While the 2008 election showed Democrats making solid gains on the national level, Republicans actually gained seats in the Washington State legislature.
It's not much - the state GOP appears likely to pick up just one seat in both the house and senate - but the fact that they were able to make those gains in the first place is a victory for the GOP.
In the state senate, the Democrats successfully defended one of their two most vulnerable seats and lost the other. In the 10th district, incumbent Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen defeated Republican Linda Haddon. However, in the the 2nd district, Republican Randi Becker unseated Sen. Marylin Rasmussen, a 22-year incumbent. This gives the GOP a net gain of one seat in the state senate.
In the state house, Democrats picked up an open seat in Vancouver's 17th district, where Democrat Tim Probst defeated Republican Joseph James. (The incumbent Republican, Rep. Jim Dunn, placed third and was eliminated in the August primary.)
In the 26th district, Republican Jan Angel—aided, as noted in earlier Slog post , by nearly $150,000 in independent expenditures—beat Democrat Kim Abel to succeed the retiring Rep Pat Lantz (D-Gig Harbor). The 26th, a swing district, has been trending Democratic recently, electing moderates like State Sen. Derek Kilmer and Rep. Larry Seaquist.
In Snohomish County's 44th district, Democratic Rep. Liz Loomis is currently down 98 votes to her challenger, Republican Mike Hope.
Then there's Spokane's 6th Legislative district:
Freshman Democratic Rep. Don Barlow was soundly defeated by Republican businessman Kevin Parker—another big PAC recipient. Barlow's seatmate, Republican Rep John Ahern, is also heading toward defeat: Democrat John Driscoll leads Ahern by 63 votes.
If these vote totals hold steady, Republicans will have a net gain of one seat in the house and one in the senate.
While Democrats still have big majorities in Olympia, those majorities actually could have been larger in 2008 if just a few races had gone the other way. Democrats again tried to knock off Federal Way Republican Rep. Skip Priest (R-30), one of only a handful of Republicans left in King County. Newcomer David Spring almost pulled off a big upset in Dino Rossi's old district (the 5th), getting within a few points of incumbent Glenn Anderson of Fall City. In the 10th district, Democrat Tim Knue narrowly lost his bid to unseat incumbent Republican Norma Smith.
For Republicans, the 2010 midterm elections hold a lot of promise. Fighting their way back to the majority will mean beating Speaker Frank Chopp at the game he plays best: Candidate recruitment.