The hardest part of the campaign may be over for law clerk David Sawyer.
If early returns hold up, his fellow Tacoma Democrat Ben Lawver will be eliminated from the race for state House after placing third in Tuesday’s primary election.
That would leave Republican business consultant Terry Harder as an obstacle between Sawyer and the Legislature, and Sawyer said he’s taking nothing for granted – but it would be a major upset for a Republican to win in the Democrat-heavy urban district.
“I’m very excited to be in the position I’m in,” Sawyer said by phone, attributing it to “knocking on nearly 10,000 doors, talking to voters. I think in a community like ours, people appreciate when you actually ask for them for their vote.”
Lawver wasn’t throwing in the towel, but blamed a negative campaign by Sawyer for the results that showed him trailing with just 24 percent of votes.
“I think my opponent spent a tremendous amount of time spreading lies about me,” said Lawver, a union organizer who was attacked for moving into the district this year from another part of Tacoma. “If he’s willing to lie as a candidate, we’ll see what he’s like as a legislator.”
The top two candidates in the primary results advance to the Nov. 6 general election, regardless of party.
Returns offered an early sign of how general election contests between Democrats in the 27th District might be shaping up, with state Rep. Jeannie Darneille trouncing lawyer Jack Connelly by a 59-41 margin for the Senate and Tacoma City Councilman Jake Fey leading Councilwoman Lauren Walker by a smaller 52-48 margin for the House.
Republicans, though, settled their intraparty competitions in legislative races in the Lakewood, Puyallup and Federal Way areas.
Federal Way City Councilwoman Linda Kochmar and Democrat Roger Flygare led a pack of candidates for one House race, while Federal Way School Board President Tony Moore was in fourth place and facing elimination.
Republicans hope Kochmar will help them cut into Democrats’ 56-42 House majority.
Republican state Sen. Randi Becker of Eatonville was dispatching a challenge from within her party. James Vaughn of Orting, a former Army budget analyst and Republican, was running third behind Democrat Bruce Lachney and Becker.
Becker hopes to win a second term representing the libertarian-tinged 2nd Legislative District, which spans from Yelm to Puyallup’s South Hill.
Democratic leaders recruited Lachney, an Eatonville cranberry farmer and former school board member, to try to retake the Senate seat in hopes of hanging on to or expanding their slim 27-22 majority.
Voters winnowed down a field of six candidates to two in the 25th District centered on Puyallup.
Former state Rep. Dawn Morrell took a step toward returning to Olympia, while Shelly Schlumpf appeared headed toward victory on the Republican side.
Democrat Eric Hingsberger and Republicans Carole Sue Braaten, Zac Nix and Michele Smith all trailed in the race for the seat held by GOP Rep. Bruce Dammeier, who is running for the state Senate.
Schlumpf, who runs the local Chamber of Commerce, is running for the Legislature for the first time. Morrell, a nurse, rose as high as caucus chairwoman for the majority Democrats before losing her House seat by just 30 votes in 2010 to Hans Zeiger.
Gig Harbor eighth-grade teacher and Democrat Karin Ashabraner emerged Tuesday as the fall challenger to Republican Rep. Jan Angel of Port Orchard, who led all candidates.
Stephen Greer of Wauna, an attorney running as a Democrat, was in third place. He hadn’t been raising much money in the 26th District that stretches from the Tacoma Narrows bridges to Port Orchard, which tends to be home to expensive races as a result of its even balance between Republican and Democratic voters.
Tacoma lawyer Steve O’Ban and University Place City Councilman Eric Choiniere will face off in November for another open seat and another pickup opportunity for Republicans.
The seat in the 28th District, which encircles Joint Base Lewis-McChord and runs as far north as the Narrows bridges, was left open by Rep. Troy Kelley’s run for state auditor. Trailing was Ken Campbell, a University Place real estate agent and Republican who had not been raising money.
In another House race with lopsided spending, voters in the 28th District also picked Paul Wagemann to advance over fellow Lakewood Republican Malcolm Russell, a Pierce County Planning Commission member. The two were vying for the right to take on Rep. Tami Green, a Democrat who led both her rivals.
It will be a rematch of 2010’s race, when Wagemann, a consultant and Clover Park School Board member, lost to Green, a nurse.
The heated Democratic duel between first-time candidates Lawver and Sawyer was taking place in the 29th District, covering South End and South Tacoma and parts of Lakewood, Parkland and Spanaway.
Lawver moved there this year while trying to sell his house in central Tacoma. Sawyer accuses him of changing his address for political purposes and sent out a mail advertisement leveling that attack, while not mentioning that Lawver has moved in and out of the District throughout his adult life. Sawyer grew up in Puyallup and moved to the 29th less than three years ago.
Sawyer cut his political teeth in Iowa in 2008 helping then-candidate Barack Obama win his first nominating contest. He co-owns an advocacy and lobbying firm with former Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg.
Republican Harder, who sells Staples products to small businesses and has owned his own computer-repair company, has made previous unsuccessful runs for House and Senate.
In the District that centers on Federal Way and includes Milton and Pacific, Democratic Rep. Mark Miloscia gave up his seat to run for state auditor. The open seat drew Republicans Moore, Kochmar, and Boeing millwright Jerry Galland, along with Democrats Flygare, owner of a court reporting business, and Thom Macfarlane, a technology-industry consultant.
Kochmar, a 14-year councilwoman and a risk manager for Lakehaven Utility District, was in the lead. Moore, a tire wholesaler who has presided over big changes in the local school system, trailed Kochmar, Flygare and Macfarlane.
In the district’s other House race, Republican Rep. Katrina Asay was leading and Federal Way City Councilman Roger Freeman was ahead in the competition to challenge her.
Freeman, recruited by Democratic legislative leaders, was edging out Boeing engineer Rick Hoffman.