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Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

Top Two results show Washington Democrats are poised to win both houses of Legislature

You might not know it from read­ing mass media cov­er­age of Wash­ing­ton’s Top Two elec­tion, but the biggest sto­ry of tonight is that Democ­rats appear poised to win both hous­es of the Leg­is­la­ture this autumn, expand­ing their House major­i­ty and recap­tur­ing the Sen­ate major­i­ty with a com­pelling slate of can­di­dates.

Some back­ground: At present, Democ­rats hold the slimmest of majori­ties in the Wash­ing­ton State House. They have fifty seats (the min­i­mum need­ed for a work­ing major­i­ty); the Repub­li­cans have forty-eight. In the Sen­ate, mean­while, Democ­rats are cur­rent­ly in the minor­i­ty, with twen­ty-three seats, and need to take at least two seats away from the Repub­li­cans get to a work­ing major­i­ty.

But if tonight’s ini­tial results are any indi­ca­tion, the par­ty is poised to accom­plish both objec­tives in the com­ing months. Let’s take a look at the matchups in the swing dis­tricts, where leg­isla­tive majori­ties are won and lost.

5th Dis­trict, King Coun­ty

Sen­ate: One of this year’s mar­quee con­tests for Sen­ate will take place in the 5th, pit­ting incum­bent Demo­c­rat Mark Mul­let against Repub­li­can Chad Magen­danz. Both have served the dis­trict in the Leg­is­la­ture for years on oppo­site sides of the dome. Giv­en that Magen­danz has faced the vot­ers more recent­ly, and giv­en that the 5th has a long his­to­ry of sup­port­ing Repub­li­cans, you might think Magen­danz would have an advan­tage, espe­cial­ly in a low-turnout elec­tion like this one. But remark­ably, Mul­let is ahead of Magen­danz, which bodes well for Democ­rats.

  • Demo­c­ra­t­ic incum­bent Mark Mul­let: 50.15%
  • Repub­li­can chal­lenger Chad Magen­danz: 49.85%

House, Posi­tion 2: The seat Magen­danz vacat­ed to chal­lenge Mul­let is up for grabs, and Democ­rats will be look­ing to take it with Dar­cy Burn­er, who beat out Sno­qualmie May­or Matt Lar­son for sec­ond place. Togeth­er, Burn­er and Lar­son are win­ning around 53% of the vote, keep­ing Repub­li­can Paul Graves under fifty per­cent. If Burn­er can fire up the base and bring enough independent/biconceptual vot­ers along to sup­port her can­di­da­cy, she could become the first Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­date in state his­to­ry to win a House seat in the 5th this Novem­ber.

  • Demo­c­ra­t­ic open seat con­tender Dar­cy Burn­er: 36.14%
  • Demo­c­ra­t­ic open seat con­tender Matt Lar­son (elim­i­nat­ed): 16.69%
  • Repub­li­can open seat con­tender Paul Graves: 47.17%

House, Posi­tion 1: The Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty’s can­di­date against Jay Rodne, Jason Ritchie, has a steep­er hill to climb this autumn. He’s got around 44% of the vote in ear­ly returns against Rodne. There is no third can­di­date to be elim­i­nat­ed in this elec­tion, so this is essen­tial­ly a straw poll pre­view of Novem­ber. Ritchie is the first Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger Rodne has had to get with­in ten points of him.

  • Repub­li­can incum­bent Jay Rodne: 55.79%
  • Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger Jason Ritchie: 44.21%

41st Dis­trict, King Coun­ty

Sen­ate: It took a long time for Democ­rats to find a wor­thy chal­lenger to Steve Lit­zow, a smooth-talk­ing Repub­li­can nar­row­ly elect­ed in 2010. But in expe­ri­enced busi­ness exec­u­tive Lisa Well­man, they seem to have found the per­fect chal­lenger. In the span of a few weeks, Well­man has put togeth­er a strong cam­paign and ral­lied Democ­rats across the dis­trict. She’s run­ning neck and neck with Lit­zow.

  • Repub­li­can incum­bent Steve Lit­zow: 48.72%
  • Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger Lisa Well­man: 47.69%
  • Lib­er­tar­i­an chal­lenger Bryan Simon­son (elim­i­nat­ed): 3.59%

Democ­rats already con­trol both House seats in the 41st and ought not to have any trou­ble reelect­ing Judy Clib­born and Tana Senn.

30th Dis­trict, King Coun­ty (with a tiny slice of Pierce Coun­ty)

House, Posi­tion 1: Democ­rats recruit­ed a stel­lar can­di­date to take on incum­bent Repub­li­can Lin­da Kochmar this year: Assis­tant Attor­ney Gen­er­al Mike Pel­lic­ciot­ti. Pel­lic­ciot­ti is show­ing every­one tonight why he’s a for­mi­da­ble can­di­date. In a straw poll matchup against Kochmar, with no third can­di­date on the bal­lot to be elim­i­nat­ed, Pel­lic­ciot­ti is win­ning.

  • Repub­li­can incum­bent Lin­da Kochmar: 48.23%
  • Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger Mike Pel­lic­ciot­ti: 51.77%

House Posi­tion 2: Pel­lic­ciot­ti’s fel­low chal­lenger Kris­tine Reeves is also ahead of the Repub­li­can incum­bent she’s run­ning against — Teri Hick­el. Hick­el was elect­ed to the House just last year, defeat­ing Car­ol Gre­go­ry, who was appoint­ed to fill a vacan­cy left by the death of Roger Free­man. Repub­li­cans were gid­dy a year ago when Hick­el knocked out Gre­go­ry, but they can’t be feel­ing gid­dy about this result.

  • Repub­li­can incum­bent Teri Hick­el: 49.77%
  • Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger Kris­tine Reeves: 50.23%

The 30th is a Demo­c­ra­t­ic dis­trict that Repub­li­cans have made inroads in due to com­pla­cent cam­paign­ing by Democ­rats. If these seats flip, as they appear like­ly to, House Democ­rats are pret­ty much assured of hav­ing a major­i­ty for 2017–2018.

17th Dis­trict, Clark Coun­ty

Sen­ate: Democ­rats haven’t for­got­ten los­ing to Tim Eyman cohort Don Ben­ton (Don­ald Trump’s biggest in-state boost­er) four years ago, by the nar­row­est of mar­gins. Democ­rats forced Ben­ton into retire­ment when they recruit­ed Tim Prob­st to seek a rematch with Ben­ton for Sen­ate. Ben­ton’s seat­mate Lyn­da Wil­son, who serves in the state House, filed to take his place, but ear­ly returns show Prob­st ahead of Wil­son, which bodes very well for Novem­ber.

  • Demo­c­ra­t­ic open seat con­tender Tim Prob­st: 50.67%
  • Repub­li­can open seat con­tender Lyn­da Wil­son: 49.33%

28th Dis­trict, Pierce Coun­ty

Sen­ate: Democ­rats believe they have a shot at knock­ing out Repub­li­can incum­bent Steve O’Ban with Marisa Pelo­quin, a for­mer 82nd Air­borne Com­pa­ny Com­man­der. Pelo­quin is one of the par­ty’s top recruits of the cycle, and has inspired and impressed Demo­c­ra­t­ic activists by respond­ing aggres­sive­ly to Repub­li­can attacks against her. She’s not that far away from O’Ban in ear­ly results.

  • Repub­li­can incum­bent Steve O’Ban: 53.91%
  • Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger Marisa Pelo­quin: 46.09%

House, Posi­tion 1: Two Democ­rats filed to chal­lenge Repub­li­can incum­bent Dick Muri: Mari Leav­itt and Anne Set­suko Giroux. Leav­itt, as expect­ed, will go on to Novem­ber against Muri. Togeth­er with Giroux, she’s cur­rent­ly hold­ing Muri to 53% in the Top Two. This is a con­test Democ­rats may want to invest in to broad­en the play­ing field, to bor­row a sports metaphor.

  • Repub­li­can incum­bent Dick Muri: 53.25%
  • Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger Mari Leav­itt: 38.92%
  • Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger: 7.84%

House, Posi­tion 2: Democ­rats’ top defend this cycle is arguably Chris Kil­duff. Kil­duff was able to win two years ago in a tough cycle for Democ­rats, so the par­ty feels good about her reelec­tion prospects. And tonight, Kil­duff is show­ing she’s in good shape, with an out­right major­i­ty of the vote against three oppo­nents.

  • Demo­c­ra­t­ic incum­bent Chris Kil­duff: 50.81%
  • Repub­li­can chal­lenger Paul Wage­mann: 27.46%
  • Repub­li­can chal­lenger Michael Win­kler: 18.61%
  • Lib­er­tar­i­an chal­lenger Bran­don Lyons: 3.12%

26th Dis­trict, Pierce and Kit­sap Coun­ty

House, Posi­tion 1: One of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty’s biggest recruit­ing coups of the cycle came late, when the par­ty per­suad­ed Lar­ry Seaquist to aban­don his cam­paign for OSPI and instead run to return to the state House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. This deci­sion looks like it could pay off hand­some­ly, for Seaquist is run­ning almost even with Repub­li­can incum­bent Jesse Young, who’s seri­ous­ly under water.

  • Repub­li­can incum­bent Jesse Young: 37.74%
  • Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger Lar­ry Seaquist: 36.95%
  • Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger Alec Matias: 13.64%
  • Repub­li­can chal­lenger Bill Schei­dler: 11.67%

House, Posi­tion 2: Michelle Caldier, who defeat­ed Seaquist in the midterms, is seek­ing reelec­tion, and Democ­rats are tak­ing her on with Randy Spitzer. Caldier’s ini­tial num­bers are rea­son­ably strong and she’ll be tough to defeat, but Spitzer is a decent can­di­date who’s still got a shot, espe­cial­ly if he works hard to close the gap.

  • Repub­li­can incum­bent Michelle Caldier: 56.26%
  • Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger Randy Spitzer: 43.74%

Oth­er dis­tricts

Democ­rats are expect­ing to hold House and Sen­ate seats in the 1st, 19th, 24th, and 44th Dis­tricts despite retire­ments there.

In the 1st, for Sen­ate, Guy Palum­bo and Luis Moscoso are bat­tling for sec­ond place, split­ting the Demo­c­ra­t­ic vote (who­ev­er emerges vic­to­ri­ous will be favored to win in Novem­ber). For House, Posi­tion 1, Demo­c­rat Shel­ley Klo­ba has a com­fort­able lead over every­one else for sec­ond place. She’ll also be favored to win in Novem­ber.

In the 19th, incum­bent Demo­c­rat JD Ros­set­ti is being hot­ly trailed by Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger Tere­sa Pur­cell for House, Posi­tion 1. Who­ev­er gets sec­ond place will square off against Repub­li­can Jim Walsh.

There’s less dra­ma in the 24th, the dis­trict that spans most of the Olympic Penin­su­la, where Steve Tharinger is crush­ing his Repub­li­can oppo­nent for Sen­ate, seek­ing to take over for Jim Har­grove. Demo­c­rat Mike Chap­man ought to be able to hold on to Tharinger’s House seat, keep­ing the dis­trict 100% Demo­c­ra­t­ic.

The Sen­ate con­test in the 10th Dis­trict (Island County/North Sound) is worth keep­ing an eye on. Democ­rats Ang­ie Homo­la and Nick Petr­ish are col­lec­tive­ly hold­ing incum­bent Repub­li­can Bar­bara Bai­ley to just 51.44%. Homo­la, a for­mer Island Coun­ty Com­mis­sion­er, will be mov­ing on against Bai­ley. Can Democ­rats make this con­test com­pet­i­tive? We’ll soon find out.

Mean­while, in the 45th, incum­bent Demo­c­rat Roger Good­man has 62% of the vote in ear­ly returns. Repub­li­cans thought they had a strong chal­lenger for him in Sam­mamish City Coun­cilmem­ber Ramiro Valder­ra­ma, but Valder­ra­ma is far­ing even worse than Good­man’s past oppo­nents. Repub­li­cans can for­get about defeat­ing Good­man — he’s in strong posi­tion for reelec­tion.

To recap: Democ­rats showed tonight they’re poised to pick up seats in both the House and Sen­ate while defend­ing what they have.

If Democ­rats can defend Mark Mul­let and get Lisa Well­man and Tim Prob­st elect­ed, they should have a bare major­i­ty in the Sen­ate going into 2017. The elec­torate in the com­ing gen­er­al elec­tion will be larg­er and more pro­gres­sive than the elec­torate in this Top Two elec­tion, which is bad news for Repub­li­cans. If Democ­rats cam­paign effec­tive­ly, they ought to be able to gain ground across the board.

Ten years ago, dur­ing the 2006, Democ­rats had a very good year, clob­ber­ing Repub­li­cans in leg­isla­tive races in swing dis­trict after swing dis­trict. They assem­bled super­ma­jori­ties in both hous­es. It’s unlike­ly Democ­rats can repeat that feat this year, but sol­id gains that lead to con­trol of both hous­es are very pos­si­ble.

2006 was a ban­ner cycle, but the par­ty has been los­ing leg­isla­tive seats or tread­ing water every year since. The Sen­ate major­i­ty dis­ap­peared near­ly four years ago when Democ­rats In Name Only Rod­ney Tom and Tim Shel­don con­spired with Repub­li­cans to seize pow­er and take over the Sen­ate. The House major­i­ty, mean­while, was whit­tled down to one seat and is bare­ly intact.

Democ­rats see 2016 as the year to arrest and reverse this long, painful trend of leg­isla­tive loss­es. Tonight’s results show that the par­ty is with­in strik­ing dis­tance of win­ning work­ing majori­ties on both sides of the dome this fall. Much work will be required for the par­ty to be suc­cess­ful, but the stage has been set for vic­to­ry.

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One Comment

  1. In the 41st, would­n’t Bryan’s sup­port­ers go to Lit­zow?

    # by Mike Barer :: August 3rd, 2016 at 1:21 PM