By Manuel Valdes Associated Press
SEATTLE — Three key races that will decide control of the Washington state Senate remained too close to call Tuesday night after early returns were counted.
Longtime Democratic Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen was trailing Republican state Rep. Barbara Bailey in the state’s 10th District, which covers all of Camano Island and parts of Skagit and Snohomish counties.
Democrats were hoping to gain seats in the 5th and 17th districts.
In King County, candidate Mark Mullet is leading Republican Brad Toft in the 5th District. The seat was vacated by Republican Cheryl Pflug, who left her seat after accepting a state job offered by Gov. Chris Gregoire.
In southwest Washington, Democrat Rep. Tim Probst has a narrow lead over incumbent Republican Sen. Don Benton in the 17th District.
Currently, Democrats hold a 27- to 22-seat edge in the Senate.
But the two parties and their allies have poured millions of dollars into just a few districts, mostly west of the Cascade Range.
Republicans saw an opportunity Tuesday to seize the Senate for the first time in a decade. Democrats wanted to win enough seats to shed the influence of conservatives in their ranks, which has made their control of the upper chamber shaky at best.
All of the seats in the House of Representatives and about half of the Senate’s seats were on the ballot this year.
Spending by candidates, their parties and outside groups in those four races has neared or topped a million dollars each.
Democrats were expected to keep their majority in the House. Republicans needed a net gain of eight seats to challenge the Democrat’s majority in the lower chamber.