For a six-way race featuring a barrage of targeted mailers in the politically rambunctious 43rd Legislative District, and astronomical fundraising and campaign spending ("I spent $100,000," candidate Bill Sherman—at 14 percent a distant third after the first batch of votes came in—said from his party at the Montlake Ale House), the run-up to the finale on election night was a bit dull and predictable.
The frontrunner and candidate with the most money ($167,000), Preston Gates & Ellis attorney Jamie Pedersen, was creeping out in front of the other frontrunner, the candidate with the best name recognition, former City Council Member and King County Superior Court Judge Jim Street.
At around 10:30 p.m., after the second drop of votes kept Pedersen in the lead at 28 percent (to Street's 21.8 percent), the crowd at Pedersen's freshly remodeled, elegant two-story house on Capitol Hill heard a cheer go up in the basement, where Pedersen had set up his campaign nerve center. The crowd herded down the winding wooden stairs to find Pedersen volunteers huddled over a computer in the corner. Gay-rights superstar and soon-to-be-state-senator Ed Murray—who endorsed Pedersen late in the race, citing Pedersen's commitment to gay rights in the wake of this summer's ugly Washington State Supreme Court ruling upholding the Defense of Marriage Act—joined Pedersen in the basement and gave him an old Cal Anderson campaign pin. "It's Jamie's night," Murray said, predicting that Pedersen would win. Indeed, gay rights was likely a key factor in the race. One Pedersen volunteer who is close friends with several of the candidates, said, when asked if Pedersen's homosexuality was a factor, "Absoluteley. It's not tangential to who he is. It's central."
Others—like Peter Steinbrueck, over at Pure's party at Piecora's—think of Pedersen as nothing more than a lobbyist stooge. "If Jamie wins, Preston Gates wins. It's the cheapest way they can get what they want in Olympia."
Pedersen himself looked confident, but was typically cautious, telling the clean-cut crowd, which included some of his cohorts from the Seattle Men's Chorus, "However it comes out, it's been a great experience." (One gossip at Pedersen's party told the SECB that Pedersen had never been to a gay bar in Seattle until a recent campaign bar hop.)
Stranger-endorsed Stephanie Pure, who credited her loss to a late start—she stayed on at her job as Steinbrueck's aide until August—squeaked up to a surprising, even respectable, fourth place at press time, beating the King County Democrats–endorsed Dick Kelley and the SEAMEC-endorsed Lynne Dodson with 13 percent of the total.
In the controversial state supreme court races, the "good guys"—as most of the folks in Pedersen's basement took to calling the liberal incumbents—were holding off dramatic challenges from well-funded conservative candidates. Chief Justice Gerry Alexander, for example, seemed to be withstanding a million-dollar insurgency from his business-backed, property-rights challenger, John Groen, with 53 percent.