BALANCE OF POWER: Who will control the Washington State House and Senate in December?
BALANCE OF POWER: Who will control the Washington State House and Senate in December? PROJECTION: If current results in legislative races hold in the November general election, both the House and Senate will be controlled by the Democratic Party.

Five appoint­ed leg­is­la­tors run­ning to keep their seats this year in a set of spe­cial leg­isla­tive elec­tions are hav­ing an easy go of it thus far, sug­gest­ing that they could all be retained by vot­ers in their respec­tive dis­tricts as of November.

In the deep red 7th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict, span­ning the rur­al coun­ties in north­east­ern Wash­ing­ton, Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Shelly Short has gar­nered 67% of the vote and holds a two-to-one mar­gin over Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger Karen Hardy, who’s at 32.74%. Mean­while, Repub­li­can Jacquelin May­cum­ber, who has tak­en over Short­’s old House seat, enjoys a sim­i­lar­ly com­fort­able lead of more than twen­ty points over her Demo­c­ra­t­ic oppo­nent Susan Swanson.

In the 31st Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict (a wedge of the rur­al South Sound not far from Mount Rainier), Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Phil For­tu­na­to has a big lead over Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger Michelle Rylands, with 58.55% of the vote.

In the con­test for the accom­pa­ny­ing House seat vacat­ed by For­tu­na­to when he took over the Sen­ate seat from Pam Roach, Repub­li­can Mor­gan Irwin is well ahead with 56.88% of the vote. Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger Nate Lowry has 43.12%.

Repub­li­cans were quick to point out these appar­ent lop­sided vic­to­ries on social media, anx­ious for some­thing to crow about giv­en the incred­i­bly lack­lus­ter per­for­mance of Jiny­oung Lee Englund in the 45th LD. But Repub­li­cans have been expect­ed to win all four of these races from the get-go.

Democ­rats expressed sat­is­fac­tion at hav­ing suc­cess­ful­ly recruit­ed can­di­dates who will advance to the gen­er­al elec­tion in each of the four con­tests. Democ­rats have been most­ly shut out in the 7th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict in recent cycles, fail­ing to advance any can­di­dates to the gen­er­al elec­tion. That’s not the case this year.

“Democ­rats are com­pet­ing in races across the state,” said State Par­ty Chair Tina Pod­lodows­ki. “Michelle Rylands, Karen Hardy, Nate Lowry, and Susan Swan­son are beat­ing expec­ta­tions in tough leg­isla­tive dis­tricts for Democ­rats. We’re build­ing our par­ty across Wash­ing­ton to fight back against the Repub­li­cans and the tox­ic agen­da of Don­ald Trump, and tonight’s results make it clear that the peo­ple are fired up to resist as well. There’s still a lot of work to do, but with results like these, I’m very excit­ed for Novem­ber and the gen­er­al election.”

Repub­li­can oper­a­tives made a point of stress­ing that their incum­bents could­n’t raise mon­ey due to the ses­sion freeze while their Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lengers could. But the same is true of Demo­c­ra­t­ic incum­bents Pat­ty Kud­er­er and Van­dana Slat­ter in the 48th LD: they were sub­ject to the freeze, but are also cruis­ing along comfortably.

Kud­er­er was elect­ed to the state House last year after hav­ing been appoint­ed to suc­ceed State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ross Hunter. She moved over to the Sen­ate this year and her House seat was tak­en by Van­dana Slat­ter, for­mer­ly of the Belle­vue City Coun­cil. Kud­er­er is mus­ter­ing 60.36% of the vote against two oppo­nents, includ­ing a fake Demo­c­rat recruit­ed by the Repub­li­cans, Richard Knierim.

Knier­im is in third place with 15.98%, well behind Lib­er­tar­i­an Michelle Dar­nell, who has 23.66%, so he will not advance to the Novem­ber gen­er­al election.

Slat­ter, mean­while, has a whop­ping 76.6% in the vote in her House race against her sole Lib­er­tar­i­an oppo­nent Cia­ran Dougherty.

It was­n’t that long ago that the 48th was an East­side swing dis­trict that was fierce­ly fought over. But Repub­li­cans appear to have giv­en up on it com­plete­ly, not even both­er­ing to recruit can­di­dates to run there as Repub­li­cans. Noto­ri­ous par­ty switch­er Rod­ney Tom is the last Repub­li­can to have been elect­ed in the dis­trict; it has been enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly embrac­ing pro­gres­sive Democ­rats for sev­er­al years now.

Last­ly, we’ll note that Democ­rats have already locked up the 37th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict, where incum­bent Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tor Rebec­ca Sal­daña is unop­posed. Sal­daña is on the bal­lot despite not hav­ing any oppo­nent, as state law requires that leg­isla­tive races appear on the bal­lot regard­less of how many can­di­dates have filed.

What all these results por­tend is a 2018 state Leg­is­la­ture with a fifty mem­ber House Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus, a forty-eight mem­ber House Repub­li­can cau­cus, a twen­ty-five mem­ber Sen­ate Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus (con­sid­er­ing the result in the 45th), and a twen­ty-four mem­ber Sen­ate Repub­li­can cau­cus. Democ­rats could end 2017 in con­trol of both cham­bers for the first time in five years.

Here’s the pro­jec­tion from Pacif­ic NW Por­tal’s Bal­ance of Pow­er projector:

BALANCE OF POWER: Who will control the Washington State House and Senate in December?
Who will con­trol the Wash­ing­ton State House and Sen­ate in Decem­ber? PROJECTION: If cur­rent results in leg­isla­tive races hold in the Novem­ber gen­er­al elec­tion, both the House and Sen­ate will be con­trolled by the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Party.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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