Opinion

Democrats might lose a few House seats | Bob Roegner

Democrats control the state House of Representatives 56-42 going into the election.

They believe they will still be in control after the election. However, they may lose a couple of seats in the process.

Conversely, Republicans feel they have a chance to take the House.

In looking at key races, Republican control seems unlikely. But they may be able to reduce the Democrats’ margin and set the stage for 2014. And right here in Federal Way may be two of the more interesting races in the state to watch.

Federal Way is in the 30th Legislative District and has one Democratic and one Republican House member.

In position one, Democrat Mark Miloscia gave up his seat to run for state auditor and lost in the primary. Federal Way City Councilwoman Linda Kochmar, a Republican, pulled 26.41 percent. She will face Democrat Roger Flygare, who carried 25.78 percent of the vote, in November to replace Miloscia.

There were 11,365 total Republican votes cast and 9,430 total Democratic votes cast in the primary, which on the surface would seem to favor Kochmar.

If you’re running against an incumbent, conventional wisdom is you need to keep them under 50 percent in the primary to be able to convince funding groups you have a chance to win in November.

Katrina Asay, the Republican incumbent in position two, received 48.5 percent of the primary vote, and the combined Democratic vote was about 51.5 percent. Democrats think they have a good chance to win the seat with Federal Way City Councilman Roger Freeman.

More about these two races will appear in a future column.

The Senate race in the 10th District has captured most of the attention with Republican Rep. Barbara Bailey vacating her seat to challenge Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen. Democrats hope to win Bailey’s seat with Tom Riggs, who won 48.4 percent in the primary. However, the 10th District is a conservative district and the numbers suggest Dave Hayes, with 51.6 percent of the primary vote, will hold the seat in the Republican column.

In the 25th District, Republican Rep. Bruce Dammeier is running for the Senate, and there is a very close race emerging between Democrat Dawn Morrell, a former House member, and Republican Shelly Schlumpf.

Morrell took 46.5 percent in the primary to Schlumpf’s 31.5 percent. The overall Democratic vote total was only about 400 more than the Republican vote total. Morrell goes into the general as the likely winner, but this is one where the Republicans could pick up a seat.

Farther south in the 35th District, Republicans feel they might be able to take position two, as Drew MacEwen pulled 42.5 percent of the vote in a multi-candidate race. Democrat Lynda Ring-Erickson received only 28 percent.

Even though the 35th District is a conservative district, it is also a Democratic district.

Ring-Erickson’s total may not have been high, but another Democrat had 23 percent that will likely go to her. The total vote favored the Democrats by more than 3,000 votes. An independent candidate had almost 6 percent of the vote, and those votes could make it close, but Ring-Erickson should win.

For those of you with long political memories: Ring-Erickson has local connections. She worked for the City of Kent, and also was executive director of the Suburban Cities Association before moving south.

One position that the Democrats had hoped to win was in the 47th District over in the Maple Valley area. Democrat Pat Sullivan holds one seat and Republican Mark Hargrove has the other. With Sullivan winning 58 percent, Democrats thought he might help carry well regarded Bud Sizemore to a win over Hargrove and gain a seat. That doesn’t appear likely, as Hargrove walked off with 54 percent in the primary.

Republicans also hope to pick up a seat in the 28th District, where a close race is developing between Democrat Tami Green and Republican Paul Wagemann. While Green captured 51.3 percent to Wagemann’s 37.2 percent in the primary, the total votes had the Democrats leading by only about 600 votes. Green is favored, but voter turnout will decide the outcome.

In looking at the numbers, it appears the Democrats will retain control of the House. But they are likely to lose at least two seats, and possibly four, reducing their margin.

The Republicans will use this gain to build toward 2014. The loss of a couple of seats may also help the Democrats. Republicans have always been able to maintain party discipline because as the minority party, it was the only way to have an impact. The Democrats have had a large enough majority that maintaining party discipline has sometimes been a challenge.

If the Speaker’s Office was held by someone with less political skills than Frank Chopp, the Democrats may have split on enough issues to increase the Republicans’ leverage. Chopp has held them together with carrots and sticks. If their margin is reduced, it may actually be easier for Chopp to maintain the necessary discipline to force compromise with what is likely to be a divided and difficult Senate.

If the Democrats keep marginal control of the Senate and full control of the House, the winner in the governor’s race will become crucial to how the agenda is set. Both Jay Inslee and Rob McKenna will be paying very close attention.


 

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