Seattle Top Story

Big issues are looming for our state in the coming year. Our roads and bridges are still crumbling. We're still staring at major, court-mandated upgrades to our education system. Gov. Jay Inslee's still pushing for action on climate change lest the acidifying Pacific dissolve every last oyster shell in Shelton. And, whatever we do (assuming we do something) means a battle over how to pay for it: raise taxes, close loopholes or cut services.

State legislators pretty much punted on these issues last session, which amps up the urgency for 2015 and makes the results of this fall's legislative elections hair-on-fire critical.

Whether and how state lawmakers tackle the burning issues will hinge on which party controls the state House and Senate. That balance of power will be determined, largely, by the outcomes of legislative races in a handful of six key, and very different districts around the state: the 6th, 15th, 30th, 35th, 42nd and 45th. That means the votes of a very small group of Washingtonians, folks you've probably never met and never will, are going to decide whether we rehab those tattered highways, raise gas prices, cut social services, shrink our carbon footprint and ease the cramming of more kids into your 12-year-old's middle school class.

Who are these people who will determine who rules Olympia in 2015? Who hold the future of our state in their balloted hands? How do they lean politically? What issues and ideologies speak to them? Whom will they choose to represent them and why?

We sent a team of Crosscut's best political reporters and analysts out to explore the horse race (John Stang and Robert Mak), the voting behaviors (Benjamin Andertsone) and the cultural zeitgeist (Knute Berger) in the Swinging Six.

As the fall election approaches, the fights will get more serious, the issues sharper and the stakes for all of us higher. We'll be there as the contests shape up —and heat up — in all the key districts.

First up, the 35th, which encompasses all of Mason County and parts of Thurston and Kitsap. The August 5 primary pits the veteran, and controversial Democratic state Senator Tim Sheldon — the man who thwarted his party's dreams of power when he crossed the aisle to join (gasp) the Senate's Republican-controlled Majority Coalition — against two rookie challengers: Democrat Irene Bowling, a piano teacher, is attacking Sheldon from the left; libertarian youngster Travis Couture from the far right. The outcome of this primary in the 35th is arguably the most anticipated in the state.

To see all of Crosscut's stories on the key districts as they are posted, click here. 


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Comments:

Posted Wed, Jul 30, 7:18 a.m. Inappropriate

Your targeting does not match those of the Democratic strategists. While Rep. Cyrus Habib in the 48th is considered a shoe-in to take back Rodney Tom's seat, it is the 45th District that is a swing and hotly contested. His colleagues did him no favor when they made Freshman Sen. Andy Hill chair of the Ways & Means Committee, responsible for the budget failures and a nominee for "most likely to be held in contempt by the State Supreme Court" for failing to fund education. He pretends to be a moderate, but his voting record is 99% Tea Party.

A dark-money PAC has already hit his opponent Matt Isenhower for volunteering to prepare a briefing on Washington State for the Bush White House. Both Hill and Isenhower have Harvard MBAs. However, Isenhower is a Naval Academy grad with 12 years of service and a manager at Amazon.

Posted Wed, Jul 30, 7:57 a.m. Inappropriate

Sorry, a typo there.

Posted Wed, Jul 30, 8:02 a.m. Inappropriate

What no 'girl' political reporters at Crosscut?

m-t-e

Posted Wed, Jul 30, 8:30 a.m. Inappropriate

I look forward to the series, but there's no way in the world that the 6th is a swing district.

Ryan

Posted Wed, Jul 30, 11:30 a.m. Inappropriate

That senate seat has swapped parties in every election for more than a decade now: Jim West (R) in 2002, Chris Marr (D) in 2006, Michael Baumgartner (R)in 2010...

Looks like a swing district to me.

Posted Wed, Jul 30, 12:44 p.m. Inappropriate

"folks you've probably never met and never will..." Doesn't this kind of sound like Seattle snobbery? I would advise broadening your scope a little. How does this sound to someone who doesn't live within sight of the Space Needle?

stan

Posted Wed, Jul 30, 4:05 p.m. Inappropriate

Apropos this, the people who live within sight of the Space Needle are folks I've never met and never will. And I thought that they pretty much had a lock on Olympia. They certainly have one on our US Senate delegation.

dbreneman

Posted Sat, Aug 2, 9:50 a.m. Inappropriate

Even the people who live in one of these districts is unlikely to have a significant circle of friends in the other swing districts. Stop taking everything so personally.

coolpapa

Posted Fri, Aug 1, 2:19 p.m. Inappropriate

Where's the 28th district on this list?

krblack

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