Politics Blog

Republicans are looking good in Whatcom, U.S.

It’s a good year to be a Republican.

Election prognosticators are picking the GOP to take over the U.S. Senate. The party’s chances look good for retaining control of the Washington state Senate as well, despite the big money from environmentalists coming to the support of Democrats who could change the balance of the Senate.

Republicans are even expected to expand their command of state legislatures nationwide.

Republicans appear to be in position to win all three races in the 42nd Legislative District, which is Whatcom County with the exception of south Bellingham, most of Lake Whatcom and the southwest county (those areas are in LD 40).

To review the results of the Aug. 5 primary:

LD 42 House, Position 1 (4 candidates)

Two Republicans (winner Luanne Van Werven, Bill Knutzen): 57.2%

One Democrat (Satpal Sidhu): 38.8%

One Libertarian (Nick Kunkel): 4.0%

LD 42 House, Position 2

One Republican (Vincent Buys): 56.9%

One Democrat (Joy Monjure): 43.1%

LD 42 Senate

One Republican (Doug Ericksen): 56.9%

One Democrat (Seth Fleetwood): 43.1%

These numbers show primary voters consistently favored Republicans, giving them 57 percent of the vote, 14 to 18 percentage points more than the Democrat.

History shows that second-place finishers in the primary come from behind to win the general election in two-person primaries 2 percent of the time (four out of 194). Democrats have said they are counting on a stronger turnout of their voters in November compared to August, but it won’t be enough to swing a vote gap as large as the ones that came out of the primary.

There were no October surprises. Any dirt Dems had on the Republican candidate (he takes too many free lunches from lobbyists!) was countered by Republicans dishing on the Democrat (he’s not really from the district!).

The parties have proven to be good at what they do. The Democrats orchestrated the November 2013 elections masterfully, supporting four nonpartisan but progressive County Council candidates to a sweep of that election. But I see no evidence the Democrats are remaking that magic this time around. For one thing, the campaigns for state House and Senate have not been about the proposed coal export terminal at Cherry Point — a lightning-rod issue that defined the races between conservative and progressive County Council candidates last year.

And then there’s that deluge of electioneering mailers. Do they really help? One apolitical Bellingham resident was overheard saying, in response to the traffic her mailbox has seen, “I don’t know Seth Fleetwood, but I think I hate him.”

Not the reaction the Fleetwood campaign, the Democrats or the pro-Fleetwood political action committees were looking for.

(Since I’m picking on the Fleetwood campaign, I should point out a stretch we observed in a Doug Ericksen mailer. Too boost Ericksen’s energy and environmental credentials, his campaign quoted The Bellingham Herald from Oct. 8 saying, “Doug Ericksen acted on clean harbors, oil-by-rail-safety, new energy.” This was the headline of an op-ed he contributed to the newspaper, to benefit his own campaign.)

* * *

On the national level...

A Harvard Institute of Politics poll made a splash this week when it showed that young voters, ages 18 to 29, preferred a Republican-controlled Congress. This bodes not well for Democrats. The same age group preferred a Democrat-controlled Congress in 2010 by 12 percentage points. And we remember how 2010 turned out for Democrats.

WaPo conservative columnist Kathleen Parker muses on the country’s pendulum swing to the right in this piece from Tuesday, Oct. 28. (Parker seems to have good sense. You may recall, she caught flak from conservatives for asking 2008 GOP Veep nominee Sarah Palin to step down from the ticket because she was “clearly out of her league.”)

Parker, anticipating a big Republican win next week:

Victorious Republicans would be at risk of reading this election’s results as a mandate for conservatism, which would be just as mistaken as Democrats who read Obama’s election and reelection as a mandate for Just Everything! What’s happening this time is that people feel unmoored. The world may not be scarier than ever, but we’re more aware than ever.

There’s nothing like a few beheadings to put things in perspective.

The liberal Talking Points Memo points out that this could be the year of the woman ... for Republicans in the U.S. Senate, that is.

From TPM’s Kay Steiger:

Democrats are, of course, using the “war on women” playbook that worked so well for them in 2012, painting many Republican candidates as anti-choice and anti-women. That strategy seems to be working less well this time around, in part because the kind of women who make up likely voters in midterm elections tend to favor Republicans. Women voting in this election are more likely to be white and married, counter to the Democrats’ core constituency of unmarried women and women of color.

The Democrats’ proven formula of appealing to young people and women appears to be a bust this election cycle. But as Parker noted, the pendulum does swing.