Democratic candidates who are key to their party’s quest to take over the state Senate were trailing in west Pierce County, Federal Way and elsewhere in Tuesday’s primary election.
Those were essentially straw polls giving an idea of where candidates stand three months before the Nov. 4 general election. But Republicans were celebrating nonetheless.
“As you look around the state, I think voters are looking for an alternative to a one-party state,” GOP Sen. Steve O’Ban said.
The Tacoma lawyer led Lakewood Democrat, nurse and five-term Rep. Tami Green by a wide margin in one of this year’s biggest-spending legislative races, one that could be critical to state government’s balance of power.
O’Ban won an appointment to the Senate last year after the death of Mike Carrell in the 28th District, which is centered on Joint Base Lewis-McChord. He spent $233,000 to Green’s $90,000 and benefited from another $100,000 in independent spending to just $7,000 for Green.
“I’ve got to up my game. I was being frugal with my money,” said Green, who partly blamed low turnout for the results. “I get my money from middle-class people and I try to run a really frugal campaign, and he outspent me about two and a half times.”
Interest groups and political parties gave heavily to both candidates. Both predicted the money would keep flowing even with O’Ban’s large lead in the primary.
While playing defense there, Republicans were on offense in south King County in a contest between two Federal Way residents. Democrat Shari Song was trailing Republican Mark Miloscia in the race to replace Sen. Tracey Eide, a Democrat. Song switched districts to run; Miloscia switched parties.
Senate Republicans lead a coalition with a 26-to-23 majority but are expected to lose at least one member of that team due to the departure of Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, a Democrat.
The other Democrat in the coalition, Sen. Tim Sheldon of Potlatch, was in a tight race Tuesday that appeared too close to call. First-day vote returns showed Sheldon and two challengers each collecting roughly a third of the vote.
But in key Senate results elsewhere, it was a good night for incumbents, most of them Republicans. Sens. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, Andy Hill, R-Redmond, Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, and Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, were leading their challengers in races that all continue into the fall.
In the House, two school-board members were leading the wide-open race to succeed Green: Democratic lawyer Christine Kilduff, president of the University Place School Board, and Republican Paul Wagemann, a mortgage originator and retired U.S. Marine Corps officer from Lakewood who sits on the Clover Park School Board.
Close behind was Republican restaurateur Monique Trudnowski, co-owner of Adriatic Grill near the Tacoma Mall. The fourth- and fifth- place contestants, Lakewood Democrat John Connelly and independent Kevin Heiderich of Fircrest, were far behind.
That was one of many contested races in which one Republican and one Democrat will advance to a general-election faceoff. But in the 31st District of east Piece and southeast King counties, Auburn Sen. Pam Roach and her challenger, Enumclaw Rep. Cathy Dahlquist, are both Republicans.
The two were running neck and neck and defeating Lynda Messner, whose comments in Internet forums had called into question her stated preference for the Democratic Party. Now the no-holds-barred grudge match continues for Roach, a 24-year veteran of the Senate, and Dahlquist, who has allied with a moderate Democratic House member in a joint campaign.
The same district has a House race that will pit Republican Drew Stokesbary, a King County council aide from Auburn, against Democrat Mike Sando, an Enumclaw city councilman and teacher. They were leading Jonathon Dunn of Lake Tapps, who was on the ballot as an independent Democrat.
And in the 2nd District of south Pierce and east Thurston counties, second-term Yelm Republican Rep. J.T. Wilcox will face a Libertarian from Orting, Steven Nielson. They advanced over Rick Payne of Graham, who identified on the ballot with the Marijuana party.
Seeking his first full term, Rep. Jesse Young of Gig Harbor survived his first test against fellow Republican Bill Scheidler of Port Orchard. But the top vote-getter in the 26th District of west Pierce and south Kitsap counties was Democrat Nathan Schlicher, a Gig Harbor doctor who was appointed to the Senate last year only to be defeated in an expensive election by Angel. Young was then appointed to replace Angel in the House.
In Tacoma, Democratic Rep. Jake Fey will win a second term if he can defeat Republican pastor Steven Cook in a district that leans heavily to the Democrats, the 27th. Fey led Cook, and they both outpolled Micah Anderson, a third-party challenger from the Framers Party.
In the same district, second-term Democratic Rep. Laurie Jinkins was leading, followed by Republican Rodger Deskins. They defeated Robert Hill, a perennial candidate and convicted felon.
-Staff writer Brad Shannon contributed to this report