Democratic challenger Seth Fleetwood could have a hard race ahead of him if he hopes to beat incumbent Republican state Sen. Doug Ericksen in the race for the 42nd legislative district.
As of 3:36 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 6, Ericksen had 56 percent of the vote to Fleetwood's 44 percent in the primary.
Those results don't include an estimated 5,000 uncounted ballots and an unknown number of mail-in ballots. The count won't be certified until Aug. 19.
Fleetwood said he was hoping to get around 45 percent, and was happy with the results
"It means we keep working," he said. "I'm feeling good. I'm feeling enthused."
Ericksen, who has served six terms in the state House and one term in the Senate, was confident he would remain atop the vote count.
"I think the election went really well last night," he said Wednesday. "The early trends tend to stay pretty consistent."
As The Bellingham Herald reported in July, in two-person races for the Legislature since 2008, the primary has been a strong predictor of who would win the general election. Over three election cycles (2008, 2010 and 2012), in 190 of 194 races with two candidates, the winner of the primary went on to win the general.
Fleetwood said he thinks the numbers forecast a close general election, where Democrats can sometimes gain several points.
"Primary votes favor Republicans," Fleetwood said. "It's in the neighborhood of where we thought we would be. We're in the game."
Republicans had effective control of the state Senate in the last legislative session after two Democrats agreed to join them in a coalition and vote with Republicans on most significant matters. Democrats controlled the House.
Democrats need to gain two seats in the Senate if they hope to form a majority in the next session, but Republicans appeared likely to remain in the lead in several contested seats based on early results.
"Everybody came in with very solid numbers last night, from 57 percent down to 54 percent," Ericksen said of races involving members of the statewide Republican caucus.
"I'm happy, but we're not taking anything for granted," he said. "We're going to go full speed through November 5."