EVERETT — Voters seemed clear Tuesday whom they entrust to lead the state in the next two years and what they don’t want them to do with the power.
Energized by the partisan passions stirred by national politics, the local electorate was poised to knock several incumbent Republican state lawmakers from office and cement Democrats’ hold on the Legislature.
And they were embracing initiatives to impose a regimen of new rules on buyers and owners of guns, and to establish a new means for determining if a police officer’s use of deadly force is justified.
But voters were drawing the line at their pocketbooks.
Results on Tuesday showed them turning down a measure for a new carbon emissions fee that would lead to higher prices on gasoline and energy. And voters supported an initiative pushed by Big Soda to bar local governments from enacting specialized taxes on soda pop, as now exists in Seattle, and grocery items.
Across the country, while Democrats incensed by the policies of Republican President Donald Trump helped give their party a foothold in Congress, the electorate kept Republicans in control of the Senate, ensuring the two parties will share power through the 2020 presidential election.
“It is going as expected,” veteran political strategist Ron Dotzauer of Snohomish said of the results. “There’s no blue wave. There’s no red wave. Voters are behaving very independently and they want a check on the president.”
Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen of Everett, who won a 10th term in the 2nd District on Tuesday, said voters made their desires clear for those serving in state and federal government.
“This is certainly a message to President Trump and Republicans,” he said. “The politics of personality are not working for them, and the politics of their policies are not working for them.”
Obviously, what’s transpired since the 2016 presidential election ignited interest across the political spectrum. Tuesday’s midterm election will be one for the record books in terms of participation in Snohomish County and, likely, the state.
Tens of thousands of new voters registered since the August primary, including 7,500 in Snohomish County. As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, roughly 2.3 million voters statewide had returned their ballots, or about 53.4 percent, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
Snohomish County election officials were predicting a 75 percent turnout which, if it happens, would be the county’s highest midterm ever recorded.
“If you consider more political engagement good for democracy, then a more robust turnout is a sign of a healthier democracy,” said Chris Parker, a professor of political science at the University of Washington.
Congress was the most-watched battleground.
In the U.S. House, Democrats needed to pick up at least 23 seats to take charge.
One Democratic pickup could be the 8th Congressional District in Washington, where Democrat Kim Schrier and Republican Dino Rossi of Sammamish carried on one of the nation’s most expensive duels. Schrier held a nearly a 6-point lead Tuesday. The winner will succeed U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, who is retiring.
Democrats will likely use their majority to step up scrutiny of the Trump administration but need to resist the temptation to pursue impeachment, said Steve Horn, an instructor of political science at Everett Community College.
“Absolutely, Congress should do their job and conduct investigations as needed. I would suggest they stay away from impeachment, as enticing as it is,” Horn said. “I would focus in on the policy.
Larsen said impeachment isn’t going to be a focus.
“We can work with the president where there are opportunities to work together,” he said, suggesting increased federal support for infrastructure improvements and affordable housing.
“But we are going to press the administration where we think they are pushing the American government the wrong way,” he said.
In this state, Democrats are poised to strengthen their grip on power.
They now hold majorities of 50-48 in the state House and 25-24 in the Senate plus the governor’s office.
On Tuesday, Democratic candidates led in races for eight seats now held or controlled by Republicans.
In Snohomish County, incumbent Republican Reps. Mark Harmsworth of Mill Creek and Dave Hayes of Camano Island trailed their Democratic challengers. Both also finished behind their opponents in the August primary.
House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, cautioned against tallying up setbacks too soon.
“Because of our mail-in system and because Republicans usually vote late, there’s a lot of these that are going to be decided over the next week,” he said.
Wilcox knows his caucus is going to be smaller. He insisted it won’t lessen its resolve.
“Our job is the same,” he said. “We just go out and do our jobs.”
In Washington, two initiative fights showed that while voters preferred Democrats this cycle it didn’t mean they wanted all of the party’s prized policies.
Tackling the effects of climate change, for example.
An alliance of environmental and social progressive groups, plus Democratic leaders, including Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson, got behind Initiative 1631, which would impose a fee on carbon emissions on some large emitters. If passed, it would be the first time voters in any state put a price on pollution.
On Tuesday, 55.6 percent of voters were rejecting the measure.
Opponents — chiefly oil refiners — spent $30 million blasting it, while supporters expended nearly $15 million in an effort to pass it.
Defeat of Initiative 1631 won’t end Democrats’ pursuit of a low-carbon fuel standard and other pollution-combating bills.
“We’ll definitely be moving climate legislation through,” said Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Seattle, who heads the House Democratic Campaign Committee and is chairman of the House Environment Committee. “We’ll have to see how the dust settles.”
In terms of campaign spending, Initiative 1634 represented a David versus Goliath situation. The American Beverage Association crafted the measure to prevent a Seattle-style soda pop tax from getting replicated in other communities.
Supporters spent roughly $20 million — all coming from the likes Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo Inc., Dr. Pepper Snapple Group Inc. and Red Bull North America Inc. — to convince voters the measure would prohibit new taxes. And 54 percent backed it Tuesday.