The primary – which it still sort of is, despite its top-two functionality – in Washington often is regarded as a massive straw poll, a clear indicator of where things are headed in the November general election.
Often it provides good markers, especially when the results are strongly decisive. The incumbent members of Congress, for example, all came away with big leads in the primary. (That includes Suzan DelBene in the 1st, who many observers insisted was facing a close general election. If she is, it would mark a huge reversal from the primary.)
Closer primary results are another matter. Two of them jump out for interest come November.
One is in the 4th congressional district, where veteran incumbent Republican Doc Hastings is retiring. The issue isn't which party will control the seat; in the strongly Republican 4th, that seems a given. But a large number of Republicans were competing for the seat, and the outcome was unclear.
This week, the field was led by Clint Didier, a former pro football player now aligned with Tea Party and NRA interests, who has run for office twice before unsuccessfully, and Dan Newhouse, a former state legislator from the area who could be considered a more centrist conservative, who led the state's Department of Agriculture in former Democratic Governor Chris Gregoire's administration.
The contrast between the two is almost as clear as if their party labels were different. Didier will draw from the Tea Party and cultural right (his loud support for keeping the Redskins football team name helped ensure that), and Newhouse will draw from the left, probably including most Democratic voters. Didier led in the crowded field, but Newhouse seems to have most of the early money for the general, because he has the opportunity to grab backing from more blocks of voters.
It will be a clear-cut contest. Much more clear cut than the primary was.
So, likely, will be the contest in legislative district 35, where long-time Senator Tim Sheldon appears to have come in second place.
Sheldon is in a key spot in the Washington Senate. Nominally a Democrat, he often has sided with Senate Republicans and at the beginning of this current term joined with fellow nominal Democrat Rodney Tom, and the chamber's Republicans, to form a majority coalition dominated by Republicans, which among other things blocked large parts of new Governor Jay Inslee's agenda (and the Democratic House's). The contest for who will control the Senate in the next term remains closely fought. (more…)