Democrats got in some punches. So did the Republican-dominated Senate Majority Coalition Caucus. Overall, Republicans still lead on points after Tuesday's preliminary boxing match for control of the Washington Senate.
If Tuesday's primary election had been for real, the Majority Coalition Caucus would still control the Washington Senate in 2015 with the same 26-23 advantage it enjoys today. The Democrats are in danger of losing the Federal Way-based 30th District, which had been held by retiring Democratic Sen. Tracey Eide. Meanwhile the majority coalition appears in danger of losing the 48th District held by the coalition's leader Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, who decided not to run for re-election.
The stakes are high. The Republican-controlled Washington Senate is the only real political roadblock stopping Gov. Jay Inslee’s agendas on climate change, transportation and education. Inslee's proposals include raising taxes and closing tax breaks, which makes the GOP-oriented Senate Majority Coalition Caucus a vital safeguard for taxpayers or a stubborn barrier to progress, depending on your personal politics.
Meanwhile in Seattle's most interesting state legislative races, Democrats Pramila Jayapal and Louis Watanabe survived the six-way fight to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Adam Kline in southeast Seattle's 37th District, easily outdistancing third-place finisher Republican Rowland Martin. The split ended up Jayapal 51 percent, Watanabe 17 percent and Martin 11 percent. In central Seattle's 43rd District, Socialist Jess Spear trailed Democrat House Speaker Frank Chopp 4,192 to 17,620 — a 19 to 81 percent split. In 2012, Spear's Socialist mentor Kshama Sawant captured 28 percent of the vote against Chopp.
In Republican-on-Republican violence in the state's bitterest Senate contest, 31st District incumbent Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, led challenger Rep. Cathy Dahlquist, R-Enumclaw, by a 40-39 percent split. Democrat/stealth Tea Partier Lynda Messner is out of contention for the general election with just 21 percent of the vote.
Sen. Tim Sheldon of Potlatch, the sole Democrat remaining in the Majority Coalition Caucus, might survive his 35th District primary to advance along with Democrat Irene Bowling to November's final ballot. Bowling collected 8,240 votes to Sheldon's 7,900 and libertarian Republican Travis Couture's 7,504. The split was Bowling at roughly 35 percent, Sheldon at 33 percent and Couture close behind at 32 percent. Results could still shift with the late mail-in ballots. Political action committees pumped roughly $161,000 into Sheldon's campaign in the past several days. If he survives, Sheldon will likely pick up most of Couture's votes heading into November.
Right now, the Majority Coalition Caucus — 24 Republicans plus Sheldon and Tom of the 48th District — holds a three-vote advantage in the state Senate.
Twenty-five of the 49 state Senate seats are up for re-election. Fifteen of those can be safely guaranteed for the incumbents. Prior to Tuesday, the other 10 ranged from legitimate toss-ups to races where challengers had longshot chances for an upset. Eight of the 10 are held by six Republicans and the two coalition Democrats, Sheldon and Tom. Two are held by regular Democrats.
As of Tuesday evening, the majority coalition posted the higher vote totals in seven of its eight potentially threatened districts. Democrats posted the majority in one of their two potentially threatened districts, and they look ready to pick up an extra seat in the 48th — Tom's district.
Doing the math, the majority coalition appears (tentatively) to be in the driver's seat in these potential swing districts — the 6th, 15th, 26th, 28th, 30th, 35th, 42nd and 45th. Just as tentatively, the minority Democrats appear in control of these potential swing districts — the 44th and 48th.
Of the 10 potential swing districts, the primary results in these four are close enough to show that they are more in play in the fall than the others — 28th, 44th, 45th and, possibly, the 30th. The reason? They had lower voter turnouts, which means that a candidate has less ground to make up in raw vote totals than might be assumed from the spread between the winners' and losers' percentages.
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