OLYMPIA — The King County Republican is becoming an endangered species in the Washington state Legislature.
In Tuesday night’s initial results, three GOP state House candidates from King County – along with Sen. Mark Miloscia, R-Federal Way – trailed their Democratic counterparts.
Miloscia, a former Democrat turned moderate Republican, on Tuesday trailed Democrat Claire Wilson, president of the Federal Way School District Board, by about 6 points.
In the Issaquah-area 5th District, a pair of Republican House candidates – former Rep. Chad Magendanz and current Rep. Paul Graves, R-Fall City – trailed Democratic challengers Bill Ramos and Lisa Callan.
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In South King County’s 47th District, Rep. Mark Hargrove, R-Covington, trailed Democratic challenger Debra Entenman by about four points.
Also in that district, Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, led Democratic challenger Mona Das by about 1 percentage point. Fain comfortably won his August primary against Das but has since been accused of rape by a Seattle woman in an incident that allegedly took place in 2007, before he became a lawmaker. Fain has denied the allegation.
The results on Tuesday put Democrats in position to extend their narrow legislative majorities. If the numbers hold, Democrats would pick up seven seats in the House and two in the Senate.
“We think this a victorious night for House Democrats and we think we will be in better position to pass the priorities that we’ve heard from our constituents come January,” said Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Burien, and chair of the House Democratic Campaign Committee.
Among the races too close to call are the 26th District open Senate seat in Pierce and Kitsap counties, where Democrat Emily Randall led Republican Marty McClendon by about one point. In Whatcom County’s 42nd, District, GOP Sen. Doug Ericksen of Ferndale, perhaps President Donald Trump’s strongest booster in the Legislature, led challenger Pinky Vargas by less than one point.
But Democratic hopes of gaining as many as 20 seats – based on the August primary which brought the party surprising leads around the state – appeared to fade as some traditionally conservative districts returned to the Republican fold.
In the Spokane area’s 6th District, a Republican Senate candidate took a convincing lead and two GOP House hopefuls were edging out their Democratic counterparts. GOP House incumbents who notched less than 50 percent in the August primary – including Norma Smith of Clinton, Drew MacEwen of Union, Vicki Kraft of Vancouver and Luanne Van Werven of Lynden – took narrow leads on Tuesday night.
Some GOP incumbents remained underwater, including Mark Harmsworth of Mill Creek, who trailed Democrat Jared Mead by about five points.
More votes will be counted in the coming days, and those results could change.
Democrats have watched their longtime House majority dwindle over the years to its current 50-48 ratio. Republicans for several recent years held the Senate, forcing compromise on a host of issues.
After a special state Senate election in 2017, Democrats gained control of that chamber by one vote, giving them unified control in Olympia this year. In a hectic, short legislative session, they hustled to put legislation on Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk, including bills that had stalled for years.
With slim margins of control and differences between progressives and more moderate members, Democrats put off more ambitious legislation.
If they do indeed gain significant majorities, Democrats have talked about a broad health-care expansion, new environmental legislation and possibly a tax on capital gains.
This year’s primaries, however, gave state Republicans a serious jolt, prompting the party to invested more heavily in data to better target voters, said Kevin Carns, executive directof of the House Republican Organizing Committee. And, Carns argued, the national political environment has shifted since August.
In addition to the competitive races around the state, Democrats in the Seattle area weighed in on a trio of intraparty Senate contests.
In the Eastside’s 48th District, Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, easily beat back a challenge by former Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom.
In the 34th District’s open race to replace retiring Senate Majority Leader Sharon Nelson, Microsoft senior manager Joe Nguyen was leading Shannon Braddock, deputy chief of staff for King County Executive Dow Constantine, by a wide margin.
And in the 32nd District, Sen. Maralyn Chase, D-Edmonds, badly trailed Shoreline Deputy Mayor Jesse Salomon in a race that has divided the Democratic Party.