A plane tows a Trump banner Oct. 17 over Possession Sound in Everett. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

A plane tows a Trump banner Oct. 17 over Possession Sound in Everett. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

Five things to watch in this election, and none named Trump

Senators are under fire, a sex-ed law is under attack and a non-partisan race has gotten very partisan.

OLYMPIA — An election four years in the making arrives Tuesday.

Not every contest will have its outcome determined by day’s end, possibly not even the one for president, because millions of votes will have yet to be counted.

Hey, we in Washington are accustomed to an adrenalin rush when the initial vote tally is released at 8:15 p.m. on election night, followed by emotional ups and downs with daily ballot count updates until, at last, everything is tallied and the final result known.

This year could be different. With way more than half the ballots in hand, it might actually be clear, with some degree of confidence, who are the winners and which measures have passed.

Here are a few things to keep an eye on:

Battle zones: Republican Sens. Steve O’Ban of University Place and Ron Muzzall of north Whidbey Island are fighting for their political lives in two swing districts. O’Ban’s duel with Democrat T’Wina Nobles of Fircrest in the 28th Legislative District is the most expensive contest for a legislative seat this cycle, with close to $4 million getting tossed around collectively by the candidates, their political parties and special interests looking to sway voter minds. Muzzall, appointed to his 10th District seat earlier this year, is up against Democrat Helen Price Johnson of Clinton in a tussle that’s seen nearly $3 million expended to build up and tear down the candidates.

Family feud: Democratic Sen. Mark Mullet of Issaquah is a target, too, this election — by forces in his own party. His challenger is another Democrat, Ingrid Marie Anderson of Snoqualmie Valley. She enjoys the strong backing of Gov. Jay Inslee and the benefit of nearly $1.3 million in spending by two labor power houses, the SEIU Washington State Council and Washington Education Association. Mullet’s offense is his moderate politics, which have frustrated unions and impeded Inslee’s agenda — chiefly the governor’s pursuit of a capital gains tax and low carbon fuel standard. An Anderson win will move the caucus leftward and put other moderate and pragmatic Democratic senators on notice that they could be under fire next.

Surf’s up: Will there be a Blue Wave in Washington? And if so, how big? Democrats are looking for a surge of anti-Trump fervor in suburbs to produce victories for their candidates down-ballot. Wins by Nobles, Price Johnson and Anderson would be evidence of a strong set. If Democrat Carolyn Long unseats Republican U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler in southwest Washington, it would boost the magnitude. It would become a Giant Wave if a Democrat is elected secretary of state, which last happened in 1960, when a guy named Kennedy topped the ticket for the party. This year, Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman is up against Democratic state Rep. Gael Tarleton, whose main point of attack is tying the incumbent to Trump in hopes of surfing in on any wave that forms.

Sex, ed and politics: With Referendum 90, voters are getting the final say on a social policy crafted and pushed through by Democrats over the strident objections of Republicans. The measure lets voters retain or repeal a new law that requires every public school district to enact a comprehensive sexual health education curriculum for grades K-12. The law won’t mean a great deal of change for many districts that already have a curriculum in place. Yet the notion of Olympia dictating to every local school district on the teaching of sex ed quickly became a rallying cry for conservatives, who gathered the most signatures for a referendum ever — and did it in spite of the pandemic.

The value of labels: Chris Reykdal was elected Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2016 by a tiny margin. For a while this year, it seemed his re-election would come a little easier. Not so much of late. This is a non-partisan seat, but in recent days Reykdal asked his Democratic friends and allies for help, a sign his passionate opponent, Maia Espinoza, might be resonating more strongly with voters than he anticipated. Inslee and U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal blasted Espinoza at a news conference. Former Vice President Joe Biden found time to endorse Reykdal. And the Washington Education Association spent $600,000 boosting Reykdal. The point was to make sure voters knew he is a Democrat and she is a Republican in this race for a non-partisan seat. We’ll soon know if it worked.

And finally, if you’re reading this Tuesday and realize you want to vote, it might not be too late. Washington law allows you to register and vote right up until 8 p.m. You can find out where to go on the Snohomish County auditor’s website or by calling 425-388-3444.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

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