With President Donald Trump’s unfavorable ratings growing along with turnout, there has been much talk of a “blue wave” coming in November.
But while the blue wave is likely, Democratic zeal may also make strong incumbents — like Congressman Adam Smith (D-District 9) — vulnerable in the top two format to Republicans who are voting for a weaker Democrat in hopes of creating a more competitive district in the future.
There are also warning signs that some Republicans shouldn’t be written off too soon. A good example is the state Senate battle here in Federal Way and the 30th Legislative District. Democrats targeted Republican incumbent and conservative Mark Miloscia as vulnerable and recruited Federal Way School Board President Claire Wilson as the ideal candidate to defeat him. Wilson’s contrast with Miloscia in policy fits the perfect profile: Female, in a year favoring female candidates, strong on women’s health rights, gay rights, civil rights, school safety from guns, strong on education.
On primary election night, Wilson needed two things to occur. One was to keep Miloscia under 50 percent, which she did, as he took 48 percent. The other was to break the 40 percent barrier herself, which she didn’t at 38.3 percent.
In most cases the combined Democratic vote and Republican vote can be used to measure party voter strength heading into November. The third person in the primary was Democrat Tirzah Idahosa. This was Idahosa’s first race — she had no money, little name recognition and was not expected to get more than 6 to 8 percent. But Idahosa polled 13.5 percent, pushing the combined Democratic vote to 52 percent and leading Democrats to start counting the days until November. But will all of the people who voted for Idahosa vote for Wilson? In most races, the answer would be an easy yes.
But Miloscia is not only the incumbent, he is likely to receive significant state party support while independent groups continue to attack Wilson. Miloscia has always been a solid union vote. And his endorsements show that unions remember who voted with them. This will be a close race in November, and while Wilson may yet overtake Miloscia, for now, Miloscia remains the frontrunner.
Democratic State Rep. Kristine Reeves easily outpaced perennial office seeker Mark Greene with 63 percent, while fellow incumbent District 30 Democratic State Rep. Mike Pellicciotti led former state Rep. Linda Kochmar, 59 percent to 41 percent.
Each party puts money into winnable races. Republicans will put money into Miloscia’s race, but probably not into either of the local House races.
There are several races that give Democrats reason to believe in the blue wave and expansion of their one-vote margin in the state Senate. In the 26th District in Port Orchard, Republican State Sen. Jan Angel is not running again, and Democrat Emily Randall took 49 percent to Republican Marty McClendon’s 46 percent. An independent candidate took 4 percent. It will be close.
Farther north in the 42nd District, controversial Republican State Sen. Doug Ericksen appears to be in trouble at 46 percent, while two Democrats took a combined 54 percent.
In Spokane, the 6th District Senate seat is open as Michael Baumgartner is retiring, and Democrats want a blue district on the east side. But the Republican vote was 52 percent and the Democratic vote was 48 percent.
In the 47th District Senate race next door, incumbent Republican Joe Fain is the bellweather for Republicans, and has been called the most popular Republican in the county due to his victory margins and his ability to work with all sides. If he is in trouble, then all the Republicans are in trouble. But Fain has held off a spirited challenge from Mona Das, a local business owner, with 54 percent to her 46 percent.
Democrats should flip four seats in the Senate. And with the 5th, 25th, 26th and 42nd districts in play, Democrats could flip six to eight in the House.
However, trouble may lay ahead for Democratic incumbent Congressman Adam Smith in the 9th District. Smith is one of the most respected members of Congress, the district is Democratic, and the only way to beat Smith is from the left as he has consistently overwhelmed Republican opposition.
But he will be facing another Democrat in November. Smith is being challenged by Sarah Smith, who has overtaken Republican Doug Basler with 26.6 percent to Basler’s 24.76 percent for the second position. She has not held office before and doesn’t live in the district, which is not a requirement for Congress, but she will run to the left of the moderate incumbent.
The danger for Adam Smith is if Sarah Smith picks up a combination of far-left Democratic votes, along with moderate and far-right Republican votes, it could give her a higher combined percentage for the win in November.
Adam Smith’s record gives him the edge, but watch the race for signs of Republican crossover support for Sarah Smith. The goal of the far left and far right, two polar opposite interest groups, would be to defeat Adam Smith with Sarah Smith, then defeat her in two years, either in another intraparty battle or with Republicans putting up a stronger candidate.
The other fascinating race to watch is for Congress in the 8th District next door in Auburn. This should be a reliable Republican seat, which is being vacated by Republican Dave Reichert. The victor has always been assumed to be former state Sen. Dino Rossi.
But Rossi pulled in 43 percent on election night last week — below expectations. He is being challenged by three Democrats who are not nearly as well known as Rossi. If Democrats Kim Schrier (18.7 percent), Jason Rittereiser (18 percent) and Shannon Hader (13 percent) can unite their supporters, they may have enough strength to potentially snatch the seat from Republicans. Trump and turnout could be important, but this seat is in play.
Republicans could be looking at trouble in the 3rd Congressional District in Vancouver where Jaime Herrera Beutler has a battle to keep her seat. Democrat Carolyn Long outpolled her, but the combined Republican vote was higher than the combined Democratic vote by two points, which may save Herrera Beutler.
The biggest news in the Inland Empire of Spokane was incumbent Republican Cathy McMorris-Rodgers. She is the fourth highest ranking Republican, and was only 3.5 percent ahead of former Democratic state Sen. Lisa Brown. Democrats hope a big upset is brewing. But two other Republican candidates and a populist took another 5 percent, which should go to McMorris-Rodgers, potentially helping her survive.
Nationally the odds favor at least one House switching to Democratic.
This is why politicians play chess rather than checkers. You have to think several moves ahead, not one.
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.