U.S. House contest highlights state primary

SPOKANE — The race for one open U.S. House seat and dozens of legislative races highlight the Washington state primary election contests, which end Tuesday.

The most closely watched race has been for Washington’s 4th Congressional District, which includes Yakima and the Tri-Cities. Republican U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings is giving up the seat after 20 years, and a dozen candidates are seeking a slot in the two-person runoff.

Because the district tilts heavily to the GOP, David Ammons, spokesman for the secretary of state’s office, said this race could become the first congressional contest in state history in which two people from the same party advance to the November ballot under the state’s Top 2 primary system, which was adopted in 2008.

Former legislator and state Agriculture Director Dan Newhouse and former NFL star Clint Didier, a tea party candidate, are considered the front-runners among the eight Republicans. There are also two Democrats and two independents in the race.

The remaining nine U.S. House seats are also contested in the primary, with the incumbents seeking re-election.

While voters began receiving their primary ballots in the mail weeks ago, Tuesday is the last day to get them postmarked for delivery.

In the Legislature, all 98 House seats are in the mix, as are 25 Senate seats. Currently in the Legislature, a mostly Republican coalition holds a 26-23 advantage in the Senate, and Democrats hold a 55-43 advantage in the House.

In 95 of the 123 legislative races, there’s no contest. Twenty-two races are unopposed, and in 73 seats, there are only two candidates running, all of whom will automatically advance to the November ballot.

An open state Senate seat in the 37th District has drawn six contenders — five Democrats and one Republican — to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Adam Kline.

A contentious race in the Senate’s 31st District has two Republicans battling to move forward: incumbent state Sen. Pam Roach and Rep. Cathy Dahlquist. A third candidate, Lynda Messner, is running as a Democrat, but her party affiliation has been questioned by allies of Dahlquist and local Democrats because of comments she made online.

Democratic incumbent state Sen. Tim Sheldon, who raised the ire of his party when he crossed lines to caucus with Republicans and help create the Majority Coalition Caucus in the Senate, faces challengers from the right and left in the 35th District primary. Business groups and others have spent more than $161,000 in support of Sheldon in advance of the primary.

About 40 percent of Washington’s registered voters are expected to cast ballots, Ammons said.

“That may be high,” Ammons said, noting that he could be overestimating since turnout has been lower elsewhere in the region.

California and Oregon reported record low turnouts in their primaries, Ammons said.

The 40 percent prediction is based on the past two midterm primaries in Washington, Ammons said. But those elections featured contests for a U.S. Senate seat.

There are no candidates for statewide office this year.

The election is entirely vote-by-mail, which means between 50 percent and 60 percent of the vote should be tallied and released on Tuesday evening, Ammons said. The rest will trickle in on subsequent days.

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