It's primary day in Washington, and a shockingly low percentage of projected voters have the same question on their minds. Which of these idiot politicians is going to get the most numbers tonight? Will it be the power-hungry Trumpian shitlord? The Washington State GOP's dignity beard? The "establishment Dem," or the Democrat anointed by the rose petals of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?
The 2016 elections rightfully put prognostication out of vogue. But luckily you won't find any such haruspexing here. I'm only interested in giving you the lay of the land, plus how best to immediately interpret the results of election night in the federal races. This way you'll be able to turn to a friend when the results come in and say, "Welp, that's lookin' good." Or "Welp, that's lookin' bad."
First, you need to know a couple things.
Thing 1: Washington voters mail in their ballots, so the numbers on election night will not be the final numbers. Democrats tend to vote later than Republicans, so chances are the results will get bluer with age.
Thing 2: King County paid the postage on ballots this year, which might help increase turnout. Higher turnout is better for Democrats. Which Democrats? Probably the ones who have the most TV ads out. But a spokesperson for King County elections says they're projecting 40 percent turnout this year with around 513,000 ballots counted. (Last year the county had 34 percent turnout.)
Thing 3: Primary voters are more partisan than general election voters. So it won't be mega-surprising if Republicans win big where they're supposed to win and vice versa. If Republican Dino Rossi gets 55 percent of the vote in the 8th Congressional District, for instance, that doesn't necessarily mean Democrats will need to steal 5.1 percent of those Republican votes away from him in order to win. Still, it wouldn't be "a good sign" for the Democrats. Washington state has a top-two primary system, where people can vote for whomever they'd like regardless of party, so things can change before the general. That said, general election results don't often stray too far from primary results. However, if Independents are leaning Democratic in the primaries, that would be "a good sign."
Incumbent Democrat Senator Maria Cantwell is defending her seat against approximately 2,000 people, including perennial favorites such as GoodSpaceGuy.
But her main challenger is former Washington State GOP chair Susan Hutchison, who stepped into the race probably to save face for the state's Republican party. If she hadn't run, gun-nut Joey Gibson—spotted most recently leading a small troll army through Portland, Ore.,— would have represented the party at the top of the ticket.
Polling from the House Majority PAC indicates that Cantwell will sail through, so I'm more interested to see whether Hutchison beats Gibson badly or not so badly.
Republican incumbent Jamie Herrera Beutler faces off against Democrat Carolyn Long, guy-who-always-self-funds David Malcolm McDevitt, and Justice Democrat Dorothy Gasque. Given Long's fundraising advantage, she and Herrera Beutler are most likely to get through.
The non-partisan analysts over at The Cook Report rates the 3rd Congressional District "likely Republican," but some internal polling from the Long campaign suggests the Democrat does well with Independents and that she's closing the gap on her rival.
As you might expect, Long's people seem confident they'll get through. Her spokesperson says the team is "excited about the enthusiasm that voters are showing" and "confident we will move on to the General election" where they will "look forward to the rest of the campaign to communicate our message of People Over Politics all across southwest Washington."
At the same time, Trump won the district by 8 points, and Herrera Beutler has held her seat for eight years. The Congresswoman has gotten as little as 48 percent in the primary to as much as 56 percent, so scoring anywhere in that range will probably make her feel as if all is well in the world.
Lisa Brown's spokesperson seems bullish about Brown's primary showing against seven-term incumbent Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the 4th most powerful Republican in the House. "If [McMorris Rodgers's] campaign is any indication, she's nervous about the race. She began running attack ads in June. Cook Political Report has moved this race twice in Lisa’s direction. We’ve been amassing momentum as we approach the primary. The vast majority of our individual contributors are from Washington State. Over a thousand volunteers have attended volunteer events since May. So yeah, we're expecting the results to reflect that this is a really competitive race," says Brown's spokesperson.
McMorris Rodgers's spokesperson didn't return my request for comment about the incumbent's mood going into primary night. But I'm sure they're riding high off the fumes of a recent endorsement from Rep. Matt Shea, a noted secessionist and bigot.
In any event, if Brown gets within 5 points of the McMorris Rodgers, that would be a reason to get excited. If she gets within 10 points and the other right-wing freaks get 5 or 8 points between them, then that would be a reason to start knocking on doors for Lisa Brown tomorrow.
Though Republican Dino Rossi lost three state-wide elections in Washington since 2004, in each of those contests he beat the Democrat by thousands of votes within the current boundaries of the 8th Congressional District. That history—and the name recognition that comes along with it—plus his $3 million will be more than enough to push him through to the general.
The real question here is and has always been: which of the top three Democrats—Shannon Hader, Kim Schrier, or Jason Rittereiser—will make it through?
The SECB endorsed Jason Rittereiser in this race. The only way he wins is if Schrier and Hader split the Year of the Woman Doctor vote and he ekes out a victory thanks to a push from Independents east of the mountains. Maybe he picks up some support from Auburn people who weren't into Hader and some support from Issaquah/Sammamish people who weren't into Kim. But now I have entered the realm of pure speculation. Schrier has been runnings ads on television like crazy, and the Democrat with the highest name recognition might get those spoils.
Unless, of course, Rittereiser's cross-district appeal or Hader's grassroots help from Democratic clubs somehow appealed to a significant number of voters who don't normally vote for Democrats. This seems unlikely to me, since mostly in the primaries the candidates knock on the doors of high-frequency voters, skipping people who have only voted a few times in the last few cycles.
In any event, if the Democrats collectively earn more than 50 percent of the vote, and/or if Rossi scores in the mid 40s, that would all be pretty good.
Eli already wrote his own little preview post about the race between Adam Smith and Sarah Smith. Check it out. But if you're too busy, here's the gist. Sarah Smith's campaign would feel optimistic about pulling 27 percent of the vote, but Eli thinks "recent history suggests it's far more likely that it'll be Adam Smith and Doug Basler who once again make it through the primary, after which Smith will easily defeat Basler in the general."