Democrats and Republicans are fighting across a broad playing field for control of the Washington state House, where Democrats currently hold a 50-48 majority.
OLYMPIA — In elections, there’s the top of the ticket — think president, governor — and then there are all those offices described as “down ballot.”
That includes state representatives.
But with Democrats holding a tenuous 50-48 majority in the Washington state House, plenty of money is flowing into those down-ballot races.
Democrats are eager to rebuild a majority that has shrunk in recent years — and are spreading money across the state to try to pick off GOP-held seats.
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Republicans, meanwhile, would love to take the gavel from House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle. They’re trying to protect their seats and pick up the two needed to gain control.
Republicans have looked forward to winning the 31st District seat held by retiring moderate Democrat Rep. Chris Hurst. There, GOP candidate Phil Fortunato faces Lane Walthers, who describes himself as an independent Democrat.
The August primary results showed several Republican incumbents in tight races, and Democrats are spending big. In the Federal Way area, 30th District GOP Reps. Teri Hickel and Linda Kochmar both trailed their Democratic challengers.
As of Friday, a combined $1.54 million had come into the race between Hickel and Democratic challenger Kristine Reeves, either through their campaigns or in spending from independent political groups.
A combined $1.1 million had come into the contest between Kochmar and her Democratic challenger, Michael Pellicciotti.
Both parties are also spending heavily in the 44th District in Snohomish County, where Democratic Rep. John Lovick of Mill Creek faces a challenge by Republican Janice Huxford. Between the two candidates, a combined $1.07 million had come into that race by Friday.
Money is flowing in the Vancouver, Wash., area’s 17th District, where an open seat is at stake. Republican Vicki Kraft faces Sam Kim, who describes himself as an independent Democrat. A combined $934,000 has gone to that race.
Democrats and affiliated groups are also spending money to target incumbent GOP Rep. Mark Harmsworth in the 44th District, Reps. Dan Griffey and Drew MacEwen in the 35th District, Rep. Dick Muri in the 28th District, and Jesse Young, in the 26th District.
Republicans hope to defend an open seat in the Issaquah area’s 5th District, where GOP candidate Paul Graves faces Democrat Darcy Burner.
And Republicans are looking for a victory in the Longview area’s 19th District, where GOP candidate Jim Walsh is facing Democrat Teresa Purcell for an open seat previously held by a Democrat.
At this point, both parties are cautiously predicting wins.
“According to our latest polling, we are looking at [being] a couple seats up,” said Kevin Carns, executive director for the House Republican Organizational Committee. “I’d rather be us than them right now.”
Said Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Burien, chair of the House Democratic Campaign Committee, “I think that we’ll be at 53 or 54” seats after the election.
“But I’ll be happy if we’re at 50,” he added.