Writings and observations

WA: City and country

John Ahern

John Ahern

John Driscoll

John Driscoll

Along with the Senate races in Alaska and Minnesota, there are a few as-yet unresolved contests in the Northwest. Maybe the premier of them is in Spokane, in legislative district 6, and it seems emblematic of a political tipping point in the Northwest.

District 6, roughly, is suburban Spokane, a U-shaped area running fro north of the city along Highways 2 and 395, west through the Riverside State Park area, the Spokane airport southwest of town, and the suburban area south of city center. It is not centrally urban, which helps a Republican, but increasingly it is densely populated and linked to the city (and a piece of it is within city limits), which would tend to help a Democrat.

In 2002, which first formed as it is now, it elected three Republicans, the best known being state Senator James West (later a mayor of Spokane), and a lawmaker still serving, John Ahern (55.8%). It again elected two Republicans to the House seat in 2004 (Ahern pulled 60.6%). But in 2006 one of those seats went to Democrat Don Barlow (who had lost in 2004), and the Senate seat went to a Democrat (Chris Marr) as well. Abruptly, Ahern was the lone Republican in this marginal district.

District 6

District 6

Setting us up for this year’s contest, which demonstrates why trend lines shouldn’t be followed out to infinity. You would have expected, for example, Barlow to build on his lead from 2006; instead, he lost this year, 47.1% to 52.9%, to Republican Kevin Parker. They had a hard-fought, closely-contested, battle, revolving to some extent around taxes but also (at least in a Spokesman-Review editorial backing Parker) questions about how effective Barlow was.

And Ahern, opposed this year by Democrat John Driscoll? That one has been hairline-close, and there’s been some mapping analysis of it at the Spokesman blog Spin Control. Briefly, it shows Ahern winning the outlying areas of the district, mainly to the north and south and to a lesser extent out west, and losing the precincts closest to (or inside of) Spokane. Driscoll was leading on election night, Ahern moved ahead in the next few days, and most recently – as this is written – Driscoll is crawling ahead again. More counts are expected Wednesday; there’s no telling who will win this.

Call districts like the 6th places no one can take for granted.

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