Democrat Manka Dhingra held a double-digit lead over Republican Jinyoung Englund Tuesday night for the 45th District state Senate seat.

Share story

Holding a double-digit lead Tuesday night over her 45th District Senate opponent, Democrat Manka Dhingra appeared set to hand her party control of the Washington Senate — the last GOP-held legislative chamber on the West Coast.

In the highest-profile state legislative race in years, Dhingra led Republican Jinyoung Lee Englund with 55 percent of the vote.

While vote counting will continue in the coming days, Dhingra’s general election lead Tuesday was larger than her eight-point margin over Englund on primary night in August.

Component post 10560586 could not be found.

A Republican-led coalition holds a one-vote majority in the Senate, while Democrats control the House and the governor’s office.

The lead for Dhingra, a first-time candidate and senior deputy prosecutor for King County, had Democrats eager to pronounce victory.

“We become the last brick in the big blue wall up and down the West Coast,” state Democratic Party Chair Tina Podlodowski told supporters at Dhingra’s election-night party.

Democrats also hold the governor’s offices in Washington, Oregon and California.

In a statement, Gov. Jay Inslee, who is in Switzerland, took it upon himself to call the 45th District race, saying, “I send hearty congratulations to Sen.-elect Manka Dhingra on her decisive win tonight.”

At the Redhook Brewery in Woodinville, Dhingra thanked a jubilant crowd and took a congratulatory call from former Vice President Joe Biden.

Without mentioning President Donald Trump, she spoke about political themes that have echoed nationally since his election.

“Somewhere along the way these people started making this election about us versus them and I don’t have to tell you, in this story, I was the them,” Dhingra said.

The Senate seat came open with the death of Republican Sen. Andy Hill last year. The 45th District includes Duvall and Woodinville, and parts of Kirkland, Redmond and Sammamish.

The winner will serve the year left in Hill’s term, and the seat will be back on the ballot next year.

In a gracious speech Tuesday night, Englund talked about her admiration for Hill and the need to preserve the balance of power in Olympia with a divided Legislature.

“Andy quietly exemplified that balance,” she said. “Until the end of his life he fought to protect it. Our movement here, it is born of a conviction that we couldn’t let that creative bipartisan cooperation die with Andy.”

With so much at a stake, about $9 million in campaign cash — raised by the candidates and independent political groups — poured into the district. The contest easily set a record as the state’s costliest legislative race.

Dhingra, 43, of Redmond, became active in politics after Trump’s victory last year.

She has blamed the Republican Senate for stalling legislation on women’s reproductive health and gun-safety regulations, and has promised to take up those issues if sent to Olympia.

She’s called for ending some business tax breaks to raise more money for K-12 education. And she’s said she’d support a capital-gains tax to roll back the state property-tax increase lawmakers approved this year to boost school spending.

Englund, of Woodinville, is also a first-time candidate. She has worked for Republicans Dino Rossi and U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, as well as in nonprofit and business roles.

She’s argued that recent years of divided government in Olympia have made for better legislation and more fiscal responsibility. Englund touts herself as a moderate Republican, while warning darkly of Seattle’s “extremist” values.

Should Dhingra prevail, Senate Democratic Minority Leader Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, sketched out an ambitious agenda for the 60-day legislative session that starts in January.

The agenda includes proposals on voting rights and campaign-finance disclosure, as well as women’s reproductive health, clean energy and gun safety, Nelson said.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said he believed Englund’s charisma as a candidate will carry they day.

If Republicans lose the Senate, he said, “it means fiscal responsibility gets flushed.”

Elsewhere around the state, 31st District Sen. Phil Fortunato, R-Auburn, led Democratic challenger Michelle Rylands with 57 percent of the vote.

In the Eastside’s 48th District, Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, beat Libertarian Michelle Darnell with 68 percent of the vote.

In the 7th District, Sen. Shelly Short, R-Addy, beat Democratic challenger Karen Hardy, also with 68 percent.

In the 37th District, Sen. Rebecca Saldaña, D-Seattle, ran unopposed.