Democrats are on track to recapture control of the Washington State Senate this November, if early results in the 45th Legislative District are any indication.
Democratic Senate hopeful Manka Dhingra has an impressive eight point lead over Republican opponent Jinyoung Lee Englund as of tonight’s initial count, which King County Elections released shortly after 8 PM. Dhingra has 50.54% of the vote, while Englund has just 42.59%. Independent candidate Parker Harris has 6.86%.
Jubilant Democratic activists broke into hearty cheers and applause at Dhingra’s Redmond headquarters when the results were announced. With representatives of her Teen Campaign Committee gathered around her, Dhingra delivered an upbeat twilight victory speech noting that much work remains to be done, but that the result demonstrated what could be accomplished through people-powered politics.
“Our campaign faced unprecedented attacks from special interests, but we were focused on speaking with voters at their doorsteps and listening to neighbors across the 45th District,” said Dhingra, who is campaigning on a platform of fully funding public education through progressive revenue reform.
“With the help of over five hundred local volunteers, we have knocked on more than 40,000 doors in the last few months and are ready to carry this energy into the general election. Together we can ensure experienced, effective, and local leadership represents 45th District families in Olympia.”
Washington State Democratic Party leadership touted Dhingra’s victory.
“Democrats across the state turned out to vote, and we saw that show up clearly in tonight’s results,” said State Party Chair Tina Podlodowski.
“I’m especially thrilled with Manka Dhingra’s strong performance in the 45th District – we were optimistic, but this is even better than expected. Manka’s results tonight put us in a great position for November’s general election, when turnout will be higher and even more favorable for Democrats.”
“These results make it clear – the millions of dollars in lies that Republicans paid to put out didn’t work, and voters went for Manka Dhingra, the candidate who reflects their community and their values.”
Republicans seemed speechless.
The Washington State Republican Party retweeted screen captures of results from the 31st and 7th Legislative Districts (which are considered fairly and safely Republican, respectively), but offered no reaction to the result in the 45th. Neither did Jinyoung Lee Englund’s official Twitter account.
Republican operatives were also silent about the outcome in the 45th on social media… though they had plenty to say about results elsewhere.
Englund’s campaign ultimately distributed a mostly boilerplate press release unenthusiastically noting that Englund had “advanced” to the November general election, complete with this “me too” bit at the end:
Englund adds, “On another note, today we’ve made history as two women candidates of Asian heritage running in the most expensive and important legislative race in Washington state. Regardless of party affiliation or personal feelings, this is something we can all come together to celebrate.”
Yes, by all means… let’s come together to celebrate. Does this statement mean voters can expect to see Englund spending quality time in the 45th, as opposed to skipping neighborhood candidate forums to attend fundraisers in a different county, or holding major campaign events two districts away?
Republicans have spent a fortune trying to smear Dhingra with false and misleading attack ads, blanketing the district with mailers and distributing multiple snotty robocalls in addition to financing television and Internet ads.
Tonight, it’s evident those attacks didn’t work.
Like Lisa Wellman in the 41st District last year, Dhingra may have actually benefited from a voter backlash to the negative ads. Wellman memorably overcame a blizzard of attack mailers to score an upset victory over entrenched Republican incumbent Steve Litzow in the Top Two election, then went on to win a few months later in the November general election with the backing of President Barack Obama.
Wellman’s victory reduced the Senate Republican majority to twenty-five, which set the stage for this year’s decisive showdown in the 45th.
If Dhingra wins in November, the Republican Party will be out of power in Olympia and the Senate will be back in Democratic hands for the first time since 2012.