NPI's Cascadia Advocate

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 7th, 2018

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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