Legislative races in WA: The balance of power | Bob Roegner

Several candidates are already maneuvering for positions as the legislative races start getting under way.

Half of the state Senate is up for re-election and all of the members of the state House. The balance of power in Olympia could be up for grabs, as the Democrats control the governor’s office, the House and Senate.

How will the public react to the increases that were used to balance the budget? New taxes on candy, soda pop and cigarettes have been dubbed the "7-11 taxes" by some media. The Democrats will argue that they cut a lot out of the budget to achieve a balance. The Democrats will also argue that they made difficult choices in trying to balance needs and services, and avoided causing harm to the state's citizens and programs that serve them.

The Republicans will counter that taxes should not have been raised, that more cuts could have occurred, and that if they are put in power, they will do a better job.

Below these partisan messages, there will be other intriguing questions for the voters to follow.

Controversial State Sen. Pam Roach (R-Auburn) has attracted several opponents including Federal Way police officer Raymond Bunk. Will this finally be the year that someone defeats her? Even Roach’s own party leaders in Olympia seem to have reached a breaking point. Have voters?

Democratic house member Chris Hurst, like many incumbents, is feeling the voters' anger even though he voted against his party leadership on some key issues.

Since the candidate declaration form allows candidates some latitude, he is planning to run as an “independent Democrat.”

He apparently wants to distance himself from the Democratic label, but doesn’t want to go too far. Voter reaction will be interesting.

Other races to watch include the District 47 battle between incumbent State Sen. Claudia Kaufman (D-Kent) and Republican challenger Joe Fain.

In the same district, pay close attention to Democratic incumbent State Rep. Geoff Simpson — he has worked his way out of tight spots before. Can he do it again?

The District 30 race between Democratic incumbent State Sen. Tracey Eide and Republican challenger and Federal Way School Board member Tony Moore might give us a good idea of what voters are thinking. Eide is in a powerful position and has passed some bills that most candidates would be glad to defend. But as a member of the leadership team in Olympia, she also had to take some tough votes.

Also, watch the race to replace State Rep. Skip Priest, who has vacated his seat to run for mayor of Federal Way. School board member Ed Barney and city councilman Jack Dovey will run for the seat, and Milton Mayor Katrina Asay is said to be interested. All are Republicans. Democrat businessman Roger Flygare is planning to run, and former state House candidate Carol Gregory may run again.

In addition to state budget and tax issues, how will the public react to the national debate on health care? The economy? Public safety and education?

And will the Tea Party movement have any impact? Demographically, Tea Party members have tended to vote Republican. But will their high profile attract independents who may have typically leaned Democratic?

As always, it will be fun to watch.

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