EVERETT — Voters in the 10th Legislative District can expect extra attention this fall as both parties feel a seat in the state Senate and two in the House are up for grabs.
Republican candidates won the primaries for each of those legislative seats, according to results ratified last Tuesday.
But in this district, voters have a history of electing Republicans and Democrats, giving strategists in both parties confidence of success in the general election. The 10th Legislative District encompasses parts of three counties including all of Whidbey and Camano islands, as well as Mount Vernon, Stanwood and La Conner in south Skagit and north Snohomish counties.
“Ten is one of the few districts in the state where all three races are competitive,” said Kevin Carns, executive director of the Reagan Fund, an advisory group to the House Republican Caucus. “I think 10 is ground zero for legislative races this cycle.”
The retirement of Republican stalwarts Sen. Barbara Bailey, after a 17-year legislative career, and Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, after 12 years in office, plus Rep. Dave Paul, D-Oak Harbor, narrow win by less than 1% in 2018, made tight races in the primary election no surprise.
Republican Bill Bruch finished ahead of Paul in the primary, by a margin of 48.7% to 47%. Progressive Taylor Zimmerman, the third candidate in the race, garnered 4.2%.
“We are very pleased that we won the primary, we worked very hard, we’ve been working hard since November,” said Bruch, a 55-year-old owner of a property management company and chairman of the Skagit County Republican Party. “We know we have a lot of work to do, but we are very optimistic for the general.”
Seeking reelection for the first time, Paul said he was pleased with the primary results and expects the race to remain tight through the fall. He said the election served as a reminder that Democrats can’t expect to coast on the unhappiness with national leadership.
“It is a swing district, I think we will have to work hard to win in November,” Paul said. “We are going to continue to run a positive campaign where we talk about our accomplishments over the last two years.”
House Democratic Campaign Committee Chairperson Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Burien, said he too was encouraged by the result, anticipating that the votes given to Zimmerman would swing to Paul.
“For us reelecting representative Dave Paul is a very high priority for our caucus,” Fitzgibbon said. “He has brought a lot to our caucus and delivered a lot to those communities.”
Paul’s loss came despite the incumbent outraising and outspending Bruch by a substantial margin in the primary. Paul raised close to $146,000 and spent almost $110,000 of that, while Bruch raised just over $85,000 and spent about $59,000.
“It gives us a lot of confidence, knowing that we still won even though we were outspent almost two to one,” Bruch said.
State party leaders anticipated that all three 10th district races will not be short of funding this fall.
“I would predict all those candidates will be fully funded to the max contribution limit by the parties and caucuses,” Carns said.
“Voters in the 10th district can definitely expect to hear a lot from all the candidates who are running and asking for their vote,” Fitzgibbon said.
In a field of five vying for Norma Smith’s House seat, the lone Republican Greg Gilday finished first with 46.2%. Angie Homola led the pack for second place among the four Democrats with 26.1%. Combined, Democratic candidates received 53.7% of the vote compared to Gilday’s 46.2%.
“Of all the Republican-held seats in the state House, this is the one where the Democratic performance was the highest, so we definitely see an opportunity there,” Fitzgibbon said.
Homola, 60, a former Island County commissioner, lost a bid for the 10th District’s Senate seat in 2016, earning 43.3% against the incumbent Bailey.
Gilday, 42, an attorney and a first-time candidate for elected office, has raised almost $99,000 and spent just over $40,000, while Homola has raised just over $60,000 and spent more than $37,000.
Sen. Ron Muzzall, R-Oak Harbor, faced one challenger in the primary election, so both candidates advanced, but the race’s results were notable.
Muzzall — who was appointed to the seat in October of 2019 when Bailey retired — secured a primary win with 50.8%, but Democrat Helen Price Johnson was not far behind at 49.1%. Price Johnson, an Island County commissioner, is contending to be the first Democrat to represent the 10th District in the state Senate since Mary Margaret Haugen was ousted by Bailey in 2012.
The Democratic challenger has outraised and outspent Muzzall thus far with more than $277,000 brought in and about $207,000 used. The incumbent amassed more than $228,000 and spent more than $164,000.
“I think 10 is going to be the Wild West for the next couple of months,” Carns said.
Ian Davis-Leonard: 425-339-3448; email@example.com; Twitter: @IanDavisLeonard.
Ian Davis-Leonard reports on working class issues through Report for America, a national service program that places emerging journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. To support Ian’s work at The Daily Herald with a tax-deductible donation, go to www.heraldnet.com/support.