After months of campaigning and millions of dollars, what are we to take away from the August primary? Here’s our first read:
Money talks: In the First Congressional District, Democrat Suzan DelBene spent more than $2 million of her own money saturating the airwaves with TV commercials and it paid off. A couple months ago, she was stuck near the bottom of the pack of seven candidates, well behind better known candidates like Darcy Burner. Now, the question moving forward is, can Republican John Koster compete with a candidate who can write her own check for the general election? Koster will need to prove he can raise money and attract the attention of the national Republican party if he’s to have a chance. Our latest KING 5/SurveyUSA poll on a head-to-head race shows just how close this swing district can be: Koster 42%, DelBene 42%.
Maybe not so Democratic after all: Democrats fought hard for a new 10th Congressional district centered around Olympia and Denny Heck was their logical candidate. But Heck garnered only 41% in the primary, compared to Dick Muri and Stan Flemming, the two Republicans who together attracted 42%. Update: with Democrat Jennifer Ferguson capturing about 12% of the vote, it would still appear to be a lean Democrat district. Meanwhile in the 6th District and the competition to replace retiring Congressman Norm Dicks, Democrat Derek Kilmer made a solid showing at 54%. Republicans have shown enthusiasm for Bill Driscoll, but he made a weak showing in the primary at 18%.
Score one for Inslee: Several months ago, when Rob McKenna was leading most polls, some Democrats were grumbling that Jay Inslee’s campaign seemed lackluster and slow to get started. Inslee’s support in the polls was soft and he lacked name recognition statewide having only run for his Congressional district in recent years. But leading up to the primary, Inslee spent a million dollars on 60-second commercials that Republican and Democratic consultants agree were a strong introduction to voters. McKenna discounted the significance of the primary, saying it’s a select group of strongly partisan voters who participate. But McKenna’s campaign team needs to figure out how to improve on its performance especially in central Puget Sound.
Incumbent protection in action: Every ten years, Congressional districts are redrawn based on the census, and one of the first rules party negotiators recognize, is to protect their incumbents by making their seats “safer.” The primary results prove that point. No more squeaker election here for Rick Larsen in the 2nd District (getting 60% in the primary), Dave Reichert in the 8th (50%), or Adam Smith in the 9th (61%).
Settled: While the Washington State primary is used in most races to determine the Top Two candidates, some races were decided because certain positions only require a candidate to get more than 50% in the primary to win. Among those candidates snagging a win: Randy Dorn for Superintendent, and State Supreme Court Justices Steve Gonzalez and Susan Owens.
Comebacks thwarted: Among those politicians whose attempted comeback hopes died in the primary, Laura Ruderman in the 1st Congressional District and former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels who ran for Secretary of State.
Closer than the numbers might suggest: The headline in the Attorney General’s race was that Democrat Bob Ferguson (52%) had a convincing lead over Republican Reagan Dunn (38%). But it’s worth noting Republican Steve Pidgeon took about 10% of the vote. Pidgeon jumped in after Dunn announced his support for same-sex marriage; remains to be seen if Pidgeon’s supporters would go toward Dunn.
Can Republicans take the state senate? First read is that Republicans may have a tough time here. First, Democrat Mark Mullet won over Republican Brad Toft in the 5th district, suggesting Republicans could lose the seat vacated by Cheryl Pflug. Another Republican incumbent Don Benton was just a few tenths of a point ahead of Democrat Tim Probst. Meanwhile, longtime Democrat Mary Margaret Haugen was actually trailing Republican Barbara Bailey by just a fraction. And Republicans may have a shot at picking up Jim Kastama’s old seat in the Puyallup area, with Bruce Dammeier holding a 20-point lead.
Seattle residents love their libraries: Seattle voters are famously willing to raise their own taxes, and did so again in the primary—approving a levy for library operations. Next up: Will Seattle voters raise taxes again for a seawall in November? And then, what about a schools levy coming up in February? The City will be testing just how generous its voters are.
So there you have it. Brace yourself for the TV commercials as the campaigns now gear up for November.