With Washington state’s primary period ending Tuesday night, political junkies will get a sense of the election landscape going into November.
With Washington state’s primary period ending Tuesday night, political junkies will get a sense of the election landscape going into November. The results – which will be counted over the next several days – aren’t considered destiny. After all, this year’s strange and unorthodox presidential contest makes it difficult to guess how voters will turn out – and what they’ll decide – this November.
Nonetheless, here are six things to watch this week as primary ballots get counted:
1. Does Gov. Jay Inslee get 50 percent of the vote? Inslee, a Democrat first elected in 2012, has outraised his GOP challenger, former Port of Seattle Commissioner Bill Bryant. And the governor led Bryant 48-to-36 in an April Elway Poll. Fifty percent, for obvious reasons, is considered the gold standard for incumbents seeking re-election. If Inslee gets there in the primary, it could be a comfort heading into November. Will he clear that bar?
2. What comes next in the 7th Congressional District? In 2014, Washington state had its first congressional race where two members of the same party squared off against each other in the November elections. Now, the contest to succeed U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Seattle, has drawn three Democratic frontrunners: state Sen. Pramila Jayapal, state Rep. Brady Walkinshaw and Metropolitan King County Council Chairman Joe McDermott. Will two of them face off in November?
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3. What will happen in a handful of key state Legislature races? With Republicans holding a narrow 26-23 Senate majority, and Democrats holding a tight 50-48 margin in the House, it won’t take much to flip control of the Legislature. Democrats are hoping to bump off GOP Sens. Steve Litzow of Mercer Island and Steve O’Ban of University Place, and the seat opening up by the retirement of Sen. Don Benton of Vancouver. Meanwhile, Republicans would like to unseat Democratic Sen. Mark Mullet of Issaquah. In the House, Republicans are gunning for Democratic Reps. Roger Goodman of Kirkland, John Lovick of Mill Creek, and the seat left open by retiring Rep. Chris Hurst of Enumclaw.
4. Where will voters come down on the statewide races? Politicians looking for a promotion this year got a godsend when a bunch of the state’s elected officials decided to step down. Retirements in the offices of Lieutenant Governor, State Auditor, State Treasurer, Commissioner of Public Lands and Superintendent of Public Instruction have each drawn big fields of challengers. How will they shake out?
5. Does the push to unseat three state Supreme Court justices have any traction? Some in the Republican Party have been livid over the court’s decisions on K-12 education funding and last year’s ruling that deemed charter schools unconstitutional. (The Legislature this year changed the law to bring them back.) While two other justices will each face an opponent in November, Chief Justice Barbara Madsen is in the primary because she has two challengers. And recently, a pro-charter school political action committee poured money into the race to support Madsen challenger Greg Zempel. Will it matter?
6. Will primary turnout stay low? The Washington state Secretary of State’s Office is hoping for 40 percent turnout from voters. That would be in the range of what happened in 2008 and 2012 primaries, the past two presidential election years. As of Tuesday morning, 24 percent of voters had returned their ballots, according to the office. If enough last-minute voters quit lollygagging and get their ballots in, that number could improve. Let’s hope.