Sen. Pam Roach appears to have survived her toughest electoral challenge.
Roach, R-Auburn, led Cathy Dahlquist 12,060 to 10,833 Tuesday evening — a 53 percent to 47 percent split in an election marked by low turnout.
This was probably the nastiest race in the state despite having two conservative Republicans face each other.
The two sides filed at least seven ethics complaints against each other — with the Washington Legislative Ethics Board dismissing all seven. The big issue had been Roach's abrasive personality, which has damaged her working relationships in the Legislature. Meanwhile, Dahlquist, a GOP state representative from Enumclaw, campaigned with Rep. Chris Hurst, a conservative Democrat also from Enumclaw. Roach portrayed Dahlquist's friendship with Hurst as a sign that Dahlquist's conservative credentials are shaky.
In the Aug. 5 primary, Roach captured 41 percent of the vote to Dahlquist's 40 percent. A token Democrat — really a right-wing Tea Partier calling herself a Democrat — took the other 19 percent. Dahlquist and Hurst charged that the Tea Party Democrat was really a Roach-backed phantom candidate to divert votes from Dahlquist. Roach and the candidate denied that allegation.
Roach has been the 31st District's state senator since 1990. The 31st District stretches east from Auburn into the Cascade Mountains. Dahlquist, 53, is co-owner of an architectural company and a former school board member. The 31st District elected her to the House with 53 percent of the votes in 2010 and with 63 percent in 2012. Roach, 66, was a weekend radio host and a legislative aide before becoming a state senator in 1990. She chairs the Government Operations Committee, and belongs to the Financial Institutions Committee.
Roach's combative personality and track record of sparking internal strife are major reasons why Dahlquist ran against her. Dahlquist preaches cooperating with Democrats sometimes in order to get things done. Roach preaches sticking to the hard right, come hell or high water. During the campaign, Roach called Dahlquist "narcissistic and Dahlquist countered that Roach is a bully. Meanwhile, Hurst charged that Roach illegally mixed campaigning and legislative finances.
Years ago, Roach feuded with then-Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, to the extent they despised each other. The Republican caucus expelled her in 2010 because she had verbally abused Senate staff members. That sanction included losing her privileges in working directly with Senate staff members. But in December 2012, Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, and 23 Republicans combined forces to take over the 49-member Senate. They needed Roach as the 25th vote to take control from Democrats. So they appointed Roach as chairwoman of the Senate Government Operations Committee and welcomed her back to the Republican caucus, which essentially became the Majority Coalition Caucus.
While her committee position could change when the Senate reorganizes itself for the 2015 session, Roach appears almost certain of being back.