State vote sets up some real fall squeakers

We round up the surprises, big-name losses, and spin as the candidates emerge from the primary. Lots of interest in control of the Senate.
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Washington state ballot (2010).

We round up the surprises, big-name losses, and spin as the candidates emerge from the primary. Lots of interest in control of the Senate.

The spin had already begun days ago, when Rob McKenna's and Jay Inslee's gubernatorial campaigns each talked about coming in second in the primary votes. Each side claimed the other party's hardcore followers would be more likely to vote in a primary.

The bottom line: Democrat Inslee and Republican McKenna each claimed that the snapshot of primary voters — still being counted as mail-in ballots dribble in — is essentially meaningless, at least in their race. Anyway, here are their numbers as of Wednesday morning: -- Inslee, 378,751 vote or  46.7 percent; and McKenna, 347,656 vote or 42.9 percent.

The results of more than 100 preliminary races can be found at the Washington Secretary of State's site. Meanwhile, here are some highlights.

  • The five-way Democratic battle to take on Republican John Koster for Inslee's old First Congressional district seat:

Microsoft millionaire Suzan DelBene apparently gets the nod with 17,663, or 23.3 percent of the votes. Uber-liberal Darcy Burner captured 11,051 votes for a 14.6 percent showing. Laura Ruderman — whose mother financed  attack ads against her daughter's wishes — posted 5,358 votes for 7.1 percent, and Seattle Times endorsee and moderate Steve Hobbs ended up with 5,137 votes for 6.8 percent.  Darshan Rauniyar tallied 1,879 votes, which amounted to  2.5 percent. Koster had 33,100 votes for 43.7 percent of the total. (See separate story here.)

  • Just how tight is the Attorney General's race?

Democrat Bob Ferguson posted 52.2 percent of the votes — 399,860 — in the race to replace McKenna as attorney general. And Republican Reagan Dunn tallied only 38.3 percent, or 293,533 votes to line up to take on Ferguson . But also-ran conservative Republican Stephen Pidgeon captured 72,268 votes for 9.4 percent. If Dunn gets all of Pidgeon's votes in November, this race tightens up dramatically.

  • The state Supreme Court races are two-thirds settled. But there's an interesting exception.

Because there were only two candidates, the primary winner of the seat No. 8 race is also the unofficial winner. In some races, including for state Supreme Court, a candidate receiving more than 50 percent of the vote is the only one listed on the November ballot.This race pitted respected incumbent Steve Gonzalez against Kitsap attorney Bruce Danielson, whom the region's legal community, including that of his own county, did not think highly of as a potential court justice. Fears surfaced that Danielson's Anglo-Saxon name could trump Gonzalez's Hispanic one. However, Gonzalez outpolled Danielson 364,615 to 276,142 Tuesday for a 56.9-percent-to-43.1-percent split.

In another race, incumbent Susan Owens captured 63.5 percent of the votes and won't have to face an opponent on the November ballot. Douglas McQuaid was second, tallying 24.1 percent.

Controversial Libertarian former Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders is back. As counting finished for Tuesday evening, he was in second with 27.4 percent, apparently earning a spot in a November runoff. Seattleite Bruce Hilyer was a close third, however. The second place finisher will face leading candidate Sheryl Gordon McCloud, who received 31.6 percent of the vote. 

  • Some surprises in state Senate contests.

With a current 27-22 split, Republicans need to gain three seats to become the majority party in the Senate. Or maybe  they need to gain only two because maverick Democrat Tim Sheldon of Potlatch tends to vote with Republicans on many issues. 

In the 10th District, which includes Camano and most of Whidbey islands, Republican challenger Barbara Bailey took 50.3 percent of the vote Tuesday over longtime Democratic incumbent Mary Margaret Haugen of Camano Island. As transportation committee chairwoman, Haugen is in the thick of  ferry system controversies that frequently affect her district. And she voted for gay marriage while representing a district split on the issue.

In the First District, which represents suburbs in King and Snohomish counties northeast of Seattle, Democratic incumbent Rosemary McAuliffe tallied 46 percent of the votes to 40.7 percent for Republican challenger Dawn McCravey and 13.4 percent for Democrat challenger Guy Palumbo. McAuliffe is chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, a staunch ally of the Washington Education Association, and an opponent of some high-profile reforms proposed for the state schools. McCravey and Palumbo are reform supporters. The question is how Palumbo's supporters will split between McAuliffe and McCravey.

In the Third District, which is central Spokane, Democrat Andy Billig tallied 59.2 percent of the votes, compared to 40.8 percent for Republican Nancy McLaughlin. The Third is the sole Democratic stronghold east of the Cascade Mountains and is home to retiring Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown.

In the Fifth District covering much of the Eastside, centrist Republican and gay marriage supporter Cheryl Pflug resigned at literally the last minute to be appointed by Gov. Chris Gregoire to the Washington Growth Management Hearings Board. The Republican leadership cried "Judas" at Pflug since it did not have time to find a successor for her other than already-entered but little-known canidate, Brad Toft, who was believed to be a sacrificial lamb. Pflug endorsed Democrat Mark Mullet. But on Tuesday, Mullet only outpolled Toft 7,784 to 6,979 for an unexpectedly narrow 52.7 to 47.3 percent split.

In the 17th District, which includes part of Vancouver, longtime incumbent Republican Don Benton tallied 50.45 percent of the votes, setting up a strong challenge by Democrat Tim Probst, who posted 49.55 percnet. The actual margin in votes was 110 Tuesday evening.

In the 25th District in Pierce County, Republican Bruce Dammeier led Democrat Eric Herde 59.8 percent to 40.2 percent. This is the district of centrist Democrat Jim Kastama, who left to unsuccessfully run for secretary of state.

In the 41st District  — Mercer Island and the southern half of the Eastside — incumbent centrist Republican Steve Litzow led Democrat challenger Maureen Judge 57.9 percent to 42.1 percent. Litzow crossed party lines to vote for gay marriage. 

  • The House of Represenative races featured two D-on-D smackdowns in Seattle.

In the 36th District, five Democrats and no Republicans brawled to replace retiring Democrat Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson. It looks like Gael Tarleton will face Noel Christina Frame in November. The initial percentage breakdown was Tarleton with 30.2 percent; Frame, 20.8 percent; Brett Phillips, 15 percent; Ryan Gabriel, 14.9 percent; and Sahar Fathi, 12 percent.

In the 46th District, marked by complicated insider baseball, incumbent Democrat Gerald Pollet outpolled Democratic challenger Syvlester Cann 60.5 percent to 39.5 percent. They will have a rematch in November. 

  • The high-profile guys didn't make it to Secretary of State or State Auditor finals.

Republican Kim Wyman with 39.2 percent and Democrat Kathleen Drew with 21.5 percent will face each other in November for secretary of state. Former  Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and outgoing state Sen. Jim Kastama were also-rans with 16.2 percent and 13.9 percent, respectively. Kastama was one of three Democrats to cross party lines in the Senate last session to give Repubicans  a majority on the state budget, earning him a lot of rancor from hardcore Democrats.

For state auditor, Republican James Watkins took 45.6 percent of the vote to face Democrat Troy Kelley for state auditor in the fall. A state representative with lots of TV ads, Kelley ran against two more powerful and active Democratic legislators, Craig Pridemore and Mark Miloscia. The final tally among the three Democrats were Kelley, 24.1 percent; Pridemore, 20.4 percent; and Miloscia, 9.9 percent.


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About the Authors & Contributors

John Stang

John Stang

John Stang is a freelance writer who often covers state government and the environment. He can be reached on email at and on Twitter at @johnstang_8