Winners, losers and other realities from the election

Around the state there are still votes to be counted and races to be decided, but here are a few takeaways from Tuesday’s election.

The Rs are in charge: Almost. Republicans are feeling good, as they should be. Their party gained a seat in the state Senate to cement control of that chamber. And if late-arriving ballots break the GOP direction, the party could pick up enough seats in the House to trim Democrats’ advantage to as little as 51-47.

Big winner: Environmentalists painted conservative state Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, as the antichrist of climate change, but he emerged the antihero of the election. He won convincingly as voters ignored his zeal for dining on lobbyists’ dime and embraced his zen for shunting the attacks of well-funded critics.

Big loser — it’s a tie: The state’s largest teachers union and one of the loudest voices for environmentalists had poor showings, the kind that can lead to hiring new political advisers.

The Washington Education Association invested a small fortune on Initiative 1351 to reduce class sizes. It could pass — it trailed Tuesday, but there are lots of votes to tally in King County, where it is winning — though lawmakers would likely suspend it in 2015 due to its high cost.

And they would act without much fear of political retribution because the WEA demonstrated little clout in affecting the outcome of legislative races this year, even those involving its members. Democrats Mike Wilson, of Everett, and Rep. Monica Stonier, of Vancouver, were losing Wednesday, in spite of sizable sums of aid from their union.

Meanwhile, the Washington Conservation Voters expended more than a million dollars to make the fight against climate change an election issue, to no avail. Most of its dough came from billionaire Tom Steyer of California for the fruitless battle against Ericksen. The group paid for three polls this year, the last Oct. 10. One can only wonder what enviros learned as Steyer gave them $500,000 that same day.

Billionaire agents of change: They’ve funded initiatives to expand background checks on gun sales, legalize charter schools and marijuana, and preserve gay marriage. What’s next for the Ballmers, Gates, Bezoses, Hanauers, Allens and even Michael Bloomberg? Will it be a higher minimum wage, paid family leave, a tax on sugary drinks or a new source of school funding? Given Steyer’s experience, it probably won’t be tackling climate change through such ideas as cap-and-trade.

Pedro predicted it: A warning sign that Republican Pedro Celis was in deep trouble against Democratic U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene came from Celis himself six weeks before the election. That’s when his campaign released results of a poll showing only 47 percent of Republicans surveyed knew Celis, and of those only three of four planned to vote for him.

Next up, 2016: Republican state Sen. Andy Hill endured a grueling re-election fight and now is on the short list of possible opponents to Gov. Jay Inslee in two years. Already, there are Republican U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert and Port of Seattle Commissioner Bill Bryant. Meanwhile, Ericksen might parlay his performance into a run against DelBene, who lost to Celis in the Whatcom County portion of the congressional district.

It might seem soon for speculating, but the end of every election cycle marks the beginning of a new one.

That’s a takeaway you can count on.

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at Contact him at 360-352-8623; and on Twitter at @dospueblos

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