Lahar sirens blared for a few minutes Monday in a monthly test of Pierce County’s disaster-alert system. For local Republicans listening, it could’ve been an ill omen of what would happen the next day.
Tuesday’s primary election gave early warning that the much-anticipated Blue Wave is gaining momentum in Washington, as surely as a mudflow will someday rush down the slopes of Mount Rainier.
Consider the 25th Legislative District, the heart of the Puyallup Valley (and lahar country). Early results suggest Democrats sit in decent position to take back two House seats the Republicans have owned for four years.
Or look at the 26th District, stretching from Gig Harbor west to Bremerton. To retain a precious Senate seat, which state Republicans covet to retake control of that chamber, Marty McClendon has a daunting gap of five percentage points to close before November against Democrat Emily Randall. And two-term incumbent Rep. Jesse Young is in for the fight of his political life against Democrat Connie Fitzpatrick.
But one of the clearest signs the Blue Wave may be real is a dramatic reversal in the 28th District. Rep. Dick Muri, R-Steilacoom, heads toward the Nov. 6 runoff seven points down to Democrat Mari Leavitt — the same challenger he trounced two years ago.
Muri is unsullied by personal controversies or extreme ideology. He’s an Air Force veteran whose electability was proven during a decade on the Pierce County Council and two terms in the House. Now it appears he may be caught in an undertow of forces largely outside his control.
* A pattern of unprofessional behavior will come back to bite you at the polls, even if you’re a well-known incumbent with good campaign skills and a huge fundraising operation.
Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist will advance to the general election against his former chief criminal deputy, Mary Robnett. Many observers — including us — didn’t foresee him being down 10 points on Election night. It seems a string of bar and whistleblower complaints, investigations and adverse findings, combined with a vindictive, obsessive control of the prosecutor’s office long documented by this newspaper, finally caught up with him.
State Rep. David Sawyer, dogged by credible allegations of inappropriate contact with multiple women, might not even get to continue vying for a fourth term in the 29th District. Yes, Sawyer, D-Tacoma, could still catch Republican Terry Harder with more ballots to be counted, but Democrat Melanie Morgan is a shoo-in as she heads toward November with a 17-point lead over both men.
Clearly incumbents aren’t as bulletproof as often portrayed, and voters are paying more attention to critical details than they’re often credited for.
* Negative campaign ads aren’t worth the money.
Candidates advancing to November should reflect on the cautionary examples of Marty McClendon and Randy Boss, both Republicans on the Peninsula.
McClendon and his supporters filled mailboxes with hit pieces on opponent Randall. Using the most unflattering photos available, the mailers repeatedly tried to paint her as “too extreme,” “so extreme” (and variations thereof) and a “social media blowhard.”
The near-daily barrage ran counter to the image McClendon has tried to cultivate for himself: that of a conciliator who upholds Christian values and would reach across the aisle in Olympia. Did we mention he trailed Randall by 1,398 votes as of Wednesday?
Even worse was the stream of slime Boss unleashed against 26th District Rep. Michelle Caldier while trying to wrest the Republican mantle from her. He harped on an investigation of Caldier by the House Ethics Committee, but failed to note she was completely cleared.
Some of the attacks were cartoonish, like the mailer showing a doctored photo of Caldier in a jail cell with giant hands (obviously those of a man) grasping the bars. Boss stopped just short of putting a Snidely Whiplash moustache on her — or a Hillary Clinton pantsuit.
Boss’ reward? He finished a distant third in the primary.
A growing body of research indicates the main outcome of dirty campaigning is lower voter turnout. In 2016, a pair of University of Rhode Island professors concluded “it is never efficacious for candidates to run attack ads, but running positive ads can increase a candidate’s margin of victory.”
While we suspect that’s not always true, we hope the remaining local candidates will choose the high road between now and Nov. 6.