I made the rounds of a few of the candidates parties last night. I’m not really sure why, as I really don’t know anybody at these affairs. To be honest, while I somehow manage to get my hands on some good insider information, little of it comes directly from political insiders.
Most of my time was spent split between the Sims and Senn parties. I much preferred Senn’s, not as much because they had something to celebrate, but because they had Fat Tire Ale on tap. I found the conversation a little more interesting there too… which may or may not have had something to do with the Fat Tire Ale as well.
Anyway… in case you’re interested in my post election observations, here they are.
Many of our state’s most influential opinion makers have had a stick up their collective butts over the loss of our open primary (yes, I’m looking at you, Seattle Times editorial board.) We heard dire warnings about how voter anger at being asked to (gasp) declare a party in order to vote in a party primary, would lead to a precipitous plunge in voter turnout. In fact, I’d say some editorialists seemed to be promoting voter apathy as a form of patriotic political protest.
Well, despite predictions of record low turnout, voters cast ballots in higher than expected numbers, meeting or exceeding average turnout for similar elections. Oh sure, the ridiculous “Louisiana style” top-two initiative will still pass in November, under the premise that we’d rather have a primary system that sucks over a system that Gary Locke would approve. But if we’re going with a non-partisan runoff, I say let’s save some real bucks and chuck the primary entirely, moving instead to Instant Runoff Voting.
Another interesting point about our one-time experiment with a “partisan primary” (a term that most rational voters would consider redundant), is the fact that over 140,000 more Democratic ballots were cast statewide than Republican.
Oh you’re hearing all sorts of excuses from Republican officials about how this is because they didn’t have as many interesting races (you can thank Chris Vance’s GOPolitburo for that), but the truth is, all extenuating circumstances aside, Democrats have an electoral advantage in statewide races. I base this assertion on the simple fact that Dems tend to win statewide races.
In the 12 years I’ve been voting in Washington, with the exception of their inexplicable lock on the Secretary of State’s office, R’s have won, what… 2 statewide races? (Nitpicker alert: I’m asking, not stating.)
You can’t blame it all on right-wing wacko candidates like Ellen Craswell and John Carlson (hey… I personally like you John, but you’ve got to admit you’re a bit of right-wing wacko.) The fact is, this is a Democratic leaning state, and I just don’t think Dino Rossi’s implied campaign slogan “I’m not as scary as Ellen Craswell and John Carlson” is going to be enough to make a difference come November 2.
Let’s take a look at last nights results from the two highest profile statewide races, Governor and Attorney General. In both races, the Democratic winner out-polled the Republican winner, despite drawing a strong opponent. Hell… in the AG’s race, Democratic runner-up Mark Sidran nearly out-polled GOP nominee Rob McKenna.
With 98% of precincts reporting, total votes for each party in the two races breaks down as follows:
Democrat GOP Attorney General 406,353 251,887 Governor 432,997 287,368
Now I don’t expect the Democrats to win either office by a 20 point margin, but there’s no way the GOP can spin away the inherent Democratic advantage. Add in Gregoire’s and Senn’s advantage in statewide name recognition, and the GOP will need a hefty check from the US Chamber of Commerce to stay competitive.
Well, I can’t tell you how disappointed I am by the results. I had hoped that Ron Sims would be rewarded for the desperately needed political leadership he showed in embracing a bold tax reform proposal, but for many reasons, he just didn’t catch on with Democratic voters.
Tim Eyman is blabbing that this was a referendum on an income tax, but that is load of crap. I bet you if you polled voters in this state, a bare majority might have been aware that Ron Sims even had a tax reform plan, but few could tell you any details.
In the end, Sims finished 35 to 40 points behind Gregoire… exactly where he was before he started focusing on tax reform in May.
The simple fact is, Gregoire was the stronger candidate in this election. She had the party backing, she had the money, she had the statewide name recognition from her years as a popular Attorney General… she was the clear frontrunner from day one. And Sims was also likely a victim of his own tell-it-like-it-is brand of political leadership, where his strong defense of sometimes unpopular issues has polarized the electorate. After all, the fact that Tim Eyman and his ilk so revile Ron, shows just how effective a leader he really is.
I also think that many Democratic voters went with the safe candidate, knowing that closet wacko Dino Rossi will present a tougher challenge than open wackos Craswell and Carlson.
I am more of a believer in Ron Sims than I was before he entered this race, and I am confident he will remain an ardent support of tax reform.
The biggest question posed by Deborah Senn’s relatively comfortable victory over Mark Sidran, is whether the $1.5 million attack ad campaign sponsored by the US Chamber of Commerce helped or hurt her. In the ensuing controversy, Sidran was completely knocked out of the news, and I suspect Senn received a substantial sympathy vote.
On the other hand, special interests spend so much money on negative advertising because it works, and I’m sure the attack ads cost Senn more than a few votes.
Was it a wash? Who knows. Sidran did best in areas where he had the greatest name recognition, earning narrow victories or drawing even in King, Snohomish, Pierce and Thurston counties. But Senn trounced Sidran in much of the rest of the state.
The good news is that Washington voters didn’t give the smear campaign’s backers their money’s worth. The bad news is that there is a lot more attack ad money to come.
8th Congressional District
What more do you need to say? Household name candidates Dave Reichert and Dave Ross convincingly won their respective primaries against some strong, but lesser known opponents.
The biggest surprise was how little traction Alex Alban’s paid media campaign bought him. For most of the night it looked like he might come in third behind perennial candidate and incredibly-awful-public-speaker Heidi Behrens-Bennedict.
One interesting side note: while retiring Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn long seemed invincible, her long incumbency may have covered up a quiet shift in the 8th District’s electorate. Ross out-polled Reichert by over 3500 votes, and the combined totals gave the Dems a 35,438 to 29,557 advantage.
The Democrats have a strong shot at winning this seat
Hey Tim… show me that tax revolt!
Tax levies across the state won convincing majorities, although a few failed to meet the ridiculous 60% supermajority requirement. In Seattle, the extremely important Families & Education Levy passed with over 62% of the vote. In Tim Eyman’s home town of Mukilteo, a much needed EMS levy passed with 63% of the vote. (Hope you choke on that extra $0.35/$1000 tax increase, Tim.)
More analysis later…