Republicans appear well-poised to hold state Senate

Inside Politics: Incoming primary results are swaying right, a likely predictor of what the November results will be.
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Inside Politics: Incoming primary results are swaying right, a likely predictor of what the November results will be.

Thousands of more ballots will be counted in the coming days, but the results from the 2014 primary have already produced some major surprises — the biggest surprise being the overall strength of Republicans. If these results mirror the voting in November, Republicans will hold the Senate, and gain a handful of seats in the House.

Consider the results so far in the 47th district, a suburban area made up of Covington and parts of Kent and Auburn. Democrats were excited about their chances to oust Republican Rep. Mark Hargrove, who barely held on to his seat two years ago. Hargrove, however, racked up 59 percent of the vote. The other Representative from the 47th, Democrat Pat Sullivan, the House Majority Leader, is only receiving 52 percent of the vote against an unknown Republican who has barely campaigned.

Another surprise is the fact that Republican Pedro Celis, who raised nearly $500,000, is currently trailing a Republican, Robert Sutherland, who raised and spent less than $5,000. Will Celis’ advertising campaign affect those who voted later and allow him to survive the primary?

The final surprise is the struggle longtime state Senator Tim Sheldon, a Democrat who joined the Republican-dominated Senate Majority Coalition Caucus, is having to remain in the top two and advance to the general election. He is currently only 400 votes ahead of Republican Travis Couture.

It is important to remember that the final results of the primary election will serve as the most reliable predictor of the November election results, as 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. 

Here is where the key races stand now:

Congressional Districts

Pedro Celis, a retired Microsoft engineer who has long been a leader in the Republican Party and the Hispanic community, has been the only candidate considered to be a serious contender here against freshman Democratic Congresswoman Suzan DelBene, who represents the First Congressional District that sprawls from the Eastside to the Canadian border. But Celis currently trails an unknown Republican, retired biochemist Robert J. Sutherland, by roughly 700 votes. DelBene, the only D on the ballot, is receiving less than 52 percent of the vote, confirming she is vulnerable. If Celis pulls it out, this race stays in the lean Democratic column. If not, you can call DelBene a sure winner, as Republicans are not likely to fund the campaign of Sutherland, a Tea Partier.

As expected, former State Rep. Dan Newhouse, and Tea Partier Clint Didier have advanced to an all Republican final to replace Doc Hastings in Central Washington’s Fourth CD. Newhouse now becomes the heavy favorite to win this seat, as Didier is unlikely to win the votes of Democrats or moderates.

Our state’s other eight members of Congress are on the road to easy re-elections.

State Senate Outlook

At this point, Democrats appear to face long odds in their quest to gain two seats and retake control of the state Senate floor. They appear to be losing a seat in Federal Way, and only one member of the majority coalition, crossover Democrat Tim Sheldon, is in a truly close race.

Toss Up:

35th Legislative District (Mason County): Maverick Democrat Tim Sheldon has both a Republican opponent (Travis Couture) and a Democratic opponent (Irene Bowling), and he is currently hanging on to second place by 400 votes. If Sheldon survives he will cruise to re-election. If he loses, will both parties fight for this seat? 

Likely  Republican:

28th LD (Lakewood, University Place): Sen. Steve O’Ban (R) vs. Rep. Tami Green (D). 

45th LD (Redmond/Woodinville): Sen. Andy Hill (R) vs. Matt Isenhower (D). 

42nd LD (Whatcom County): Sen. Doug Ericksen (R) vs. Seth Fleetwood (D).

30th LD (Federal Way): Former Rep. Mark Miloscia (R) vs. Shari Song (D).

6th LD (Suburban Spokane): Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R) vs. Rich Cowan (D).

26th LD (Gig Harbor): GOP Sen. Jan Angel vs. former teacher Judy Arbogast.

Hill received 54 percent of the vote. O’Ban, Ericksen, Miloscia, Baumgartner and Angel each racked up 56 or 57 percent in the initial returns. For now, all appear very strong and headed towards victory.

Likely Democratic:

44th LD (Bothell area): Sen. Steve Hobbs (D) vs Jim Kellett (R)Hobbs is well ahead with 55 percent of the vote.

State House Outlook

Republican aren’t going to take the House, but they appear on track to gain two to four more seats. Out of 98 house seats up for election, we are down to roughly 10 competitive races, as many other races, particularly those featuring Republican incumbents, no longer appear close.

Toss Ups:

17th LD (Vancouver area): Rep. Monica Stonier (D) vs. Lynda Wilson (R). Wilson leads with 51 percent.

35th LD (Shelton): Democratic Rep. Kathy Haigh is receiving just under 50 percent of the vote. She will now  face Republican Dan Griffey.

44th LD (Bothell/Mountlake Terrace): Fewer than 100 votes separate GOP Mill Creek City Councilman Mark Harmsworth and Democratic candidate and teacher Mike Wilson in this battle for an open Republican seat.

Lean Republican:

26th LD (Gig Harbor): Republican Rep. Jesse Young vs. former Democratic Sen. Nathan Schlicher. Young and another Republican received 52 percent of the vote.

Likely Republican:

28th LD Pos. 2 (Lakewood): Two Republicans racked up 53 percent of the vote. Republican Paul Waggeman is now the favorite over Democrat Christine Kilduff.

Lean Democratic:

26th LD (Gig Harbor): Republican dentist Michelle Caldier vs. veteran Democratic Rep. Larry Seaquist. Seaquist has received 52 percent so far.

25th LD (Puyallup, Sumner): Democratic incumbent Dawn Morrell is only getting 52 percent of the vote against Republican Melanie Staumbaugh.

30th LD Pos. 2 (Federal Way): Federal Way City Councilman Jack Dovey is only 114 votes behind Democratic Rep. Roger Freeman.  This is a race to watch, but Freeman has the fundraising advantage, and Federal Way leans Democratic.

Likely Democratic:

45th LD Pos. 1 (Redmond): Republican Joel Hussey vs Democratic Rep. Roger Goodman. Republicans spent roughly $50,000 in the primary attacking Goodman on personal issues relating to his divorce. Goodman is winning 54 percent of the vote. Will the GOP keep targeting this race?

47th LD Pos. 2 (Kent, Auburn): Democratic Majority Leader Pat Sullivan is only getting 52 percent of the vote against a Republican, Barry Knowles, who spent less than $5,000 in the primary. Is Sullivan in real danger? Probably not, but this is now a race to watch.

One major caveat: All of this analysis is based on vote totals from the first ballots counted, which are often the ballots mailed two weeks before the election. Later counts often produce different results. I will watch the subsequent counts to see if new trends emerge.


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About the Authors & Contributors

Chris Vance

Chris Vance

Chris Vance, a former Republican party chairman, is a senior fellow at the Niskanen Center.