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In one of the few surprises Tuesday night, the race between combative Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, and her challenger remained as close as it was heated.

In Tuesday night’s vote count, Roach was barely ahead of Republican Rep. Cathy Dahlquist, 40 to 39 percent. Dahlquist and Roach were far ahead of Lynda Messner in the race for the two spots on the November general-election ballot.

The race was notable for the intense personal exchanges in a mostly sleepy primary season. Dahlquist said Tuesday night that she hadn’t even expected such a strong result.

“I believe that the voters have spoken,” Dahlquist said. “There’s a clear path to victory in November.”

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Roach, the longest-serving state senator of her party, said late Tuesday night that Dahlquist had done a good job of getting her voters to cast ballots in the primary but predicted she would match that effort in November and be re-elected.

Roach said the general election matchup will give voters a chance to take a hard look at Dahlquist. “She’s never taken one hit for the last two months. I’ve been being beat up in the press and voters will now need to take a look at some of the negatives she has,” she said.

Over the years, Roach has been banned from caucus meetings, reprimanded by leadership, ordered to stop speaking with staff and advised to get counseling for anger management. But she has beaten back challenges to be re-elected by voters of the 31st Legislative District in southeast King and northeast Pierce County.

In Seattle’s 37th District, community activist Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat, took a commanding lead in a six-way race to replace longtime state Sen. Adam Kline, who is retiring.

Jayapal, with a slew of endorsements ranging from Seattle Mayor Ed Murray to Gloria Steinem and a massive fundraising edge, led former teacher and fellow Democrat Louis Watanabe, 51 to 17 percent.

“It feels fantastic, we worked a really hard campaign,” Jayapal said Tuesday night. “We knocked on over 18,000 doors, and we talked to thousands of people.”

Trailing were Republican Rowland Martin with 11.5 percent, and Democrats Sheley Secrest with 10 percent, John Stafford with 8 percent and Claude Burfect with 2 percent.

Elsewhere in Seattle, Democratic House Speaker Rep. Frank Chopp pushed back hard against socialist challenger Jess Spear, 80 to 19 percent, but both move on to the general election.

As attention turns toward November, the campaign season will get more intense.

At stake is control of the state Senate, which for the past two years has been controlled by the Majority Caucus Coalition (MCC) — the chamber’s Republicans plus a pair of Democrats. With a Democratic governor and a Democrat-controlled state House, the Senate has been the linchpin of Republican leverage.

Sen. Rodney Tom, a Democrat from Medina who left to caucus with Republicans and became majority leader, is retiring this year. In the race to replace Tom, Democrat Cyrus Habib led Republican Michelle Darnell 63 to 37 percent.

And, while Tom decided not to run for re-election, the other half of the Democratic duo, Tim Sheldon, did. And the results, so far, are a little shaky for Sheldon.

In Tuesday night’s results, Sheldon, D-Potlatch, Mason County, was running second in a tight three-way race. Democrat Irene Bowling had 35 percent, Sheldon had 33 percent and Travis Couture had 32 percent.

Returning the Senate to Democratic control would allow for progress on education, transportation and environmental issues, said Jaxon Ravens, state Democratic Party chair. He credits the MCC with obstructing work on those issues.

“They have been unwilling to provide the type of leadership and the type of vision that is necessary to make these important decisions and to help us move forward,” Ravens said.

But Susan Hutchison, state Republican chair, points to the billion dollars in education funding that came without tax or tuition increases as a success of the MCC.

Keeping the coalition is about the benefits of divided government, she said.

Said Hutchison: “It means balance in Olympia.”

Seattle Times political reporter Jim Brunner contributed to this report. Joseph O’Sullivan: 360-236-8268 or

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