Republicans appear to have gained another seat in the state House, further eroding Democrats’ slim majority there.
Local business leader Teri Hickel, a Republican from Federal Way, had a strong lead against Democratic state Rep. Carol Gregory after the first round of election results Tuesday.
The race is one of only two state legislative contests on the ballot this fall, and the only one the two parties viewed as competitive.
“We’re really pleased with the results tonight,” said Hickel, who is competing with Gregory to represent the 30th Legislative District. “I’m ready to take office ... I’m ready to get in there and make a difference.”
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Gregory called the early results “surprising,” but said there are still plenty of votes left to be counted.
“I think we’re going to have to wait and see,” Gregory said Tuesday.
If Hickel maintains her lead, Democats’ majority in the state House will be reduced to 50-48, putting Republicans within reach of taking control of the chamber next year when all House seats are up for election.
Republicans already control the state Senate, and have strengthened their majority in that chamber the past two years.
The 30th Legislative District includes Federal Way, Algona, Pacific, Milton, Auburn and Des Moines.
Gregory, 71, is a Federal Way school board member who was appointed to represent the district in January, replacing the late state Rep. Roger Freeman.
Hickel, 55, spent 15 years as the executive director of Advancing Leadership, a nonprofit born out of the Greater Federal Way Chamber of Commerce. She has also volunteered to help promote local school district levies.
Should Hickel’s lead hold, she will serve the remaining year of Freeman’s unexpired term.
Outside of statewide initiative campaigns, the race between Hickel and Gregory has been the most expensive matchup on the ballot this year in Washington.
About $1.8 million has been spent on the race, including a combined $670,000 by the candidates and another $1.1 million by outside groups.