For months now Republican party officials and operatives have been telling anyone willing to listen to them that 2022 was primed to be their year.
Seeking to project an aura of invincibility, they have suggested and even declared that nothing — absolutely nothing — would stop them from mowing down frontline Democratic legislators and members of Congress.
Consider this May 8th statement from former Pennsylvania Republican Chair Rob Gleason, gleefully referring to Democratic Party leaders, activists, and voters:
“Their people are depressed… Nothing’s going to be able to save them this year.”
Or, closer to home, this message from Caleb Heimlich on March 29th:
“2022 is shaping up to be a huge opportunity for Republicans in Washington State – not only can we help national Republicans retake majorities in Congress, but we can also retake majorities in Olympia so we can enact good Republican policies that will get our communities and our State back on the right track!”
A few weeks later, in April, Heimlich elaborated in another email as to what that would entail: “We need to win four seats in the State Senate and every seats in the State House. We are fighting every day to accomplish exactly that.”
Fast forward to this month. On Election Day, Heimlich appeared on Live from Seattle with Tim Gaydos, and told Tim that after Friday of Election Week, we’d have a pretty good idea of Republicans’ prospects in this critical midterm election.
Here we are on August 6th, with less than a hundred days to go until November 8th, and over 1.7 million votes tabulated in the preliminary round of Washington’s two-part general election, for turnout of about 37%. Four counts are now finished, and there will be seven more before certification occurs on August 16th.
NPI’s party performance tracker shows that out of ninety-seven state House races, Democrats are collectively ahead in fifty-seven, while Republicans are ahead in forty-one. And in state Senate races, Democrats are ahead in seventeen, while Republicans lead in eight. (Only half of the State Senate is up this year.)
Voters in a majority of both House and Senate contests currently prefer Democratic candidates
State House of Representatives
The Democratic Party has the majority of votes in 57 House contests:
The Republican Party has the majority of votes in 41 House contests:
The Democratic Party has the majority of votes in 17 Senate contests:
The Republican Party has the majority of votes in 8 Senate contests:
If those dynamics were to hold through the general election, Republicans would end up with a net gain of zero seats in both chambers of the Legislature.
That’s right: Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada.
They need to flip a total of thirteen seats for control of both chambers. At this juncture, they look ill positioned to flip so much as one net seat.
That would mean that, come January 2023, Democratic majorities would be just as big as they are today, despite the retirements of a number of Democratic lawmakers from battleground districts, like Pat Sullivan and Mona Das in the 47th, which Republicans loudly trumpeted back in the spring.
The 47th is one of those crucially important districts where Republicans figured they would roar back in 2022. They had what they considered to be strong candidates and ideal circumstances for a set of victories this cycle.
But instead, it looks like Democrats will run the tables again, like in 2018.
In the Senate race, a majority of votes are going to Democrats Claudia Kauffman and Satwinder Kaur, who are separated by the tiniest of margins: a few dozen votes. Republican Bill Boyce (a Kent City Councilmember, like Kaur) is well under the fifty percent threshold, with just 45.68%.
State Senate, 47th Legislative District
As of 08/06/2022 4:00 PM
Republican | 13,409 votes
Democratic | 7,982 votes
Democratic | 7,918 votes
In the contest for the open House seat, the Republicans’ three candidates are splitting the vote so effectively that they have cancelled each other out. There will be no Republican candidate — again, no Republican candidate — on the ballot for this office in the November general election. Voters will see two Democrats instead: Chris Stearns and Shukri Olow. That means Democrats are basically assured of getting to keep the seat that Pat Sullivan is vacating.
State House, Position 2, 47th Legislative District
As of 08/06/2022 4:00 PM
Democratic | 9,802 votes
Democratic | 5,713 votes
Republican | 5,116 votes
Republican | 4,433 votes
Republican | 4,182 votes
In the other State House race, incumbent Debra Entenman is cruising along with 55.3% of the vote against two Republican opponents: Kyle Lyebyedyev and Jessie L Ramsey. Those definitely aren’t the numbers of a vulnerable Democratic incumbent that Republicans were salivating in anticipation of seeing.
State House, Position 1, 47th Legislative District
As of 08/06/2022 4:00 PM
|Debra Jean Entenman
Democratic | 16,088 votes
Republican | 9,022 votes
|Jessie L Ramsey
Republican | 3,936 votes
It’s the same story in the 30th… and the 44th… and the 26th… and the 24th… and other districts. Republican challengers to Democratic incumbents just aren’t putting up the strong showing that Republican operatives and their funders had expected. They were amply backed with big money, but it was for naught.
The Washington Observer’s Paul Queary has, like us, been tracking the campaign cash and writing regularly about it. In his last newsletter, analyzing election results, he characterized the expensive campaigns to flip the Legislature as duds.
Previously, on July 13th, he published a post looking in detail at the gusher of money being spent against Democrats by the Republicans and the powerful interests funding them, including the oil industry and the banking industry.
“Thus far, $387K has been spent on negative campaign messaging targeting Democratic incumbents in five districts and Democratic hopefuls in two others. Somewhat unusually, WA Wins [the name of the Republicans’ legislatively focused political committee] is spending ahead of the primary even though nearly all the Democrats in question are sure to advance to November,” Queary wrote. “The idea is to show those Democrats are vulnerable and drive enthusiasm and turnout among GOP voters and big donors on the right going into November.”
Those cookie cutter attack mailers, however, didn’t produce results.
Now Republicans are in a quandary. There’s one battleground legislative district where the numbers are in their favor: the redrawn 42nd, up in Whatcom County. Other than that, however, the election has not yielded a list of obvious targets for Republicans. Remember, to get bare majorities in both chambers for next session, they’d need to flip nine House seats and four Senate seats. And as we can see, there are not thirteen Democratic incumbents headed for a tough fall right now.
These are weird, chaotic times. We don’t know the future and anything is possible. It’s important to say that. But with respect to what’s probable, this election has shown us that Republicans’ talk of flipping the Legislature has been based on pipe dreams. They have fantasized about dislodging Democrats for a long time, but the voters are not making their fondest wishes come true.
Right wing activists like Brian Heywood, cheered on by the likes of Tim Eyman, are presently circulating (with volunteers!) eleven different initiative petitions as part of a scheme called “Let’s Go Washington” that are intended to equip a 2023 Republican Legislature with bad ideas it can adopt into law that would not be subject to a gubernatorial veto from Democratic Governor Jay Inslee.
“Presuming we have a friendly legislature, which probably means a Republican majority, even if only by one vote, then it is presumably likely that both houses would vote to approve some or all of these initiatives,” Heywood’s FAQ says.
This kind of thinking was echoed by Eyman in an email he sent on May 14th, in which he excitedly promoted an anti-tax initiative: “If we flip the house and senate and get the Republicans a majority in both chambers, they can pass the initiative into law and Inslee can’t veto it!” (Emphasis is Eyman’s).
Barring a political earthquake, those dreams seem destined to remain a fantasy. By embracing extremism, corruption, and vindictiveness at every turn for years, Republicans have destroyed their brand — especially in the suburbs — and paved the way for Washington’s transformation into a state that is even more reliably Democratic, no matter what the political climate elsewhere might be.