For all that this year’s general election was remarkable in many places around the country, it was a boilerplate election in the Northwest.
Just call up the usual returns template and tweak the numbers ever so slightly. Surprises in this whole region were, in a word, scarce.
If I’d predicted (a habit I continue to try to break myself of) a week before the election not only who would win around the state, down to the legislative level, but also the percentages, I would not have been far wrong on much of anything. That’s not a commentary particular to me. I suspect that would have been true of most reasonably experienced observers who weren’t especially wrapped up in the proceedings.
The guesses wouldn’t have been hard to make. Republican incumbents for the four federal offices on the ballot? Landslides in Idaho. In Washington and Oregon, Democratic for president and most of the federal offices (except for those Washington and Oregon congressional districts which are still strongly Republican).
The legislatures in the region changed hardly at all. The most notably partisan shift in Idaho may be the Democratic loss of a House seat in west Boise they won for the first time last election; but they kept the second House seat in the same district they also won last time. For a more significant change, the best place to look might be Ada County, where one of the commission seats changed parties.
Idaho was Republican before, and Washington and Oregon were Democratic before, and they stayed the same after election night.
Considering that the voting populace seemed to be in a lot of churn and angst, and in a time of national crisis, hardly any incumbents - of either party - lost in the Northwest, putting aside the national-level presidential vote. (This was largely true in much of the rest of the country, too. )
Maybe fittingly, the ballot issues were among the most interesting items election night, and voters seemed particularly receptive to many of them.
Idaho’s one measure on this ballot, which fixed its legislature’s size at 105 members, was a vote for the status quo, and got 68 percent approval.
More interesting were some of the items which passed in the other two states. Washington state Referendum 90, requiring public schools to provide comprehensive sex education, might seem edgy but it passed with 58.9%. Oregon set stronger limitations on campaign spending (78.6 percent), increased taxes on tobacco and set them on vaping (passed 66.7 percent) and legalized, on medical supervision, use of psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”) at 55.7 percent.
The most contentious ballot issue in the Northwest may have been the other Oregon measure, 110, and it may have been the most surprising of all. What it did was a collection of things that included shifting some marijuana tax revenues toward addiction recovery services which will be expanded as a statewide program, and greatly reduced penalties for possession of small amounts of harder drugs with the hope of encouraging addicts to open up and get some help. It did not “decriminalize hard drugs,” since penalties for trafficking, manufacturing or possessing larger amounts stay in place. The “decriminalize” shorthand was used a lot, though, both in-state and nationally, which means a lot of voters - the measure passed with 58.6 percent - probably took the time to look into the somewhat complex details.
That may have been an unusual case in this election. Mostly around the northwest, and in many other places, it was a paint-by-numbers election where you really have to wonder how many voters really carefully thought about what they were doing.
P.S. I did it: A column about the election without a single direct reference to either of the two most over-used names in the nation. May that be an indicator of things to come.