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Here comes the blue wave: Early Top Two returns suggest a Democratic tsunami in 2018

Washington’s Democratic Party is poised to drastically increase its legislative majorities and has a chance of picking up not one, not two, but three U.S. House seats this autumn, early returns in the state’s August Top Two election suggest.

With all thirty-nine of the state’s counties having reported initial results, we can see that Democratic legislative candidates are ahead in sixty-nine out of ninety-eight state House races and seventeen of twenty-five state Senate races.

Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell enjoys a commanding lead over former State Republican Chair Susan Hutchison. She has 55% of the vote statewide, while Hutchison has a measly 24%. Cantwell is ahead in thirty-six of the state’s thirty-nine counties. Hutchison has a lead in the remaining three (Grant, Lewis, and Lincoln).

In the state’s U.S. House races, all six Democratic incumbents are comfortably ahead, while two of the three Republican incumbents seeking reelection (Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Jaime Herrea-Beutler) are running below 50%.

Democratic challenger Lisa Brown is presently only five hundred and twenty-five votes behind McMorris Rodgers, which is extremely impressive considering the margins by which McMorris Rodgers has won in the past.

The 5th is no longer a safe Republican district; Brown has made it competitive. She has real grassroots power behind her and represents the Democrats’ best chance of recapturing the seat once held by Speaker Tom Foley.

As for Jaime Herrera-Beutler, her woeful performance in the 3rd shows that Democrats have an opportunity to put another congressional district in play this fall. Presently, Herrera-Beutler has just 40.9% of the vote… which a shockingly bad showing for an incumbent. Democratic challenger Carolyn Long is right at her heels with 36.62% of the vote and will advance to November to face Herrera-Beutler.

Collectively, the four Democrats running in the 3rd (Dorothy Gasque, David McDevitt, Martin Hash, and Long) have 50.29% of the vote right now.

That’s a majority.

Democrats clearly have an opportunity to take the district, and the party faithful in southwest Washington will surely be demanding that the state party start giving WA-03 the same attention it’s giving WA-05 and WA-08.

Speaking of WA-08…

In the closely-watched 8th Congressional District, perennial statewide and federal office-seeker Dino Rossi is also faring poorly with a mere 43% of the vote.

His three principal Democratic opponents (Kim Schrier, Jason Rittereiser, and Shannon Hader) collectively have 48.98% of the vote — almost a majority.

It is worth noting that in, in 2016, Dave Reichert received 60.2% of the vote in the 8th over Tony Ventrella. Voters in the 8th also backed Hillary Clinton for President.

For Democratic activists and candidates, the strong performance of their ticket tonight — in jurisdiction after jurisdiction — is a cause for great celebration.

For Republicans, it’s a nightmare.

Republicans can forget about picking up any seats in either the Washington State House of Representatives or the Senate.

Not a single Democratic incumbent looks vulnerable. Not Manka Dhingra, not John Lovick, not Steve Hobbs, not Kristine Reeves, not Mike Pellicciotti, not Mike Chapman, not Steve Tharinger, and not Chris Kilduff.

The question isn’t which party is going to control the Legislature in 2019 and 2020: these numbers make clear it’s going to be the Democrats. The question is how big will Republican losses be. 2018 appears to be shaping up to be a redux of 2006, when Democrats scored massive gains in legislative races.

Republican lawmakers are in trouble in so many legislative districts that the party will have to make difficult decisions about where to allocate resources.

There’s no way to sugarcoat these numbers: they’re awful for Republicans.

Now, there are many ballots still waiting to be counted. But these initial returns are a horribly ominous sign for the party of Donald Trump.

And their problems could get worse. Republicans are free to hope for relief in the late ballots, but if 2017 is any indication, it won’t be coming.

Last year, at around this time, Republicans naively thought that they would make up ground in the late ballots against Manka Dhingra in the 45th District.

But instead, the opposite happened. Dhingra repeatedly widened her lead over Jinyoung Lee Englund, going on to win in a rout.

Republicans went on to throw the kitchen sink at her in the general election, but it didn’t matter. Dhingra crushed Englund, just as she had in the qualifying round.

At the moment, Dhingra has 63% of the vote for her reelection bid. Only one year after winning the most hotly contested special election in the state, she’s already putting up the kind of numbers that Democrats in deep blue areas get.

The 45th has ceased to be a swing district; it’s now safe Democratic territory.

The Democratic frontier, so to speak, is moving east.

For example, in the 5th District, Democratic challengers Bill Ramos and Lisa Callan are leading Chad Magendanz and Paul Graves. Magendanz is making a bid to return to the House after a two-year absence (he unsuccessfully challenged Mark Mullet and lost), while Graves is trying to win reelection for the first time.

And over in Eastern Washington, Jessa Lewis and Kay Murano are ahead of their Republican opponents, which is a really big deal. The 6th District hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Legislature in years, but it looks like that could change in 2018.

Back in Western Washington, in the 10th District, Republicans Norma Smith and Dave Hayes are under water and look headed for defeat.

Democrats have not won a race there in several cycles, either.

It is possible that some leads could change by the time all the ballots are counted. It is unlikely that most of the Republican incumbents who are trailing are all going to experience a sudden reversal of fortune thanks to a late Republican surge.

That means Democrats will come out of the Top Two election with a lot of preliminary victories — and a lot of momentum.

“Did you know that more than 95% of [Top Two] winners go on to win in November?” Washington State Republican Party Chair Caleb Heimlich asked his party faithful in an email sent last Tuesday, July 30th.

It is certainly true that candidates who do well in the Top Two do well in the general election. That is why Democrats have every reason to be fired up tonight, and Republicans have every reason to be panicking.

A blue wave is washing across Washington, and by the time it has receded, the state’s Republican Party may well be reduced to a pile of rubble.


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