Washington Primary: Biden and Trump (Predictably) Prevail


Washington voters used their low-intensity presidential primary to help put both Joe Biden and Donald Trump over the top with majorities needed for their party nominations. But a sizeable chunk of the the electorate found ways to register dissatisfaction with the 2024 choice, particularly at Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party.

A quarter those voting in the Republican primary cast ballots for candidates who’ve already dropped out of the race. Nikki Haley was topping 20 percent of the statewide vote, with more than a third in populous  King County’s early count. She was over 30 percent in San Juan and Jefferson Counties.

Joe Biden was better off. He was receiving 85.68 percent of ballots counted from those voting in the Democratic primary. A late pre-election protest had urged left-activist voters to pick “uncommitted” as a protest against Biden Administration support for Israel in its invasion of Gaza.

From the Columbia River to the sea, however, the Biden votes were piling up. “Uncommitted” was getting only 7.6 percent of the vote, although barely topping 10 percent in King County. “Uncommitted” was the choice of 5 percent of Spokane County’s vote, likewise in Clark County, and running below 4 percent in blue collar Grays Harbor County.

The results confirm a longstanding Washington tradition, summed up by a venerable slogan: The empty drum bangs loudest.

 Champions of the Palestinian cause can put demonstrators on I-5, but were unable to embarrass a president. Protesters march through the streets chanting, “The people, United, will never be defeated” but when ballots are mailed in, they lose.

The state has Democratic traditions, but mainstream. Years ago, insurgent Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean drew 8,000 people at a summer rally in Westlake Park. He was clobbered half-a-year later by Sen. John Kerry in the state’s 2004 precinct caucus. A Dean backer, U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, was outvoted in his home precinct.

Sen. Bernie Sanders filled arenas with cheering supporters and dominated the 2016 caucuses. But Hillary Clinton beat him in the state’s beauty contest primary. Days after a big Bernie rally at the Tacoma Dome, Joe Biden won our 2020 primary having spent all of $600 in the state.

Similarly, far-left primary election challengers to moderate Democrats U.S. Reps. Adam Smith, Derek Kilmer, and Rick Larsen, have languished with less than 14 percent of the vote. A 2020 battle between two Democrats saw the more moderate choice, Marilyn Strickland, elected to Congress.

The anti-Trump vote does not bode well for the Republicans’ fall ticket in Washington state. Ex-U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert is no friend of the Donald, but faces the drag of Trump atop the ticket. In 2020, Trump managed to lose King County by a margin of almost half-a-million voters. 

A far-right MAGA Republican, ex-Navy SEAL Joe Kent, is headed for a rematch with moderate Democratic Rep. Marie Gluesemkamp-Perez in Southwest Washington’s 3rd Congressional District. In Clark County, the district’s main population center, a quarter of Republican votes were going against Trump.

We have nearly eight months until the November election, but Tuesday night produced a couple of trends. Some may complain, but voting Democrats like Biden. A flickering challenge to ironclad rule of the Republican right has not been put out.

Joel Connelly
Joel Connelly
I worked for Seattle Post-Intelligencer from 1973 until it ceased print publication in 2009, and SeattlePI.com from 2009 to 6/30/2020. During that time, I wrote about 9 presidential races, 11 Canadian and British Columbia elections‎, four doomed WPPSS nuclear plants, six Washington wilderness battles, creation of two national Monuments (Hanford Reach and San Juan Islands), a 104 million acre Alaska Lands Act, plus the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area.


  1. slight correction: Final totals came in Uncommitted on the Democratic ticket in at 9.9%, 88,054 votes. King County at 13.7%.


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