Washington state Democrats hope to ride the blue wave in 2008

Most of the public generally believes the state Legislature can probably do better. However, most of the public also tends to believe their legislators are doing a good job. It’s those legislators from other areas that are the problem. Therein rests the likely outcome for this year’s legislative races. When the votes are tabulated, most incumbents will probably be re-elected and the Democrats will retain comfortable margins in both the House and the Senate.

Most of the public generally believes the state Legislature can probably do better.

However, most of the public also tends to believe their legislators are doing a good job. It’s those legislators from other areas that are the problem. Therein rests the likely outcome for this year’s legislative races.

When the votes are tabulated, most incumbents will probably be re-elected and the Democrats will retain comfortable margins in both the House and the Senate.

This is believed to be a Democratic year in the state, so don’t look for significant change.

Some Republican candidates are leery enough that they have gone with the more subtle “GOP” (Grand Old Party) as their party preference on the ballot.

Also, the new top two format is providing some interesting subplots. This format allows two candidates from the same party to pass through to the general election — if they get more votes than a candidate from the opposing party. This format has emboldened some candidates to run who otherwise might not have run.

So your general election ballot could have two Democrats or two Republicans for a particular seat.

Here are some of the more interesting races to watch:

• In the 47th District (Covington/Maple Valley area), the House seat occupied by Geoff Simpson (D) appears to be in play. Simpson was in the news for an altercation with his ex-wife. Though ultimately the charges were dropped, he attracted not only a Republican challenger, Mark Hargrove, but also another Democrat in Leslie Kae Hamada. By contrast, Simpson’s seatmate, Pat Sullivan (D), has one challenger and appears to be in good shape.

• In the 30th District, which is primarily Federal Way, incumbent Skip Priest (R) could provide one of the more interesting contrasts in how the public is voting, if this is, as conventional wisdom suggests, a Democratic year. How will that affect a longtime, well-known and well-respected Republican moderate like Priest?

Priest’s two legislative colleagues, Sen. Tracy Eide (not up for re-election this year) and Rep. Mark Miloscia, are Democrats. Miloscia’s opponent, Michael Thompson (R), isn’t going to mount too much of a threat unless he can raise a lot of money.

Priest’s opponent is former Washington Education Association (WEA) President and longtime resident Carol Gregory (D), who had some big names at her campaign kick-off. This race becomes even more intriguing when you know that many WEA members thought enough of Priest and his education record to encourage him to run for Superintendent of Public Instruction. Priest decided to run for his current seat.

Federal Way leans slightly toward Democrats statistically, but Priest survived the last “blue wave.” So, watch this race.

• In the 41st District Senate race (Mercer Island and Renton areas), former Republican-now-Democrat Fred Jarrett is giving up his House seat to run for the Senate seat vacated by Brian Weinstein. Efforts to recruit a big name didn’t pan out and only Republican Bob Baker has stepped forward to challenge Jarrett.

Also in the 41st District, Marcie Maxwell (D), a Renton School Board member, and Steve Litzow (R), a Mercer Island City Council member, will run for Jarrett’s vacant seat. History would seem to favor Litzow, but there’s that Democratic tide question again.

• The new top two format may have affected the Senate race in District 11 (Renton), where incumbent Margarita Prentice (D) has attracted two challengers from her own party, Scott McKay and Juan Martinez.

• The other district to watch might be the 31st District (Auburn-Enumclaw), which has an incumbent House member from each party. Dan Roach (R) is being challenged by Ron Weigelt (D) and Chris Hurst (D) and two Republican challengers, Josh Hulburt and Sharon Hanek.

• The last race to watch is Position 1 in the 45th District, which is held by Democrat Roger Goodman. He is being challenged by Republican Toby Nixon, who used to hold the seat, but gave it up to run unsuccessfully for the Senate. Incumbent Goodman may benefit by the movement of the district toward Democrats, but Nixon probably has higher name identification.

Will the voters favor incumbents? Will they favor a particular party? And will this be a Democratic year, or is that just punditry?

These races might provide a clue. If others start to heat up, we’ll take a closer look at them.

Put this on the refrigerator and keep track in your area. These races won’t be boring.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner, a former mayor of Auburn: bjroegner@comcast.net.


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