Last night, the voters made their feelings known through the primary election. Most of you are going to be looking at those returns to see who will advance to November.
But most of the political insiders will be looking deeper at what “message” the voters were sending and whether preconceived conventional wisdom held up. More importantly, how will that affect the results in the general election?
Conventional thinking was that the voters are very angry and this could be an anti-incumbent year. Since so many incumbents are Democrats, the logical conclusion is that it could be an anti-Democratic year as well. Also, in an off-year cycle, which this is, the party not holding the White House traditionally makes gains nationally, which in turn affects state and local races. The White House is held by a Democrat, which should benefit Republicans.
An additional consideration this year that no one is sure how to interpret is the Tea Party movement. Most of the Tea Party supporters are conservative and would likely vote Republican. But are they “new” Republican votes or would they have voted Republican anyway? If so, their impact may not be significant. In our state, “moderates” usually win in November. So both parties usually advance moderates out of the primary. If the Tea Party movement is having an impact, then more conservatives may come out of the primary. The last item to watch is the “popularity” races, where each party has one person on the ballot, but both automatically advance. In those races, raw numbers will dictate whether the races are competitive, and that has a major impact on donations from special interest groups.
When you look at last night’s returns, here are some races to check.
• Over in Auburn’s 47th District, Democratic incumbent Geoff Simpson is considered very vulnerable after some media coverage of his legal and divorce issues. There are two Republican opponents: Mark Hargrove, who ran two years ago and lost, and Nancy Wyatt, who is president of the Auburn Chamber of Commerce. Hargrove is considered the more conservative of the two. But some Republicans believe Wyatt has a better chance of capturing the seat in November, as she would pick up more independents. This primary will tell us a little about how strong the conservative ideology of the Tea Party movement is relative to the pragmatism of winning in November among Republicans. Also, watch Simpson’s raw numbers to see how much the media coverage affected his vote total.
• Up north, watch the vote totals for Republican David Baker against two well-known Democrats for State Senate in the 32nd District. Closer to home, watch incumbent Republican Pam Roach’s vote count. She has an inter-party challenge and two Democrats.
• But two races that are popularity contests, meaning both will advance to the general, might give us even more insight: Democratic incumbent State Sen. Claudia Kauffman in the 47th District and State Sen. Tracey Eide in the 30th District. Republican Joe Fain is running against Kauffman, and Tony Moore is after Eide’s seat. If the two Republicans are within 6 to 7 points, it will be a horse race. If the Democrats lead by more than 9 points, it will be hard for the Republicans to raise money.
• Lastly, watch U.S. Senator Patty Murray. There is a huge split in the Republican Party primary, which should give Murray a bigger total vote than you might expect. If it doesn’t, and Rossi is at all close, this race could tighten up significantly.
Now go back and look at all those results again — and figure out what the public is trying to tell us.