Election battles set the stage for 2012 | Bob Roegner

The public’s message in last week’s election was pretty much “NO” to everything as they took out their frustration with the economy on candidates for office and government in general.

The public’s message in last week’s election was pretty much “NO” to everything as they took out their frustration with the economy on candidates for office and government in general.

As the country took a right turn, our state only veered slightly to the right. Voters were selective in how they communicated their message. Here in Washington, they said no to a sales tax increase in King County and repealed the tax on candy and soda pop, both of which were needed to help ailing county and state budgets. Given a chance to further cut public budgets by voting yes on the two liquor initiatives, they voted no, leaving the state and local governments with an income stream.

In a bigger signal, the voters decided that Senator Patty Murray’s seniority and ability to bring home jobs has significant value in these difficult times. By re-electing her, they also helped Democrats retain control of the United State Senate. Further, Murray’s “Get Out The Vote” effort may have also saved other state Democrats and helped them retain control of both state houses.

However, given the situation with the budget, state Democrats may prefer not to have the full responsibility, as the public’s other message to the Legislature was cut, cut, cut. With Democrats already in trouble with base supporters over the last round of cuts, Olympia won’t be much fun, as major cuts are on the way.

One of the more closely watched races was the Senate race between incumbent Democrat Tracey Eide and Republican challenger Tony Moore. This was a local version of the Patty Murray-Dino Rossi battle, as Eide holds a high-ranking leadership position and campaigned on her ability to bring home money and projects to benefit Federal Way. Moore tried to turn that asset into a liability by blaming her for all of the state’s financial woes. With significant outside money poured into the race, it became a series of charges and counter charges the past few weeks. Like Murray, Eide is the winner.

Federal Way voters demonstrated their independence by re-electing Democrat Mark Miloscia to one House seat, while at the same time electing Republican Katrina Asay to the other. This ensures that no matter who is in power, Federal Way has a voice in the state Legislature.

In the headliner, State Rep. Skip Priest’s lead over Federal Way City Councilman Jim Ferrell for mayor will hold. Priest will become Federal Way’s first directly elected mayor. As a longtime local office holder, former council member and past appointed mayor, Priest ran an incumbent-style race. His name recognition and “voter positives” were already high, and voters believed he would be the right person at the right time. Ferrell’s only chance to win was to create enough doubt in voters’ minds that they would consider an alternative. Ferrell’s strategy mirrored Priest’s as he sought to label Priest as the status quo and himself as the agent of change. It didn’t work.

Nationally, Republicans got a second chance, but not a mandate. Two major winners were “secrecy” in the form of independent expenditures from outside groups that don’t have to disclose where the money came from, and Tea Party candidates who won enough seats to create leverage in the Republican party. The Democrats retained control of the Senate. John Boehner will become the new Speaker in the Republican-controlled House.

Many liberals don’t think President Obama has gone far enough or fast enough to the left. The new Speaker will find himself being pulled farther to the right by the newly elected conservatives. Two different goals have emerged. Obama’s goal is to implement the agenda he was elected on. The Republican goal is to make Obama a one-term president. Hardly an agenda for cooperation. Former President Clinton survived a similar situation, so maybe they will find common ground. But remember everything you see for the next two years in both Washingtons, where there’s only one goal … winning in 2012.