So much for that rumored big red conservative wave.
So much also for the conspiracy theorists, the election deniers (most of them, anyway), and the MAGA right-wingers.
All of these things were not faring well, at all, in Tuesday’s vote count in the Washington primary. Overall, voters in this state seemed to be repudiating the conventional wisdom that this would be the first good year for Republicans around here since 2014.
“Republican narratives have been busted,” tweeted the Northwest Progressive Institute’s Andrew Villeneuve, who had been insisting for months that local polling did not back the media-fueled notion that there would be backlash in favor of conservatives in this state.
There still could be, of course, as there are three months until the general election in November. Lots can happen, including that totals for this primary can and will shift in the coming days as more votes are counted.
But Tuesday’s early primary results showed no signs of any sort of tidal change in our local, blue-heavy politics.
If anything, voters were signaling they just want a break from all the insanity.
Voters appeared in no mood to experiment with the fringes of either party. MAGA candidates were struggling on the right, while Democratic Socialists were not making any dent at all on the left.
Both of former President Donald Trump’s favored candidates in the state were trailing, for example, and may not make it out of the top-two primary. Former GOP governor candidate Loren Culp, in Central Washington, was running third in the 4th Congressional District, as was Fox News regular and newcomer Joe Kent, in southwest Washington’s 3rd District.
In both cases, Trump had sought revenge against incumbent GOP members of Congress who voted to impeach him for his role in the Capitol riot in 2021. These incumbents, Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, and Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, were hardly coasting to reelection. (Both were only around 25%.) But both are in position to make it through the primary challenge and into a general election against a Democratic opponent.
Culp and Kent were full-on election deniers, insisting Trump won in 2020. (Culp incredibly still insists he won his governor race against current Gov. Jay Inslee.) The lunacy element of it may have been too heavy a lift for voters.
In were rational candidates. Out: Candidates who concoct their own realities.
Losing were a host of election conspiracy theorists, such as Tamborine Borrelli, who filed a raft of bogus lawsuits over the 2020 election; Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, who attended a “stolen election” conference hosted by the My Pillow guy and then charged taxpayers for the trip; Vicki Kraft, R-Vancouver, who also went to that conference; and Amber Krabach, a Republican candidate for state House on the Eastside who made news recently for trying to surveil ballot drop boxes.
For all the talk that incumbent congressional Democrats such as Rep. Kim Schrier, D-Issaquah, and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray might be in trouble, both were easily outpacing their rivals. Schrier in particular is doing better than she did in her last primary, in 2020. This doesn’t mean she’s a lock in November. But it does mean no red wave came crashing down on her.
“I think six weeks ago the headwinds against Democrats were stronger than they are today,” Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, told the Times.
What happened six weeks ago? The U.S. Supreme Court went on a conservative bender, throwing out abortion rights, allowing school prayer and so on.
There’s a rule of thumb among election analysts that if you add up the vote shares for the parties in each of our open primary contests, it’s a decent guide for which side will win that race in November. It’s not perfect, but as a general guide, it captures the overall mood.
Using this technique on the preliminary results from Tuesday shows that despite high inflation, concerns about crime and President Joe Biden’s low approval ratings, Democrats are doing about as well as usual, particularly in the hard-fought suburbs.
Example: Republicans spent heavily targeting a series of state legislative districts in the King and Snohomish County suburbs, where the GOP had been wiped out in the Trump years. Yet Democrats were running well ahead on Tuesday in all of them.
In the 44th in Snohomish County, the Democrats were getting from 54% to 59% of the total vote. In the 47th in King, they were getting 52% to 56%, and in the 45th on the Eastside the Democrats were pulling a whopping 66% to 72%.
Biden, like Trump before him, was supposed to be a drag on his own party. It’s not normal that a party runs this far ahead of its own president’s poor approval ratings.
If in this environment Republicans can’t get a red wave, a swell or even a ripple, it’s tough to see how they’ll ever fight their way back in this state.