Everyone wants to know going into the November election: Is there another big blue wave about to wash through Washington state politics?
Primary voters answered that Tuesday with a muffled “depends on where you live.”
Certainly Democratic candidates at the statewide level all did well, and, buoyed by huge margins in King County, now are favored to win most of the statewide elected office seats in November (they already hold six of the eight partisan offices, such as governor).
The last two remaining statewide elected Republicans on the West Coast — both here in our state — are in a struggle to survive heading into the November general election. GOP Secretary of State Kim Wyman is narrowly leading her Democratic challenger, while GOP state Treasurer Duane Davidson is trailing his — in Davidson’s case by 8 percentage points. This doesn’t mean either will lose, but it suggests some partisan head winds are a-blowing against them.
But unlike in the big blue wave year of 2018, there weren’t signs of a broader washout of Republicans down the ballot. If anything, what the primary results suggest is that the blue parts of the state are getting strongly bluer, and the red parts redder. The state is becoming even more polarized, especially along geographic lines.
Example: Two incumbent Democratic state legislators in rural southwestern Washington are at risk of falling victim to the growing conservative trend out there. Sen. Dean Takko, D-Longview, and Rep. Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen both were drawing less than 50% against fields of GOP challengers, in the 19th Legislative District.
That area of the state voted Republican in the last presidential election for the first time in more than 70 years. Now in the era of Trump on one side and the Seattle far-left political scene on the other, it may be tilting farther right.“Disgruntled mill workers and older Joe Sixpack former Dems in rural areas are now Trump loyalists,” the former congressman who represented that area, Don Bonker, wrote recently at Seattle site PostAlley.org about the changes taking place. “The offset is the suburban areas, where professional, upper-middle-class Republicans no longer can stomach or vote for Donald Trump.”
Right on cue with that analysis, some Puget Sound suburban districts were on the way to growing still bluer on Tuesday. In the state’s one open congressional seat, the 10th District, which is centered around Olympia, voters were picking two Democrats Tuesday to go to a run-off in November. The top vote-getting Republican was running only in fourth place.
Also in south Puget Sound, an incumbent Republican state Senator, Steve O’Ban of University Place, is trailing a newcomer Democrat, Tacoma Urban League President T’wina Nobles. If elected in November she would be only the second Black woman in the Washington state Senate in the state’s history.
In some King County districts, Democratic incumbents may be in trouble, but that’s due to challenges they’re facing from the progressive left. Several longtime Democratic incumbents, such as state Sen. Mark Mullet of Issaquah and Rep. Zack Hudgins of Tukwila are trailing fellow Democrats who have gone at them hard for being too moderate.
But farther away from Seattle, such as up in Whatcom County, Republicans are doing better this time around than in 2018. And there is no sign, at least as of Tuesday’s voting, of any Democratic breakthroughs in eastern Washington.
Elections analysts love the Washington state primary, because all of our candidates are together on one ballot regardless of party. It makes our primary a sort of live superpoll on the state of the upcoming campaigns. These political researchers have further noted that adding up the vote shares for the parties in each of our primary contests is a good, though not foolproof, predictor for who will win in November.
Doing this analysis on Tuesday’s results yields the Democrats picking up one statewide seat (state treasurer), no real change likely in congressional seats (though first-time incumbent Democratic Rep. Kim Schrier of the 8th Congressional District has her work cut out for her) and only marginal changes in the state Legislature.
Given how historically far down in the polls the GOP president is here, that’s a result I bet local Republicans could live with.