Election night revealed that the blue wave was more of a slosh than a wave, as Democrats took control of the U.S. House of Representatives and Republicans maintained control of the Senate. But the national comment on President Donald Trump was clearly one of anger with a huge turnout of 49 percent of all eligible voters voting, and 58 percent of those voted Democrat, while only 42 percent cast ballots for Republicans. Democrats needed to win 23 new seats to take over the national House of Representatives and may get as many as 38 by the time the votes are final. In the Senate, Republicans only had to defend nine seats and Democrats had to defend 26, but Republicans will only increase their Senate margin from one to two votes in the final tabulation.
Trump did everything he could to make the election about him and his base, rather than policy differences. But as one pundit said, moderate Republicans finally paid the price for the Access Hollywood tape, as several went down to defeat amid a significant voter turnout of women candidates and voters.
Here in our Washington, one of those 38 switches was a major upset in the the 8th District, as Republican Dino Rossi was defeated by Democrat Dr. Kim Schrier in her first run for office. Even though Rossi had lost three other races, he was thought to be the front runner from the beginning. But Schrier, along with a huge number of women candidates nation-wide ran, and won as a message to Trump.
In other congressional races, all the incumbents from both parties won. In our Congressional district, trying to run to the left of Adam Smith didn’t work as he won big at 70-30 percent, and he will likely now wield significant influence as chair of the House Armed Services committee. Democrats thought they might take out Jamie Herrera-Butler after the primary but at 53-47 percent she ended up with a comfortable win.
In our state, Democrats retained control of both Houses, but with more maneuvering room, as their lead will shift from 25-24 to 27-22 in the Senate. In the lower House, their current two-vote advantage could be as high as 57-41 when the results are certified.
Trump’s impact was also felt locally with a 72 percent turnout in King County, as Federal Way had a ringside seat to the biggest race in the state with incumbent Republican Mark Miloscia’s being challenged by school board president Claire Wilson. Wilson won 54 percent to Miloscia’s 46 percent. When they are done counting the money, it will be one of the most expensive legislative races in state history. It will also serve as a point of education on why “dark” money, spent by special interest groups, needs to be reformed with more transparency, as over a million dollars will have been spent for and against the two candidates. Most of it will be very hard to track and determine who was spending it and why. Miloscia had become a target because of some unfavorable comments he made about the women’s march after Trump’s election as president.
The other upset in the Senate was next door in Auburn as Republican rising star Joe Fain suffered the reaction to the climate of anger Trump created. Miloscia was a Trump supporter; Fain was not. Fain has been one of the most respected leaders of the Senate and typically worked across the aisle with Democrats on progressive legislation. But an allegation of sexual misconduct prior to becoming a legislator took its toll. Fain had denied the charge and called for an investigation. But with no clear path for an investigation to resolve the allegation prior to the election, the electorate was left to choose in the Trump-created environment. The Democrats had hoped to pick up two other seats, one of which now looks unlikely. The Fain seat was unexpected.
As expected, Democratic incumbents Kristine Reeves and Mike Pellicciotti won comfortably with each gaining over 60 percent of the vote. In the surrounding districts, Democrat incumbents were re-elected and Democratic challenger Debra Etirenman defeated Republican Mark Hargrove in the 47th to pick up another House seat.
With the east side of Lake Washington turning more blue over the last few years and the high profile losses of Miloscia, Fain and Hargrove, some Republicans are questioning if any Republican can still win in King county.
With the big Democratic turnout, the four initiatives on the ballot were expected to pass but only two were successful. I-1631 regarding pollution, and I-1634 against taxes on groceries (actually soda pop), both failed due to creative campaign advertising and spending.
But I-1639, regarding additional requirements on firearms and I-940 requiring additional police training for use of force, both passed as the public decided to take matters into their own hands after years of government stalemate.
Both have application here in Federal Way as the public has wanted to ensure the safety of our children. I-940 was very timely in its passage, as calls to establish a police accountability board have become part of the community debate since two cases of “use of force “ became public. In one, the victim was awarded $640,000,which the city is appealing; and another was recently filed for $3 million over a police shooting. Mayor Jim Ferrell and the police department oppose the measure and may try to avoid the accountability debate by arguing that I-940 captures many of the requirements the community and City Council were considering. But the passage of I-940 actually highlighted voter support and the need for implementation of an accountability board and should still be pursued by the City Council.
That was a truly exciting election. Now rest up through Thanksgiving, because next years races for City Council have already started.
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.