Politics Blog

General election preview: All signs point to the right in Whatcom, U.S.

It looks like it's a good year to have these two words attached to your name: Republican and senator.

In the state and in the country, all signs are pointing toward Republican control. In this Washington, all that Republicans need to do is hold the fort; they already have a 26-23 edge in the state Senate. (For shorthand I am referring to the majority coalition caucus, the 24 Republicans and two Democrats who controlled the Senate in 2014, as "Republicans.")

The dust has settled on the state primary elections of more than one week ago, and much of the media in the state have weighed in with their analyses. All of it is based on the basic election result that if the August numbers hold true in November, the Republicans will maintain that three-vote control.

What follows is a spot check of what other media are saying about the state and U.S. senates.

Publicola, the political wing of Seattle Met magazine, acknowledges the Republicans' success but breaks from the conventional wisdom that Republican control of Olympia in 2015 is a foregone conclusion.

The blog with the anonymous byline "Morning Fizz" notes that independent expenditures spent on behalf of Democratic candidates for the Senate in key races amounted to $0. This overlooks Whatcom's own 42nd District, where independent expenditures -- those campaign efforts outside of a candidate's own campaign, where an unlimited amount of money can be received and spent -- totaled almost $24,000 for Seth Fleetwood, the Dem who is challenging Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale. Most of that was from Washington Conservation Voters Action Fund, which received contributions in 2013 from NextGen Climate Action, the political action committee of climate change activist and California billionaire Tom Steyer. Washington Conservation Voters has yet to receive money from Steyer's PAC this year. 

Another media analysis over the past week, this one from The Seattle Times' Erik Smith, asks out loud whether Steyer will even bother with the Washington Senate this cycle, given the Democrats' poor showing in the primaries. Sure, the man has shown a high degree of generosity when it comes to supporting climate-change fighters who seek public office, but rich people generally have a talent for being prudent when it comes to where they put their money. (Either that, or they don't stay rich.)

Smith, like Morning Fizz, give no mention of the 42nd and Fleetwood/Ericksen. We're only 90 miles away, but sometimes I think we don't make a blip on Seattle media's radar.

Jim Camden, politics blogger for The Spokesman Review, wrote a piece about primary election math and had a word of caution about interpreting August results:

If only two candidates file for an office, their primary results are essentially a bit of free polling, and the numbers are instructive but not necessarily predictive. Some analysts contend that no one can overcome a gap of more than 10 percentage points in the primary, but that’s not always true. In 1980, Democratic Rep. Jerry Hughes got 42 percent of the primary vote against Republican Sen. Bob Lewis’ 58 percent in what was then northwest Spokane’s 5th Legislative District. It was a Republican year, from the presidential election on down, but Hughes won in November with 52 percent of the vote through a strong campaign.... The lesson is, too much attention to primary numbers is a bad idea. Weak ones can be overcome with hard work, and strong ones can be frittered away with a poor campaign.

One more at the state level: Greg Jayne at The Columbian made the well-known point that third-party candidates have a long row to hoe in our state and our nation. Twelve Libertarians ran for state seats, including Bellingham's Nick Kunkel, who finished fourth of four in the primary for a 42nd District House seat with 4 percent of the vote.

Statewide, eight Libertarians advanced to the general election. Seven of those were in two-person primaries where last week's election was only a checkpoint to the general.

Jayne:

The eighth to advance was in a race against a Republican and a candidate who prefers the 'Marijuana Party.'So, while the Libertarians can boast that they are more popular than the Marijuana Party, the battle continues against Republicans and Democrats.

A side note: Jayne makes the familiar comparison of this country's two-party Congress to a body such as the Knesset in Israel, which has representation by several parties, proportional to the percentage of votes they get. (If Libertarians nationally won 4 percent of the vote, they would have 17 members in the U.S. House of Representatives under this system.)

Jayne goes on to say, 

"Is such a system superior to that of the United States? I don't know; this one has served us pretty well for 225 years."

(To which I am inclined to reply, "Really?")

On to the U.S. Senate, where prominent political blogger Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post said on Monday, Aug. 11, that Republicans have a better than 50-50 chance of taking over that body.

Cillizza points to at least three factors working in the GOP's favor: the retirements of Democrat senators in conservative states such as Montana and West Virginia; conventional Republicans fending off primary challenges by tea party opponents; and the Barack Obama effect.

"A handful of incumbent Democrats are defending Republican-leaning seats in places where President Obama is deeply unpopular," Cillizza wrote.

According to a new McClatchy-Marist poll, Obama's low popularity overall is causing congressional Democrats' chances in the upcoming midterms to suffer.

The Aug. 11 article from McClatchy's Washington bureau says, "For the first time this election cycle, more people said they’d vote for a Republican than a Democrat for Congress, by 43 percent to 38 percent."

Washington's two Democratic senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, are not up for election this year.

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