Gov. Jay Inslee is cautiously optimistic about a 2015 legislative session in which the Republicans have received a boost of adrenaline.
That adrenaline is from the GOP's success in hanging on to a 26-23 majority in the Washington Senate and tentatively gaining two seats in the House. For the past two years, Inslee and the House Democrats have watched most of their major legislative wishes die in the Senate controlled by the Majority Coalition Caucus, which will now consist of 25 Republicans and one Democrat.
However, Inslee said Wednesday: "I'm undaunted and am actually optimistic about this session." Both sides must deal with the Washington Supreme Court threatening sanctions if they don't comply with a 2012 ruling to reduce class sizes in grades K-3, an effort that the Legislature has significantly underfunded so far. Also, a deadlock on a huge transportation projects package will enter its 21st month in January. Finally, Inslee plans to push his climate change policies — low-carbon fuels, plus either a cap-and-trade system or carbon emissions taxes, which the Republicans so far oppose.
But Inslee added that some Republicans have become more aware of the economic fallout of carbon emissions leading to more forest fires, ocean acidification's possible harm to the state's shellfish industry and increasingly erratic rainfalls hurting Yakima Valley irrigation.
Inslee speculated that some "grand bargains, grand consensus" might be possible on resolving those multiple conflicts. "To find unified solutions, all parties are going to have to compromise, including myself," Inslee said.
None of the Senate races realistically appears close enough for a Democrat to pull off a comeback with late mail-in votes. The Democrats' only faintly remote chance is the 45th District in Redmond and Kirkland where Sen. Andy Hill, R -Redmond, led Democrat Matt Isenhower Wednesday evening Wednesday 16,905 to 15,092 -- a 53 percent to 47 percent split. Isenhower would have to collect 1,814 more votes than Hill in the remaining ballots to win. Wednesday's vote count showed Isenhower narrowing the percentage split fractionally but falling even farther behind in the overall totals.
Currently, the House — 55-43 in the Democrats' favor prior to Tuesday — now appears to be 53 to 45 in the Democrats' favor. But four House races are close enough that late ballots could easily turn the tide. And that happened for the first time between Wednesday afternoon and Wednesday evening in one of the races, for a seat from representing the 28th District in the Federal Way area. There, Democrat Christine Kilduff gained a 41-vote lead over Republican Paul Wageman. The Wednesday count ended with Kilduff ahead of Wageman 14,544 to 14,503.
The other three close House races are:
- 17th District in Clark County: Republican Lynda Wilson leads incumbent Democrat Monica Stonier 15,291 to 14,538. That's a 753-vote difference.
- 26th District on the southern Kitsap Peninsula: Republican Michelle Caldier leads Democrat incumbent Larry Seaquist 19,078 to 18,046. That's a 232-vote difference.
- 35th District, Mason County and southwestern Kitsap County: Incumbent Democrat Kathy Haigh leads Republican Dan Griffey 19,015 to 18,905. That's a mere 110-vote difference.
Any swing in the outcomes appears unlikely to change the basic equations of divided government, which Inslee now hopes will produce progress rather than further gridlock.