Voters will make big choices in the primary election, helping to shape the immediate future of Seattle, the Legislature and the state's congressional politics. When all votes are counted, we could have a lot clearer idea of where Washington is headed on education, the environment and taxes in the next few years.
But just a small slice of the electorate will make the decisions. King County is forecasting that a mere 38 percent of voters will cast ballots by the time balloting ends at 8 p.m. Tuesday. Across the state, Secretary of State Kim Wyman is predicting a slightly higher turnout — 40 percent.
Mailed ballots must be postmarked Tuesday; ballots can also be returned as late as 8 p.m. to drop boxes and drop-off vans in King County. (Details here.)
Crosscut will be following the election results as the balloting ends and the results roll in Tuesday and beyond. Here are four keys to watch in the election.
1. The Battle Over the State Senate
What you should know: Republicans need to maintain control of the state Senate if they want a chance to shape policy. Democrats hope to regain a clear Senate majority, eliminating the Republican-dominated Senate Majority Coalition Caucus that blocked Gov. Jay Inslee and the Democratically-controlled House from acting on many of their priorities.
Around the state, voting results will help determine what other races will be all-out battlegrounds this fall. Campaign donors use primary tallies to assess which candidates have a real chance, then use their money to influence those races.
This week's vote will determine whether Sen. Tim Sheldon, a Democrat who played a key role in the Republican-led coalition, survives challenges from the right and left in his home 35th Legislative District on the Olympic and Kitsap peninsulas. If he loses, look for the ultimate Survivor contest as each party battles for the seat in November.
In south Puget Sound's 31st District, Republican Rep. Cathy Dahlquist, is challenging longtime state Sen. Pam Roach, a fellow Republican, for her senate seat. Dahlquist says it's time to remove Roach and her confrontational tactics with colleagues, staff and constituents; Roach says she provides voters the strong representation they deserve.
Also keep an eye on Federal Way's 30th District, where Republican Mark Miloscia and Democrat Shari Song will be duking it out for a seat, and the Eastside's 45th District where incumbent Republican Andy Hill faces a challenge from Democrat Matt Isenhower.
Why you should care:
You care about schools and social services: Control of the Senate will determine spending on school improvements ordered by the state Supreme Court. Generally, Democrats have supported raising new revenue, while Republicans have put their political muscle into cutting other programs.
- You care about how we pay for services: Republicans have generally opposed tax hikes and elimination of businesses' tax breaks. Democrats have tried to eliminate a number of the breaks and talked about possbile tax or fee increases.
- You want to get somewhere: The parties have deadlocked for more than a year over whether to create a transportation package financed with a 10 to 12 cent gas tax hike over five years. (Currently, it's 37.5 cents a gallon.) They have also argued over whether to send the proposal directly to voters. And, of course, over what to pay for in the way of highways, bridges and ferry services.
Gov. Jay Inslee has been repeatedly frustrated by gridlock on transportation, climate change proposals and quicker school improvements. He could spend his entire first term largely stymied by Senate Republicans. If that happens, Republicans will see an opportunity in the 2016 elections to regain control of the governor's office for the first time since losing the 1984 election.
2. The Future of Seattle Parks
What you should know: Voters in Seattle are deciding on Proposition 1, a measure to create a new Metropolitan Parks District that would help supplement funding for city parks and other recreational programs. The district would replace the expiring parks levy with a new, modestly increased property tax. The district would be overseen by a Parks District board, which will be made up of Seattle City Council members.
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