2012 Washington state election predictions | Bob Roegner

King County has approximately one-third of the state’s voters and frequently determines the winners.

The key is turnout, as 80 percent of voters are predicted to return their ballots. That is actually down by 4 percent from four years ago.

Democrats have had the stronger ground game with their Get out the Vote program the past few years. A big turnout in heavily Democratic Seattle could make the difference, but the polls in the past two weeks have shown the Republicans closing the gap in the races for governor and attorney general.

Attorney general is the second biggest prize after the governorship. Democratic King County Councilman Bob Ferguson is running against fellow councilman and Republican Reagan Dunn. Ferguson has been the front-runner, but Dunn took away two major issues when he came out in support of gay marriage and choice. It caused some problems with conservatives, but it helped with independents and moderates, and the conservatives will vote for him anyway. Two good candidates in a tight race. A minuscule edge to Ferguson.

In the race for King County sheriff, appointed incumbent Steve Strachan has the experience. He was Kent’s police chief prior to being tapped as the top deputy by previous Sheriff Sue Rahr before her departure for another job. He was then appointed to the top spot. But his opponent, John Urquhart, may be more well known to the public as the longtime spokesperson for the King County Sheriff’s Office. His list of endorsements is impressive, but his management experience is not as strong as Strachan’s. This race could go either way. Conventional wisdom says that Strachan holds on.

Democrats will retain control of the state Senate, but with only a two- to three-vote margin. It will be close enough for Republicans to attract conservative Democratic votes and force some compromises internally and with the House.

Democrats will retain control of the state House of Representatives, but will lose two to four seats. Locally in the 30th District, Republicans Katrina Asay and Linda Kochmar should win.

I-502, the initiative to legalize marijuana, has been a one-sided affair as supporters have raised more than $4 million while the opposition has raised very little. Even police have been split and subdued in their participation. If it doesn’t pass this time, it will in the future.

I-1240, which would allow charter schools, is back again and the debate is just as vigorous. Due to the court’s ruling, the broader debate in our state has been more about “full funding” of basic education rather than changing the system. Key supporters such as Bill Gates, the parents of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, and Nick Hanauer have contributed more than $2 million.

They argue that children and parents need more options and that the current system is not helping them. Opponents, including many teachers, argue that charter schools would take needed funding away from the public school system and reduce oversight — potentially creating a “have” and “have not” system.

Nationally, charter schools have become more common, but have a mixed record. The public still seems leery. It is likely to fail.

I-1185 would reimpose a requirement of having a two-thirds vote in the state House and Senate or voter approval to raise taxes. It has passed four times already as the public seems mistrustful of giving the state Legislature that power. Opponents argue that the law ties lawmakers’ hands, and that if they want to raise taxes, they should have that option and then be accountable to the voters. It will pass again.

Proposition One to rebuild Federal Way High School should finally pass.

In Congress all the incumbents will win. Democrats Suzan DelBene, Denny Heck and Derek Kilmer will become new Congressmen. Incumbent U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) will win.

Incumbent statewide office holders will all be re-elected. Democrats will also take two other statewide offices as Troy Kelley is likely to win the auditor’s job, and  Kathleen Drew will win the secretary of state race.

Democrat Jay Inslee led the race for governor coming out of the primary, but the latest polling says Republican Rob McKenna is up by 1 percent. It’s a toss-up. My expert advisers are split, but lean toward McKenna in a nail biter.

Nationally, the Democrats will retain control of the U.S. Senate and the Republicans will hold the House of Representatives. Watch to see how the Tea Party members fare — it will tell you the public mood.

Lastly, President Barack Obama will win our state. However, Mitt Romney has picked up momentum nationwide and may be ahead in the popular vote. In 2000, Al Gore won the popular vote but not the presidency. The electoral college determines the winner. And with about 243 electoral votes, Obama’s path seems easier than Romney’s path. Romney has about 206, even though he has cut deeply into the president’s lead. On election night, watch Florida and Virginia. If they go to Romney as expected, Obama’s hopes rest on Ohio. If Romney captures Ohio, Obama has to take Wisconsin and Colorado and maybe Nevada — otherwise, Romney wins.

Obama has consistently led in Ohio by two points, but is now tied. If Obama wins Ohio, his path to 270 electoral votes is easier.

Also in a correction from my column last week: Olympia Democratic cash donations to Roger Freeman’s campaign against Republican incumbent Katrina Asay were not large. However, they did make a significant in-kind contribution of over $40,000.

It has been one of the most interesting campaign seasons I can remember. But we hold elections for a reason. You, the voter, get to decide. Vote wisely.


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