OLYMPIA — A surge in voter interest, a swell in the ranks of Democratic state lawmakers and a spendy bunch of contests marked the 2018 election.
As we await the final tally of ballots, here a a few (apparent) winners and losers from Tuesday’s midterm.
Alliance for Gun Responsibility: Passage of Initiative 1639 marked the organization’s third significant victory via the ballot. First it was universal background checks on handgun purchases. Then came extreme risk protection orders to allow removal of weapons from those deemed a threat to themselves or others. Now this, a measure to raise the age for buying a semiautomatic assault rifle, mandate safe storage of firearms and require completion of safety training before purchasing a weapon. They say there’s more to be done either by lawmakers next year or voters after that.
Big Soda: With a cache of $20 million, the largest corporate purveyors of soft drinks successfully sold Initiative 1634 as an anti-tax measure. They initially focused on preserving “affordable groceries.” They gained steam by marketing a “yes” vote as a stand against new taxes. However, foes of this proposition aren’t without options. They can still ask lawmakers to enact a soda tax statewide. This isn’t over.
Big Oil: After exposing weaknesses in the construct of the carbon emission fee measure, this smartly crafted campaign pummeled Initiative 1631 into defeat with 31 million well-spent dollars. With the world watching the outcome of this attempt to put a price on pollution — that’s what supporters said — the measure was passing in only three of 39 counties Election Night.
Republicans: Sure they lost seats in the Legislature. But it could have been worse. The Grand Old Party got shellacked in the August primary with their incumbents trailing in a dozen legislative districts. It looked like they could lose up to two dozen seats. But Tuesday, they trailed in just seven races in the House and two in the Senate with some so close that Republicans could emerge winners in later ballot counts. This was an unexpected turnaround.
Kim Schrier: Democrats have never won Washington’s 8th Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Pediatrician Kim Schrier, a first-time candidate, appears set to end the losing streak. She led Dino Rossi, one of the state’s most-recognized Republicans, in initial ballot counts. This contest was an expensive battleground for both parties. Schrier’s advantage in the Democrat-rich regions of King County is overcoming Rossi’s edge throughout the rest of the sprawling district.
Gov. Jay Inslee: Tackling climate change is the raison d’etre of this Democratic governor. Yet in six years on the job, none of his grand carbon emission reduction schemes have gained traction. He got behind Initiative 1631 in a big way, appearing in television ads and mailers. Still, voters did not reward him for the effort. This setback won’t scuttle incessant murmurings of him running for president or a third term. Tuesday’s result could provide fodder for those who might be opposite him down the line.
Climate justice: Initiative 1631’s defeat is as much the result of supporters’ failed campaign strategy as Big Oil’s opposition. If you are trying to convince voters what you want to do is fair — as the governor and other backers did in the closing days — you’ve likely already lost the argument. Supporters expended too much energy and money demonizing Big Oil and defending themselves. Never did they clearly convey to voters that a changing climate affects everyone and they hoped everyone would be willing to pitch in around $15 a month to help stave off its negative effects. Maybe next time.
Maralyn Chase: Tuesday was not the kind of response she could have expected after 16 years of serving residents of the 32nd Legislative District. She is losing by a margin of more than 2 to 1, including Snohomish County where she’s best known. Certainly her opponent, Jesse Salomon, a Democrat, earned the win with a solid campaign. And he got help from some of Chase’s critics. Still, this stands out as one of the year’s poorest showings by an incumbent of such tenure.
Republicans: They may not have lost as many seats as feared but they still lost seats. This will dilute their influence in the 2019 session when lawmakers will be drafting and enacting a new two-year state budget. Smaller caucuses in the House and Senate mean Republicans will have a harder time impeding Democratic lawmakers and the governor from pursuing new or higher taxes, or fees to fund government.