Old dog, kennelled

Jim Clements

Jim Clements

Curtis King

Curtis King

We’ve been neglectful in failing to update on one of the more interesting contests in this week’s Washington primary: The defeat of state Senator Jim Clements, by challenger Curtis King. What it means may take a while to sift out.

We’ve been following this one. Late last year Yakima-area Senator Alex Deccio resigned, opening the seat for appointment. Clements and King both applied, Clements getting the nod partly because not long previously he had won six terms in the House from the same district: Evidence of strong local support. And off he went to Olympia for this year’s session.

King decided to challenge, basing his campaign partly on Clements’ periodic compromises with the Democratic majority (Clements himself would be considered a conservative Republican), and partly on the basis that Clements seemed to take the seat, and his election, for granted. King proceeded to run exactly the right kind of campaign under the circumstances: Very high-energy, pulling lots of people and becoming highly visible. Only once it started to take off did Clements, the self-described “old porch dog,” start moving into action. By July local news reports suggested the race was too close to call.

King won decisively with 55.7% of the vote. What that means may be up for grabs. To what extent does it reflect low turnout in a Republican primary, which tends to help more rigorously conservative candidates? To what extent does it reflect King’s high-energy campaign? To what extent may it also reflect an anti-incumbent mood (see also Spokane)? We may return to this.

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