With the Presidency not leaning hard enough toward Biden to make anyone happy, dim prospects for a Dem takeover in the U.S. Senate, and the GOP doing much better than anyone thought they would in the U.S. House, the country more or less looks like a pulsing open wound—but Washington looks great!
With over 3,355,000 ballots counted statewide, and with over 540,000 votes left to count, here are some developing trends.
Dems are dominating up and down the I-5 corridor. If the current leads hold, Democrats will pick up one seat in the State Senate while also gaining a more progressive member in Ingrid Anderson over in the 5th Legislative District. They'll also pick up two seats in the State House.
The problem is the leads are narrow, and consultants think Big Early Vote Energy among Dems this cycle could mean later votes lean conservative. For instance, Anderson only leads the more conservative Democratic incumbent, Mark Mullet, by under 1,000 votes. Up in the 10th LD, Democratic challenger Helen Price Johnson leads first-term Republican State Sen. Ron Muzzall by a little less than two points. Down in the 28th LD, however, T'wina Nobles established a 3.6-point lead over the incumbent Republican State Senator, Steve O'Ban, which is pretty, pretty, preeeeetttty fucking solid. But with the clear loss of Democratic State Senator Dean Takko over on the coast, these little leads need to hold for Dems to maintain their majority.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's Nilofar Ganjaie says she's "hopeful" the gains will hold, and adds that the committee is "immediately" gearing up to chase ballots in the 10th and the 28th LDs.
Over on the House side, Dems will likely hold the open seats they were worried about, lose only one of the three "tough" holds, and win the rest. Of particular note: down in Proud Boy country (the 17th LD), Tanisha Harris leads arch conservative Vicki Kraft by a little over 1,600 votes after being down by about 800 votes in the primary. And up in the 10th LD, Democrat Angie Homola leads Republican Greg Gilday by nearly 2.5 points, which makes me feel less worried about the islands. Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, who chairs the State Dem's campaign committee, says he thinks Dem candidates will maintain their leads, but "a lot will depend on what direction today's ballot drop goes."
Dems flipped Pierce and Thurston County Councils blue, which is kinda nuts. The Pierce County Council hasn't held a Democratic majority since 2004, and the Thurston County Council hasn't had one since 2016. Pierce County has been a transit blockade for a while now, and it's looking like that curse will lift, especially with Democrat Jani Hitchen up nearly 6 points over Republican Jason Whalen.
Black Dems in particular did well. If the Black candidates maintain their leads, then there will finally be at least one Black person in the State Senate, the number of Black women in the Leg will rise from two to seven, and Black representation in Olympia in general will rise from 2.7% to 6.8%. Washington state is 4.4% Black.
Incumbents Reps. John Lovick, Jesse Johnson, Debra Entenman, and Melanie Morgan established comfortable leads. Kirsten Harris-Talley is a lock in the 37th LD, challenger David Hackney easily booted an 18-year incumbent in the 11th LD (RIP Zack Hudgins), challenger Tanisha Harris is looking strong down in the 17th LD, challenger T'wina Nobles is looking good, Jamila Taylor will likely take the open seat down in the 30th LD, and April Berg is holding it down up in the 44th LD. Only Sherae Lascelles and Joy Stanford trail their opponents by significant numbers.
The Republican stranglehold on the Secretary of State's office could be loosening.
A ruby red Republican has held the Washington Secretary of State seat since 1965. Former Rep. Gael Tarleton might be able to swing a Democratic win for the first time in a generation, but she'll need the rest of the votes coming in to trend progressive.
After Tuesday night, incumbent Kim Wyman led Tarleton by 3%. Over 119,800 votes separated them. Tarleton, however, did way better in the general than she did in the primary. Back in August, Tarleton finished with 43% of the vote to Wyman's 50%. Turnout is higher in the general election and Washington voted blue down the ballot. Maybe subsequent ballot turns will yield a Tarleton win? According to Crosscut analyst Ben Anderstone, those later votes are likely to of trend more conservative this election since most (75%) of Democrats had turned their ballots in by last week compared to 62% of Republicans. And normally a 3% lead in a statewide election is a pretty safe lead, but Tarleton is doing better than Tina Podlodowski, who lost to Wyman by nearly 9.5 points in 2016.
The Stranger panicked the exact right amount about sex ed: A strong showing from Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal and a big-ass lead for the comprehensive sexual health education measure means large majorities of Washingtonians read the Slog and believed the Slog (and/or perhaps read and believed the mailers the unions paid for). Even if the state experiences a touch of the old "blue mirage," wherein the later votes trend red, Reykdal's nearly 14-point lead over bullshit-artist Maia Espinoza should hold, as will R90's 20-point lead. If the districts actually do what they're supposed to do and implement the scientifically accurate, age-appropriate sexual health curricula the state approves, then our kids will grow up safer and healthier and hopefully less rapey!
We could have gotten more for transit. Seattle's Proposition 1 to fund the Seattle Transit Benefit District (STBD) and pay for 15-minute bus service throughout the city, free ORCA cards for high school students, and more, passed in the city with 81% of the vote as of Tuesday's ballot drop. While those numbers are fantastic, they're also frustrating. The sales tax Seattle overwhelmingly passed could have been bigger, and it could have done more for transit.
This STBD is a renewal of a 2014 tax. Before COVID-19 hit and Tim Eyman's I-976 passed (and was repealed, obviously), the 2020 STBD was supposed to increase bus service and get 10-minute service citywide. The version we passed maintains existing 15-minute bus service citywide. But, Jenny Durkan originally proposed a 0.1% sales tax—the same sales tax the 2014 STBD had, but without any car tab fees. Durkan's plan would have raised up to $36 million less than the 2014 STBD. The Seattle City Council recognized this and boosted the tax to 0.15%, funding transit 50% more than Durkan's proposal and still around $14 million less than the 2014 STBD. However, the more progressive council members (Tammy Morales and Kshama Sawant), proposed a 0.2% sales tax to increase transit service, not just maintain it. The tax would pass, they argued. Seattle votes for transit.
Ultimately, the council voted for the 0.15% tax to avoid overly burdening Seattleites with more regressive taxation. They have a point. Regressive taxes suck. Still, Washington's system is so fucked that the best and pretty much only way to pay for transit is through regressive taxes like sales tax and car tab fees. On top of all of this, the Supreme Court found I-976 was unconstitutional last month. By then, it was too late to use car tab fees for STBD funding. The council will need to pass a measure to either increase car tab fees to $40 (the council already has a $20 fee in place), or try to put increased car tab fees for transit on the next election's ballot. Seattle will probably vote for it. Seattle votes for transit.
King County wants police reform. All the King County Charter Amendments are leading with large margins, including "controversial" ones that would see the Sheriff appointed (and so more attendant to the will of the democratically elected Council and Executive rather than the Sheriff's union) and give the County the power to change the duties of the Sheriff's office. Until we seriously reform police unions, securing real police reforms will be difficult—but these amendments passing will be a good start.