In a referendum on President Donald Trump, voters nationwide turned out big and made Joe Biden President-elect. Biden won’t have an easy job, as there were some seats lost in the House and the Republicans still control the Senate — although Georgia may provide an opening with the possibility of two runoff seats in January.
Adding to Biden’s challenges, we are a nation divided on many issues. Several of Trump’s supporters were re-elected and Trump seems likely to want to stay in the spotlight. As one headline said, “Mom knows best” as the true heroes of saving our democracy were women voters, particularly Black women voters. Our democracy turned out to be far more fragile than we thought.
While not a surprise in this blue state, Democrats were the big winners on election day as most incumbents won. Voters refused to let circumstances impede their right to vote as state turnout was 84% with King, Pierce and Snohomish counties all breaking the 80% barrier. As Democratic leaders look to the future, they will need to guard against progressives running to the left of moderate Democrat incumbents and dividing supporters and donations.
Gov. Jay Inslee actually got involved in one such race, endorsing Ingrid Anderson in the 5th Legislative District where Anderson was only 24 votes behind incumbent Sen. Mark Mullet last week. Another lesson is the 11th Legislative District, where David Hackney was defeating incumbent Zack Hudgins.
Inslee was elected to a third term and says he will complete the four years. However, according to Politico, Inslee and two other candidates are listed as possible cabinet selections for the Environmental Protection Agency. New Lt. Gov. Denny Heck, among others, will watch closely because few turn down a cabinet appointment.
Continuing a bad week, Loren Culp, Inslee’s Republican opponent, not only lost the race for governor, but is also out as police chief of Republic because their city council eliminated the position.
Heck was expected to win the lieutenant governor’s race over a fellow Democrat, state Sen. Marko Liias, and did. The fun was watching how many votes Republican and former Bothell Mayor Joshua Freed would get as a write-in candidate after loosing the primary in the governor’s race. While not enough to affect the outcome, Freed actually received 705,539 votes, or about 20%, and kept Heck from achieving the 50% goal. Had Freed filed for lieutenant governor in the first place, he may have been able to make a race of it.
Secretary of State Kim Wyman is the only remaining Republican statewide office holder and may be the last one on the West Coast, but at 53.3% to 46.5% over Gael Tarleton, she did win re-election — though it was closer than the 55% she won with four years ago. As predicted, Democratic state Rep. Mike Pellicciotti defeated Republican incumbent State Treasurer Duane Davidson 55% to 44%.
However, the most interesting race may have been for non-partisan Superintendent of Public Instruction between the incumbent, former Democratic legislator Chris Reykdal and former Republican legislative candidate Maia Espinoza, which was more defined by the sex education policy Referendum 90, which passed, than education issues. After the primary, there were more anti-incumbent votes and Reykdal looked vulnerable. However, he was able to pull out a comfortable win at 55% to Espinoza’s 44%.
Other Democratic incumbents including Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Auditor Pat McCarthy, Commissioner of Public Lands Hillary Franz, and Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler all won big.
The same can be said for incumbent Congressional members as former Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland defeated fellow Democrat Beth Doglio to claim Heck’s old Congress seat. The one Congressional incumbent who was thought to be vulnerable was in the 8th District where two years ago, Democrat Kim Schrier had flipped the seat previously held for several years by Republican Dave Reichert. Schrier won this year over Republican Jesse Jensen, 52%-48%. But that was close enough that she will be a Republican target in two years unless redistricting gives her more Democratic territory. Redistricting is likely to give Washington another Congressional seat and many office holders will be watching to see where the new district will be located. My guess is South King County, which could affect the 8th District and Schrier.
King County government will need oversight as the voters returned the King County sheriff to an appointed position and gave the executive and county council significant authority to realign the duties and responsibilities. While partially intended to take the politics out of the sheriff’s office, if the public and media isn’t watching, it may only move the politics out of view.
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact email@example.com.