McDonald concedes 1st District to Inslee

By SUSANNA RAY

Herald Writer

SHORELINE — Voters in the 1st Congressional District appeared to have shut their revolving door Tuesday, at least for the next two years.

In a seat that has changed hands three times in the past decade, incumbent U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., had a healthy lead in early returns over his Republican challenger, Dan McDonald.

"It’s a great start," Inslee said from his results-watching party in Shoreline. "No Democrat has been re-elected in the 1st District for over 50 years, so assuming these numbers hold, it’s a pretty significant night."

Early results Tuesday were similar to those from the September primary election, in which McDonald got 42 percent compared with Inslee’s 56 percent. McDonald had said he wasn’t worried by that count because two years ago Inslee himself went on to win the general election after taking only 44 percent in the primary.

But by 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, McDonald had conceded the race.

"I think it would be pretty tough to see it turn around," he said.

Libertarian Bruce Newman received only a small portion of the vote.

Inslee, 49, a lawyer, credited his success to "basic hard work and listening to people." He made weekly trips back home from the nation’s capital to keep in touch with constituents, only missing two weekends during his two-year term, he said.

McDonald, 56, an engineer and economist from Bellevue, has been in the state Legislature for 22 years, the past five in leadership roles. Since he’s in the middle of a four-year term as a state senator, he said he plans to go back to Olympia when the legislative session convenes Jan. 8.

The two men served together in the Legislature from 1988 to 1992 — Inslee was in the House and McDonald in the Senate — and both made failed bids for governor in the 1990s.

Following his two terms in the state House, Inslee went on to serve in Congress. After losing his 4th District seat in Eastern Washington in 1994, he moved to Bainbridge Island, which is included in the 1st District’s squiggly boundary around Seattle, which runs as far north as Mukilteo.

In 1998, Inslee ousted incumbent Republican Rick White, in part by running ads tying him to Newt Gingrich and the Clinton impeachment process.

It was an acrimonious race, just as this year’s was.

Inslee and McDonald signed a clean campaign pledge and avoided personal attacks, but slugged it out extensively over the issues and each other’s backgrounds. Both cried foul several times over various TV attack ads.

Inslee had a lot more money to play with than McDonald. He spent more than $1.7 million on the campaign, compared with the more than $1.1 million McDonald spent, according to the most recent financial reports available.

That doesn’t include the enormous amounts of money spent by the political parties and special interest groups on television ads and mailers.

"It was very difficult, with so much clutter on the TV and in news reports," McDonald said. "It was hard to get my message across."

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