Primary sets the scene for fireworks in the fall

It’s tempting to look at primary results and try to predict what they might bode for the general election. But that’s not always a good idea.

Conservatives and the party faithful are more likely to vote in primaries, and that voter profile sometimes can change significantly for the final. People who weren’t paying attention to politics during the summer start taking notice as campaigns shift into high gear in the fall.

With that caveat, here are some thoughts on Tuesday’s primary results.

There will be blood (or at least fireworks) in the 31st: For sheer morbid curiosity, it would be hard to beat the 31st District race between controversial state Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, and her challenger, state Rep. Cathy Dahlquist, R-Enumclaw. The primary race was nasty enough, with charges of ethics violations, a stalking-horse candidate, inter-party collusion and even vicious back-channel gossip that, so far at least, hasn’t gotten traction in media reports.

Given the bad blood between these candidates, and how close the primary results were, the long general election campaign promises to be political voyeurism at its best (or worst, depending on your point of view). Roach, the longest-serving Republican state senator, looks to be in trouble. But she’s a scrapper, so there’s no telling how this will play out.

Our prediction: No one comes off looking good.

Incumbency pays: Voters often threaten to “throw the bums out,” but most incumbents seem to be sitting pretty, especially members of Congress.

U.S. Reps. Derek Kilmer (D-6th District), Dave Reichert (R-8th District) and Adam Smith (D-9th District) all tallied in the neighborhood of 60 percent of the vote. Only first-termer Denny Heck (D-10th District) looks to have much of a contest in November. He won slightly more than half the votes and will face Pierce County Councilwoman Joyce McDonald in the general election.

Even incumbents by appointment tended to fare well, including state Sen. Steve O’Ban (R-28th), Rep. Dick Muri (R-28th) and Rep. Graham Hunt (R-2nd).

State Rep. Jesse Young, the Republican appointee in the 26th District Position 1 seat, lags Democratic challenger Nathan Schlicher, but that result may be deceiving. A second Republican in the race drained off a good chunk of votes, and many of those voters are likely to switch to Young in the final.

One race where incumbency doesn’t seem to be helping is in County Council District 7, where Republican incumbent Stan Flemming is in a dead heat with his Democratic challenger, former longtime Gig Harbor City Councilman Derek Young. If Young wins, it would make the council a little less lopsided; currently Republicans outnumber Democrats 5-2.

Enjoy the free ride: Too many incumbents are unchallenged this year, including Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist, County Councilmen Dan Roach and Rick Talbert, and 29th District state Rep. Steve Kirby. With no major-party opposition, Republican state Rep. J.T. Wilcox is running away with his 2nd District race.

We understand why potential candidates decide against running; it can be costly in terms of time, money and personal privacy. Congratulations to all who put themselves out there; our system works best when offices are contested and officials have to defend their record to voters.