By Diana Carlen
In recent weeks, some political commentators and editorials predicted a blue wave in Washington state, but that failed to materialize.
The purpose of the Aug. 4 primary election is to narrow down the number of candidates that qualify for the November general election. The two candidates who receive the most votes in the primary election qualify for the November general election regardless of their party affiliation. At last count (10 pm election night), voter turnout for the August primary was currently 34 percent; voter turnout statistics will adjust as ballots are received over the next two weeks. Current results reflect the more than 1 million ballots received and counted; at least 470,000 ballots have been received but remain to be counted. Final results are certified by the Secretary of State on Aug. 21.
In addition to serving the function of narrowing the number of candidates running for a position, August primary results have also served as an early indicator of what to expect during the November general election, shedding light on emerging political trends, likely outcomes, etc. Of course, much can change between August and November, and unlike the August primary, the November general election will also include the presidential race. As such, any “likely outcomes” that can be deduced from the August primary result can be relegated to simple educated guesses. But, worthwhile guesses, nonetheless, for those closely following Washington state politics.
If the November general election follows the same trend as the August primary results, Democrats will continue to hold most of the state executive offices, and retain their majorities in the Senate and House, but there are opportunities for each party to pick up seats given some tight races that can go either way.
State Executive Offices
Democrats currently hold all but two of the State’s nine executive office positions. Initial August primary results suggest Democrats will maintain these positions, and that the two positions currently held by Republicans – the Secretary of State and State Treasurer – will be races to watch in November.
Governor: Two-term incumbent Jay Inslee (D) (51%) & newcomer Loren Culp (R) (16.7%) beat more than a dozen other candidates including Tim Eyman, Dr. Raul Garcia, Sen. Phil Fortunato and Joshua Freed to qualify for the November general election. Inslee is anticipated to prevail in November and serve a rare third term.
Lt. Governor: Former Congressman Denny Heck (D) (27%) and State Senator Marko Liias (D) (16%) beat out all the Republican candidates in the August primary election, leading to a Democrat-vs-Democrat race in the general election. If Sen. Marko Liias wins this position, an appointment will be made to fill his Senate seat prior to the beginning of the 2021 Legislative Session.
Secretary of State: Incumbent Kim Wyman (R) (50%) & former State Rep. Gael Tarleton (D) (44.7%) advance out of the four-candidate primary to the general election. The two will have a close race in November; however, Wyman appears to have the upper hand.
State Treasurer: Incumbent Duane Davidson (R) (45%) faces a significant challenge from former State Rep. Mike Pellicciotti (D) (54%). Overcoming a nearly ten percentage point trailing prior to November will be challenging for Davidson.
State Auditor: Incumbent Pat McCarthy (D) (48%) leads against Chris Leyba (R) (40%), with 11% of the votes going toward a third Democrat candidate that will not advance to the general election.
State Attorney General: Incumbent Bob Ferguson (D) (56%) and Matt Larkin (R) (23%) advance to the general election in the four-candidate primary race.
Commissioner of Public Lands: Incumbent Hilary Franz (D) (51%) and Sue Kuehl Pederson (R) (21%) advance from the crowded seven-candidate primary to the general election.
Superintendent of Public Instruction: Incumbent Chris Reykdal (D) (40%) and Maia Espinoza (R) (23%) advance as the top two of six candidates to the general election.
Insurance Commissioner: Incumbent Mike Kreidler (D) (60%) and Chirayu Avinash Patel (R) (27%) advance to the general election.
Democrats currently hold the majority in the State Senate (27-22) and the State House of Representatives (57-41). If the November general election follows the same trend as the August primary, Democrats may slightly increase their majority in both chambers come November and may become a more progressive party. However, there are several races that are neck and neck and could go either way giving Republicans the opportunity to possibly pick up a seat or two in one or both chambers.
Legislative districts in the urban Puget Sound region that have traditionally been represented by moderates seem to be trending toward more progressive candidates. Meanwhile, legislative districts in rural areas of the state that have recently been represented by moderate Democrats seem to be trending toward Republican candidates. The potential result is a mix of wins for both parties that is not likely to substantially change the balance of power.
Races that Could Tip the Republican/Democrat Balance:
- 10th Senate Seat (Whidbey Island, Camano Island, and parts of Snohomish County): Helen Price Johnson (D) (51%) is narrowly leading against newly appointed Sen. Ron Muzzall (R) (48%) in the two-candidate primary race. Johnson is an Island county commissioner and Muzzall is a farmer. Of all the Senate races, the 10th seems the best opportunity for the Democrats to win, but it will be a tough race.
- 28th Senate Seat (University Place, Lakewood, DuPont): T’wina Nobles (D) (51%) is narrowly leading against incumbent Sen. Steve O’Ban (R) (48%) in the two-candidate primary race. Only 453 votes separate them at this time. This will be a race to watch; and another potential pick up for Democrats.
- 19th Senate Seat (Longview, Kelso, Long Beach): Incumbent Sen. Dean Takko (D) received only 46% of the votes, with the other two Republican candidates receiving the majority of votes. Port of Longview Commissioner Jeff Wilson (R) will advance to the general election. While Wilson is trailing Takko, if the other Republican candidates’ votes go to Wilson in November then Wilson would be the likely winner… making this a seat one where Republicans could pick up a seat held by the Democrats.
- 25th Senate Seat (Puyallup): In recent years and further confirmed through the latest August primary results, the 25th Legislative District leans Republican. The two Republican candidates garnered a majority of the votes, with Chris Gildon (R) (42%) advancing to the general election as the Republican candidate. Julie Door (D) (45%) will advance as the Democrat candidate but will face a challenging path to winning what is becoming solid Republican territory.
- 42nd House Seats: Republicans are narrowly leading the races for both seats in the House of Representatives. In position 1, incumbent Luanne Van Werven (R) is leading against Democrat challenger Alicia Rule (D) 53% to 46% in the two-candidate primary. In position 2, Republican challenger Jennifer Sefzik (R) is leading against Democrat incumbent Rep. Sharon Shewmake (D) 51% to 48%. If Sefzik prevails in November, Republicans would flip the seat.
- 10th House Seat: Former State Rep. Norma Smith (R) retired from this seat at the conclusion of the 2020 legislative session, resulting in a crowded primary race. Democrat candidates secured a majority of votes in the five-person primary race, with Angie Homola (D) advancing to the general election against Greg Gilday (R), who secured only 44% of the votes. If Homola prevails in November, Democrats would increase the number of seats they hold in the House.
- 19th House Seat: Incumbent Brian Blake (D), Chair of the House Rural Development, Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee, is trailing against Republican challenger Joel McEntire (R) 47% to 51% in the two-person primary. Both candidates will advance to the general election, but Rep. Brian Blake will have to work hard to retain his seat. If he loses, Republicans would defeat an incumbent democrat to pick up a seat.
- 26th House Seats: The races in the 26th Legislative District are too close to call. In position 1, the three-candidate primary resulted in incumbent Michelle Caldier (R) and Joy Stanford (D) advancing to the general election. Similarly, in position 2, a three-candidate primary resulted in incumbent Rep. Jesse Young (R) and Carrie Hesch (D) advancing to the general election. As a traditional “swing” district, and with skewed primary numbers from the third candidate in both races, this district is too close to call as leaning toward one party or the other going into November.
Additional Races of Interest: Interparty Battles
- 5th Senate Seat (Issaquah, Sammamish): Incumbent moderate and business friendly Mark Mullet (D) (47%) is trailing behind progressive challenger Ingrid Anderson (D) (48%) in this Democrat-vs-Democrat two-candidate primary election. The race is very tight with only 311 votes currently separating the candidates. Mullet owns pizza and ice creams shops in the district while Anderson is a nurse. If Anderson wins in the November general election, this will signal that the Democratic Party in Washington state is becoming more progressive.
- 16th Senate Seat (Walla Walla, Pasco): Danelle Garbe Reser (D) (37%) and Perry Dozier (R) (33%) advance to the general election, resolving a Republican-vs-Republican primary race between Dozier and Rep. Bill Jenkin who garnered only 29% of the votes. While this was thought to be a potential Republican/Democrat battleground if a strong blue wave materialized, that does not appear to be the case. Dozier is a wheat farmer and former Walla Walla County Commissioner while Garbe Reser is a CEO for a nonprofit.
- 2nd Senate Seat (Pierce County, Graham, Roy): Former Senator Randi Becker (R) retired from this seat, resulting in a crowded six-candidate primary. Rick Payne (D) and Jim McCune (R) will advance to the general election, with McCune the likely winner in what has long been a Republican-held district.
- 11th House Seat (Seattle, Renton, Kent): Moderate Zack Hudgins (D) is trailing behind progressive challenger David Hackney (D) in a three-person primary. Hudgins and Hackney will advance to the November general election in a Democrat-vs-Democrat race. If Hackney prevails, it will signal that the Democratic Party in Washington state is becoming more progressive. Rep. Hudgins is currently the Chair of the House Innovation, Technology & Economic Development Committee.