The marquee race of 2015, which will take place this November in the 30th Legislative District between Democrat Carol Gregory and Republican Teri Hickel, is shaping up to be tighter than tight, if tonight’s results are any indication.
State law requires that partisan races appear on the Top Two ballot, even when fewer than three candidates file, which is the case in the 30th this year.
Consequently, Gregory and Hickel are squaring off in what amounts to a beauty contest or a straw poll. Both candidates are guaranteed to move on to November regardless of what happens in this election – nobody is being eliminated – but the results will significantly shape how people perceive the race.
With less than 11,000 ballots counted so far, Gregory trails Hickel by just one hundred and fifty-five votes… a classic dead heat. She has 5,433 votes (49.30%) to Hickel’s 5,588 votes (50.70%). There are also a handful of write-in votes.
Because the 2015 legislative session ran so late (there were three special sessions, running well into July!) Gregory hasn’t been able to do much campaigning. She has only been free to focus on knocking on doors and making phone calls for a few weeks, whereas Hickel has been free to campaign vigorously for months.
Gregory was appointed last winter by Governor Jay Inslee to succeed the late Roger Freeman, who died just before the November 2014 midterm elections took place. He was posthumously elected, and upon certification of the election, the Democratic Party held a special caucus of precinct committee officers in the 30th to draw up a list of names to succeed him and fill the vacancy.
Carol was the first choice of the 30th’s Democratic PCOs, and was tapped by Inslee for the position after the King and Pierce County councils failed to agree to make a joint appointment within the sixty day timeframe prescribed by the Constitution.
Though Gregory would undoubtedly prefer to be in the lead, she at least isn’t several percentage points behind Hickel. Depending on how the late ballots break, she may be able to make up ground on Hickel and be in an even better position by the time the election is certified in a couple of weeks.
One thing is for sure: the 30th will be fiercely contested this November. Democrats are eager to defend Carol and hold the seat, while Republicans are anxious to take it and reduce the House Democratic majority to a wafer-thin margin of one vote.