This article is reprinted from the author’s political website, The Washington Observer.
Author’s Note: As always, a big chunk of the vote is sitting in drop-boxes or in the custody of the U.S. Postal Service. So I reserve the right to be wrong about some of this stuff down the road.
It’s looking like a bad year for Trump-loving election deniers in Washington state. The big news from Tuesday’s results is down in Southwest Washington, where Democrat Marie Glusenkamp Perez leads Joe Kent, the Trump loyalist who took out GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler in the primary.
Perez is absolutely washing Kent away in populous Clark County, where most of the district’s voters live, with more than 58 percent of the vote. Kent is badly underperforming throughout the district compared to Herrera Beutler’s most competitive race in 2018.
If this holds up, then the angry Trump zealots who bounced Herrera Beutler over her vote to impeach the former president over the Jan. 6 insurrection will find themselves represented by an alumna of Portland’s ultra-lefty Reed College who backed Bernie Sanders1 for president. Seems unlikely that they’ll enjoy that.
Further down the ballot, Washington House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox won’t be Speaker of the House next year, but his caucus looks to be substantially less laden with conspiracy-theorist baggage. In Republican-on-Republican throwdowns, Rep. Robert Sutherland is losing to Snohomish County Councilman Sam Low in the 39th District, thanks in part to some outside help from an interesting coalition of Olympia players. In the Spokane-area 4th, Rep. Rob Chase is losing to former Rep. Leonard Christian. Two other current House members in that vein, Vicki Kraft of Vancouver and Brad Klippert from the Tri-Cities, opted for ill-fated bids for Congress and thus won’t be back.
That write-in campaign looks like a problem for Anderson
Brad Klippert may not be back in Olympia next year, but it looks like he’ll leave a mark on this election regardless. More than 3 percent of the votes cast in the Secretary of State’s race were write-ins, presumably for Klippert2 because he jumped in to carry the GOP flag after three other Republicans split the primary vote and finished out of the money.
That’s almost exactly the current margin between sort-of-incumbent Secretary of State Steve Hobbs and Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson. Hobbs currently has slightly less than 50 percent of the vote, compared to about 47 percent for Anderson, who is running as a nonpartisan. Klippert’s write-in bid got a weird bank-shot shout-out from Gov. Jay Inslee last week.
Hobbs is getting more than 64 percent of the vote in heavily Democratic King County, which indicates he could eventually crack the 50 percent barrier and make Klippert’s write-in bid moot. That’s still a remarkably strong showing for Anderson, who had neither a party’s backing nor a big war chest to get her message out.
Democratic majorities may get bigger, not smaller
Instead of the shift toward Republicans in the Legislature that was widely expected earlier this year, it looks like Democrats may slightly expand their majorities.
On the Senate side, first-term Sen. Emily Randall, D-Bremerton, was leading Rep. Jesse Young, R-Gig Harbor, in the 26th District, generally considered to be Democrats’ most vulnerable seat. Democrats pulled out all the stops for Randall, including spending many millions to lower the toll on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
Meanwhile, Rep. Sharon Shewmake, D-Bellingham, was leading 22-year-old Sen. Simon Sefzik, R-Ferndale, up in Whatcom County’s 42nd District. If that result holds up, Shewmake will be 2-0 against Sefziks; the Western Washington University economics professor beat Sefzik’s mother to defend her House seat in 2020. The Whatcom County Council appointed the younger Sefzik to replace the late GOP Sen. Doug Ericksen, a move widely viewed as the council doing Shewmake a favor.
In south King County, Democrat Claudia Kauffman is leading Kent City Council President Bill Boyce in the 47th District, which is open but currently held by a Democrat. The independent bid by former Republican Party Chair Chris Vance to unseat Sen. Phil Fortunato in the heavily GOP 31st District looks like it will come up short.
If all those results hold up, the Senate majority will expand one seat, to 29-20, likely further emboldening the progressive wing of the caucus.
On the House side, Democrats could pick up three seats, although one of their potential pickups seems shaky given recent news. In the Whidbey Island-centered 10th District, Democrat Clyde Shavers is leading first-term Rep. Greg Gilday, R-Oak Harbor. That early vote was likely cast before the Greek-tragedy element of that race emerged last week, revealing that Shavers had significantly exaggerated elements of his resume. The late vote may well swing Gilday’s way. Gilday’s Democratic seatmate, Rep. Dave Paul, considered the most vulnerable House D, was also leading.
Democrats are also leading in both House seats in the 42nd, the 44th in Snohomish County, and the 28th in Pierce County. All six seats had been considered vulnerable early in the campaign.
And Democrats are eyeing two pickups. Democrat Adison Richards is leading in the race to replace Young in the 26th District. And down in Clark County’s 17th District, Democrat John Zingale leads Republican Stephanie McClintock for an open seat currently held by a Republican. The aforementioned Vicki Kraft was drawn out of the district when it was significantly changed in last year’s redistricting process.
If those results hold up, Democrats’ edge in the House would expand to 60-38.
That Murray challenge, really all about the $$$
We’ve maintained throughout that Tiffany Smiley’s challenge to U.S. Sen. Patty Murray mostly served as a tactic to make sure Murray’s substantial war chest got spent in Washington instead of real Senate battlegrounds such as Nevada and Wisconsin.
Murray spent about $20 million and currently leads with nearly 57 percent of the vote, which is a lopsided ass-kicking in politics. Smiley spent about $15 million. As Melissa Santos over at Axios Seattle notes, there are some Republican pollsters with some splaining to do about all those it’s-close numbers. Meanwhile, Nevada and Wisconsin hang in the balance.
1. To be fair, Kent also backed Sanders, and took a great deal of fire in the primary for being a carpetbagger from Portland.
2. They don’t typically count exactly who got written in.