After updated returns from Pierce and Kitsap counties showed Republican Jan Angel continuing to gain ground for the second straight day in the fiercely-contested contest for State Senate in the 26th LD, Nathan Schlicher’s campaign announced that Schlicher had called Angel earlier this evening to concede.
“I’m proud of our team, but I think it’s safe to say we won’t be closing the gap,” Schlicher told the Kitsap Sun’s Steven Gardner.
That’s a prudent conclusion given that each new batch of ballots counted to date have given Angel a wider lead. On Election Night, Schlicher was fewer than eight hundred votes behind Angel, but as of tonight, he’s 1,543 votes behind.
In Angel, Schlicher drew the toughest of opponents. Angel was previously a Kitsap County Commissioner who was elected to the House of Representatives in 2008, a year in which Democrats did reasonably well, although not as well in state legislative races as 2006. She was easily reelected in 2010 and 2012.
Having represented Kitsap County and then the 26th LD for years, Angel had strong name recognition and a base of support to draw on in and around the Port Orchard area. Democrats have traditionally counted on the Kitsap portion of the 26th LD to supply votes, so Angel’s strength there made her even more of a formidable opponent. Schlicher was really an incumbent in name only – Angel was the de facto incumbent in the race because she had already run and won three times.
Schlicher, having never run for office before, had to introduce himself to voters, and so found himself in the position of being the underdog despite being the de jure incumbent. He campaigned hard and secured the endorsements of The Seattle Times, The News Tribune, and the Peninsula Gateway, but is coming up short. He is doing better than he did in the winnowing election, but Angel still has a majority of the vote, and will be the likely victor when the election is certified.
Angel’s apparent triumph puts Republicans one seat away from being in outright control of the Washington State Senate, and strengthens Mark Schoesler’s hand going into 2014. (Schoesler is the Senate Republican leader. Rodney Tom is nominally the majority leader of what he and the Republicans call the “Majority Coalition Caucus”. In reality, Tom is the leader of himself and Tim Sheldon, in an alliance with Mark Schoesler and the Republicans.)
The contest between Schlicher and Angel was the only legislative race this year that pitted a Democrat against a Republican; there were two other special elections for Senate in eastern Washington that were all Republican affairs.
Democrats spent heavily to help Schlicher and defeat Angel, while Republicans spent heavily to defeat Schlicher and help Angel. In the end, Democrats were hampered by Schlicher’s lack of name recognition and the usual difficulty of trying to get Democratic voters to turn out in an odd-numbered year. (Democratic turnout is traditionally higher in even-numbered years, particularly presidential years).
We can see the difference in turnout when we compare this year’s numbers to last years. Current results show that 39,033 votes have been tallied, 20,288 for Angel and 18,745 for Schlicher. Last year, on the third day of ballot counting, the Secretary of State’s office reported that 52,297 people had voted in the election for State House, Position 1 in the 26th LD between Jan Angel and Democrat Karin Ashabraner. A similar number of ballots had been split at that point between Democrat Larry Seaquist and Republican Doug Richards: 52,027.
That’s a difference of more than thirteen thousand people.
What’s more, Angel’s Democratic opponent Karin Ashabraner (who did not give Angel much of a challenge and ultimately lost by nearly a twenty point spread) had already received 21,327 votes by the third day of counting last year. That’s 2,582 more votes than Schlicher currently has, and 1,039 more than Angel currently has.
Angel would still have been tough to beat in an even-numbered year. But I have no doubt Schlicher would have benefited from higher Democratic turnout and Democratic coattails had he faced Angel for Senate in 2012. Schlicher had to run on his own, for the first time, in an off-year election. There were big independent expenditures on his behalf, but there were also big independent expenditures against him. In the end, vanquishing Angel proved to be a hurdle too high.
I personally hope Schlicher considers running again, either against Angel for Senate next year, or against Angel’s successor for House. He is authentic, thoughtful, and knowledgeable. The Legislature could use his voice. I gladly campaigned and canvassed for him this autumn and I would do it again.