The gathering “red wave,” a Republican midterm triumph predicted for moths, didn’t show enough strength in Washington State’s Top Two election to wash away a sandcastle. Or, to use another common political metaphor, the frequently touted Republican landslide did not amount to a frost heave.
The United States Supreme Court took away a right from Americans recently when it overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion, but Judge Samuel Alito’s opinion appears to have mobilized American women… and given a shot in the arm to the Democratic Party.
With a campaign keyed to women’s rights to make their life decisions – a cause since she entered Congress in 1993 – Senator Patty Murray was taking nearly fifty-four percent of the vote in her summer showdown with touted Republican challenger Tiffany Smiley. Smiley was at thirty-two percent of the vote, ten points under what she registered in recent polls.
“Let’s be clear: This was not a normal midterm election,” Murray said in a statement, noting that “our daughters and granddaughters have lost the right to make their own decisions.”
It is hard to see Republicans putting resources behind a Senate nominee who trailed a revitalized incumbent by twenty-two points on Election Night .
Similarly, as three Republican hopefuls fought over who was more conservative, and a better crime fighter, U.S. Representative Kim Schrier, D‑Washington, stressed choice, the rights of women, and bringing down drug prices. (Schrier is diabetic.) The result: Schrier, narrowly reelected in 2020, was taking just under 50 percent of the vote in a district expanded to include eastern Snohomish County.
The Republicans weren’t even registering a frost heave.
Seeking to reclaim “mother’s seat” as 8th District representative in Congress, King County Council member Reagan Dunn was barely ahead of businessman Matt Larkin. Both had less than sixteen percent of the vote.
While waiting to see who she faces in November, Schrier on Tuesday night anchored her general election campaign to bringing down costs to working families and “protecting a woman’s right to choose.”
A person obsessed with vengeance in both business and politics, ex-President Donald Trump probably looked forward to tonight’s primaries across America as prom night. Three of ten Republican House members who voted for impeachment were on the ballot. Two are from Washington, and Trump endorsed challengers.
The result, however, was a mess. The impeachment voters — incumbents Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse — didn’t light up the polls.
But the pro-MAGA vote was split three ways in both the 3rd and 4th Districts, leaving clear openings for the Democratic Party’s candidates.
Herrera Beutler stood at 24.48% of the vote in the initial results. Meanwhile, hit by a secretive hit campaign, Trump-endorsed challenger Joe Kent was limping along at 20.11%. The surprise of the evening was Democratic challenger Marie Glutsenkamp Perez, who led all comers with 31.77% of the vote.
It’s not always that a candidate from Stevenson, Washington, makes heads turn in a national election contest. As JHB struggled to make it onto the November ballot, Glutsenkamp Perez was sounding like a very traditional Democrat, promising work to restore manufacturing, “make child care and health care affordable,” and push back against America’s divisiveness.
The night’s other surprise came in the 4th District.
Since voting to impeach Trump after the January 6 insurrection, Dan Newhouse has retreated to status as an obedient Republican backbencher, touting party talking points. He chairs the Western Caucus, a group of Republican lawmakers seeking to ease environmental protections on behalf of the mining, agribusiness and petroleum industries.
Newhouse was taking only 27.32% of the vote in his Central Washington district, followed closely by Yakima area farmer and restaurant owner Doug White.
An anything-but-forlorn Democrat, White was the leading vote-getter in Newhouse’s home base of Yakima County.
Trailing, but still a possibility for the November ballot, was former Republic, Washington, police “chief” Loren Culp at 21.74% of the vote.
Culp lost the 2020 gubernatorial election by more than 500,000 votes but has yet to concede. The defeats may be lining up on him.
Also faring poorly was far-right State Representative Brad Klippert, R‑Kennewick, who gave up his House seat to run.
A trio of work horses from the Washington delegation – Representatives Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer and Adam Smith, D‑Washington – piled up impressive vote totals. Smith, from the 9th District, is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, challenged from the left by democratic socialist Stephanie Gallardo.
Smith prevailed in the Election Night tally with more than 57% of the vote, triple the total of his November opponent, Republican Doug Basler.
Gallardo trailed with just over 13% of the vote.
Rick Larsen is forever under fire from left activists in Bellingham, who once booed him days before he voted against the Iraq War resolution.
Shots from left and right bounce off the affable incumbent. With just under half of the total initial vote, Larsen will face Republican Dan Matthews, who mustered just over seventeen percent of the vote. Out of the running is Jason Call, a contentious, two-time challenger from the left.
Representative Suzan DelBene, D‑Washington, was across the Pacific in Taipei, as part of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s congressional delegation. The Taiwan visit was generating angry statements from Beijing and scrambling of fighter planes over the Formosa Strait. DelBene is cruising in the newly redrawn 1st District.
Longtime incumbents can get stunned. Recall, for instance, newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2018 unseating New York Representative Joe Crowley, a member of the Democratic congressional leadership. They don’t get surprised when out on the hustings, though. Larsen rang thousands of doorbells this summer, while Kilmer knows most high school lunchrooms on the Olympic Peninsula from town halls with constituents. He’s a product of Princeton and Oxford, but Port Angeles High School is featured in Kilmer’s biographies.
The Alito Court’s Dobbs ruling was hurtful and divisive for the country. But it has propelled Murray out of the protective cocoon that so often surrounds a senior member of the Senate. She looks like a people-powered leader in blue jeans and – yes – tennis shoes, hearing out the folks at event after event.
I expect an early morning email how-I-can-still-win email blast from Republican challenger Tiffany Smiley. And I anticipate watching Murray help shepherd the $396 billion climate-and-health plan through the Senate.
The planet, and families with drug costs, will benefit by her presence.