The 2024 election cycle looks very good for Washington State Democrats. 

The party currently boasts sizable majorities in the State Legislature, holding 29 of 49 seats in the state Senate and 58 of 98 seats in the State House. With Donald Trump at the top of the ticket scaring the bejeezus out of normies, and with favorable new political boundaries, Democrats appear poised to increase those majorities. If they defend a few easily defensible seats and win a handful of plausibly winnable seats, they could even secure supermajorities in both chambers. Assuming voters elect a Democratic Governor, which seems probable, Democrats would then have the power to amend the state constitution—provided they all agree on what they’d like to change.

“It’s pretty exciting, heavy stuff to think about what kinds of things might be possible for us,” said state Sen. Jamie Pedersen, who chairs the Washington Senate Democratic Campaign committee. 

In phone interviews, both he and his counterpart in the House, Rep. Monica Stonier, mentioned changing the school bond threshold to a simple majority, codifying abortion protections, and adjusting some language to allow the state to experiment with universal basic income programs. 

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Over the phone, Washington State Democratic Party Spokesperson Stephen called winning legislative supermajorities "a stretch goal," but he felt bullish on increasing majorities in both chambers and adding some progressive politicians to the Senate to help win vital legislation the old guard spiked last session.

To achieve those goals, the party plans to recruit candidates in every race and to stand up offices in all corners of the state. And for the first time, this year they've launched a constituency organizing program to build support among core populations within the party, including Latino, native, Black, and young voters. 

But will they be successful? Let's see! Please join me on a little romp through the state's electoral battlefield. 

Easy D for the Senate

This year Senate Democrats must defend three seats, thanks mostly to the somewhat adorable political ambitions of a few conservative donkeys. The good news is all those seats look pretty easy to defend.

Over in east King County’s 5th Legislative District, state Sen. Mark Mullet tilted his lance at Attorney General Bob Ferguson in the race for Governor, leaving the senate seat wide open. One of Mullet’s counterparts in the House, State Rep. Bill Ramos, has called dibs. Ramos, a skilled campaigner and fundraiser, currently leads the field with nearly $100,000 raised. Though redistricting made this district a touch more conservative, in 2020 Biden won the 5th with 57% of the vote, and in 2022 Ramos beat a Republican with 59% of the vote share. Should be fine.

Over on the peninsula, State Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, who helped kill the anti-rent gouging bill in Olympia this session, is pursuing a job as Washington’s Public Lands Commissioner, which leaves open his seat in the 24th Legislative District. 

Rep. Mike Chapman, one of that district’s representatives in the House, currently faces Republican Marcia Kelbon in the contest to fill the vacancy. Biden only won the district 54% to 45%, making it the toughest hold for Senate Dems, but Chapman will benefit from his seven years of incumbency and his compelling story as the hero who stopped the Millennium Bomber back in 1999. Moreover, right now nearly 70% of Kelbon’s haul comes from her own pocket and from the pockets of Senate Republicans, which is not suggestive of a grassroots movement of peninsular conservatives begging for change.

Down in the 28th Legislative District, which covers the Tacoma ‘burbs, Democratic state Sen. T’wina Nobles is staring down a challenge from Republican Maia Espinoza, who ran a few failed campaigns that only revealed her tenuous grasp on the truth. Biden won the district with 57% of the vote in 2020, and Nobles beat a Moms for Liberty freak in her 2023 school board race with 60% of the vote, so she should be in good shape.

The Path to 33 Democratic Senators

Senate Dems could pick up four seats this cycle, and they’d need to pick up all of them in order to win the constitutional majority. Some of those pick-ups will be tough, though.

Up in the 10th Legislative District, which covers the islands, Island County Commissioner Janet St. Clair aims to give incumbent Sen. Ron Muzzall a run for his money, which stands at a quite considerable $243,000. (St. Clair has raised $50,000 so far.) Back in 2020, Democratic challenger Helen Price Johnson only fell to Muzzall by 1,800 votes. The pandemic prevented her from door-knocking, and though she raised more than half a million dollars, it might take a bit more than that to unseat an incumbent. Some dedicated door-time and money in this race could push St. Clair over the edge, especially given the fact that Democratic House Rep. Clyde Shavers won here in the last cycle.

Over in the Yakima Valley, the state's 14th Legislative District looks a whole lot better for Democrats than it used to, thanks to a court redistricting. Biden won in the newly drawn district with 56.6% of the vote, whereas he lost by a point in the old version of the district. However, as an analysis from Andrew Hong at Northwest Progressive Institute (NPI) points out, Sen. Patty Murray actually lost the newly drawn district in 2022 “by a wide margin (43%-57%),” which means Dems will need to hustle and invest cash money if they want to turn out the majority Latino district. Despite the challenges of making headway in a new district, Pedersen said the 14th “feels very possible.” 

Right now, he looks to be correct. The process of redrawing the state's political maps displaced incumbent Republican state Sen. Curtis King, and no Republican has filed to run for the senate seat yet. Meanwhile, the Democrats have put up former OneAmerica Board Chair Maria Beltran, who was “born and raised in Yakima and has recently worked for the state House Democratic Campaign Committee,” according to the Yakima Herald-Republic. 

Thanks again to redistricting, two opportunities now present themselves in southwest Washington. According to NPI’s analysis, the 17th Legislative District now leans Democratic by a couple points. On top of that, Republican state Sen. Lynda Wilson decided not to run for reelection this year—all of which makes the district highly competitive. Anti-abortion nut Rep. Paul Harris, who represents the 17th in the House, is seeking the promotion to the Senate, but Pedersen said the Dems plan to throw “a really exciting” candidate into the race soon that may trouble his plans.

The nearby 18th Legislative District, which now pretty tightly covers the north Vancouver suburbs after redistricting, is looking swingy as well; Biden only lost the district by two points in 2020, and in 2022 a Democratic House candidate came within five points of winning an open seat there. Last week, incumbent Republican state Sen. Ann Rivers announced her retirement—another casualty of redistricting. At the moment, that leaves Trumpy Republican Brad Benton as the the GOP’s best shot to fill the void. Twelve-year Battle Ground City Council incumbent Adrian Cortes has stepped up for the Democrats in that race. He’ll have an uphill battle, but the money and attention that will certainly attend the Congressional race down there between Trump-humping Joe Kent and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez may trickle down-ballot and give Cortes and whoever runs in the 17th a boost.

Defending the House

The state House of Representatives features double the number of lawmakers, and they’re all up for reelection, so the field is a little more dynamic. Attaining the constitutional majority here may be tougher, too. To do that, House Dems need to defend nine seats—four of which look exceedingly easy to defend—and then pick up eight seats.

In terms of geography, the defensive and offensive lines more or less track with those in the Senate.

Rep. Stonier said the House Democratic Campaign Committee will “keep its eye on” candidates running in four perennial swing districts—Federal Way’s 30th LD, the Tacoma area’s 28th LD, Issaquah’s 5th LD, and Covington’s 47th LD. About a month out from the filing deadline, it looks like she doesn’t have too much to worry about.

Down in the 30th, Melissa Hamilton, a “data systems coordinator” and babysitter at Faith Family Church challenged two-term Democratic House Rep. Jamila Taylor. Biden won 59% of the vote here in 2020, so it seems like an easy lift for Taylor. 

Over in the 28th, Republican math teacher and firefighter Gabe Sachwitz will try to best two-term Democratic House Representative and firefighter Daniel Bronoske. Sachwitz lost a 2022 race to the district's other Democratic representative, Mari Leavitt, 58% to 41.6%, so he’ll need more than luck. Republican carpet store owner Mark Herr will take on Rep. Leavitt this year, hoping for better results.

Right now, mostly Democrats crowd the open seat in the 5th Legislative District. High school teacher Landon Halverson is the only Republican gunning for it, and he’s touting an endorsement from Reagan Dunn.

Over in the 47th, so far Rep. Debra Entenman has drawn a Republican challenger named Stephanie Lawson, a landlord who recently lost a school board race.

The Dems face tougher challenges up north and on the peninsula.

Up in the islands, a pretty formidable Republican Arlington City Council Member Yvonne Gallardo seeks to give three-term Democratic incumbent Dave Paul a run for his money, while a somewhat less formidable Carrie R. Kennedy will try to topple newly elected Democratic Rep. Clyde Shavers. We'll see if anyone else jumps in that race. 

Over in Whatcom County, Stonier said she’s heard of GOP candidates ready to run at Democratic Reps. Alicia Rule and Joseph Timmons, but they have yet to announce.

In the 24th, a little flood of Dems jumped at the chance to fill the open seat Rep. Chapman will leave in his wake, including legislative aide Adam Bernbaum (who worked in state Sen. Van de Wege’s office), Sequim School Board President Eric Pickens, tribal leader Nate Tyler. They’ve all raised about the same amount of money. Republican prosecutor Matthew Roberson is the only Republican in the race so far, and he’s only raised a couple thousand. 

The Path to 66

Opportunities to expand the House Democratic majority pop up all over the state, and they need to win eight seats to secure a supermajority. Like Reed at the state party said, that seems like a stretch, but it's not impossible. 

As I mentioned earlier, redistricting made the 14th and 17th Legislative Districts more Dem-leaning, but the changes in the 14th were more dramatic. The new lines there knocked out incumbent House Republicans Gina Mosbrucker and Chris Corry, which means they’ll have to move back into the district or run where they now live in the 17th and 15th districts, respectively. (Corry decided to run in the 15th; no word yet on Mosbrucker’s moves.) Dems who jumped in to fill the potential voids include Washington State Human Rights Commissioner Chelsea Dimas and Department of Natural Resources External Affairs Manager Raúl Martínez. Green Party perennial candidate Liz Hallock is running there as an independent.

Down in the 17th District, which now looks like a little top hat on the Hood River with the brim extending from Camas to near The Dalles, Republican Rep. Paul Harris’s attempt to ascend to the Senate leaves an open seat. Stonier said the party was talking to “a couple candidates” about running to fill it. So far, former Clark County Charter Commissioner Terri Niles is running as a Democrat, and failed Republican candidate Hannah Joy is running again, too. Neither candidate has raised any money yet. In 2022, Niles lost to Republican House Rep. Kevin Waters, but with the district a little more favorable to Dems and no incumbent to run against for this position, Niles might have a shot.

In the next-door 18th Legislative District, Democrat and public school teacher John Zingale is taking a run against one-term incumbent Republican Greg Cheney. Last cycle, Zingale fell to the other Republican Rep in this district, Stephanie McClintock, by nearly five points. Again, the slightly better partisan lean for Dems in the district and the big-ticket Congressional race here could boost Zingale to victory. The Dems don’t have anyone yet to face off against McClintock, but she’s new to the role and will be worth challenging.

In the 26th Legislative District, which covers Gig Harbor, Republican Rep. Spencer Hutchins declined to seek an a second term, which leaves his seat open. Democrat and attorney Adison Richards, who lost to Hutchins in 2022 by a mere 735 votes, will make a run for it. His competition includes Republicans Jim Henderson and Jesse Young. Henderson is both a landlord and a lobbyist for landlords, and Young is a hothead who formerly represented the district before he lost to Democrat Emily Randall in a senate race. I’m very much looking forward to that primary battle. Stonier said she’s currently working to find someone to challenge incumbent Republican Rep. Michelle Caldier, who recently appealed findings in an investigation that showed her bullying staff.

As you can tell if you’ve made it all the way to the bottom of this post (congratulations), lots of stuff could go sidewise with these House seats, but with the wind at their backs, it doesn’t seem impossible for the House to hold its current majority and pick up all these seats. Regardless, Stonier says they’re gearing up for a fight: “We’re all lifting weights. We’re doing lunges, we’re doing yoga in the morning, and we’re meditating at night,” she said.