A strong showing by Republican Teri Hickel in a key state House race should push the Legislature toward the middle.
THE most expensive race in state history for a seat in the state House might be tilting a politically divided Legislature even more toward the middle.
In the race to represent Federal Way’s 30th Legislative District, Republican Teri Hickel held an eight-point lead over Democratic Rep. Carol Gregory in Tuesday voting returns. If that lead holds in future vote counts, a win by Hickel would skinny the once-mighty Democratic majority in the House down to a 50-48 margin.
The consequences of this shift should be welcome to Washington voters seeking moderation in Olympia. A majority that narrow would require the Democrats and Republicans, who have already retaken the Senate, to be equal partners in passing any budget or legislation out of the House.
But the blow for moderation would come at a cost. An eye-popping $1.8 million was spent in the 30th District race to sway about 30,000 voters — an estimated cost of about $60 per ballot. Republican business groups handily outspent union-funded Democratic groups in a flood of independent expenditures free from campaign spending limits. That much money in politics — on both sides — puts the common good in peril.
The race had such consequence that Democrats doorbelled GOP-leaning voters to remind them of Hickel’s pro-abortion rights positions, in an apparent sleazy attempt to suppress their votes.
There is another irony for Seattleites, who were focused on infighting among progressives for City Council seats. Rent control or a “millionaire’s” income tax proposed by Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant and her supporters are dead. Both require legislative approval, and an evenly divided Legislature isn’t going to touch those divisive ideas.
The test for a split 2016 Legislature this year will be on reform of the state’s antiquated education-finance regime. It will require statesmanship across party lines. If Hickel’s win holds, those lines are now nearly parallel.