Battle for balance of power in State Legislature

Some of the most competitive political races here in Washington State could determine which party will control the state legislature.

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Washington Democrats control the State House of Representatives by only two seats. House Republicans, last year, believed they had a shot to win the House in 2016. Does a divisive presidential race change that?

“I think we have a lot of seats in play,” said Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon of the House Democratic Campaign Committee

“Our plan all along has been to run as if we were behind, and as if we had a chance to lose the majority of the House. I don't think we're going to lose the majority of the house,” he continued.

Instead, Fitzgibbon believes his Party is in a position to grow its majority, in large part because of Donald Trump.

House Republicans, meanwhile, downplay concerns about a possible Trump effect down ballot, arguing voters will identify local candidates with local issues, not the national presidential race.

“I’m still pretty optimistic,” said Rep. Drew Stokesbary of the House Republican Organizational Committee. 

“I know that Trump isn’t the most popular person in Washington State or the United States right now, but the fact of the matter is that Hillary Clinton is the most unpopular major party nominee in history among anybody not named Donald Trump, so there’s really an effect on both sides of the ticket,” Stokesbary argued.

But recent polling shows Clinton with a double-digit lead in Washington State, and Democrats believe that will give them the edge.

“A lot of voters who have traditionally considered themselves to be Republican voters feel more alienated from that party right now because of the kind of rhetoric they’re hearing at the state and national level,” Fitzgibbon told KING 5.

“I feel like there’s a realistic shot we’ll be at 52 (seats),” Fitzgibbon predicted.

Stokesbary believes Republicans could take the House 51 to 47.

So, here’s a look at some the most competitive races that both Parties are targeting:

District 30, part of King and Pierce counties, Federal Way, Des Moines, part of Auburn

House Position 1—Democratic challenger Mike Pellicciotti led Republican incumbent Linda Kochmar in the August primary.

Money Raised: Kochmar, $252,668.16, Pellicciotti $256,748.42

Independent spending: $53,301.86 in support of Kochmar, $189,464.42 in opposition

$73,994.20 in support of Pellicciotti, $104,140.00 in opposition

House Position 2— Democratic challenger Kristine Reeves narrowly led Republican incumbent Teri Hickel in the primary. Hickel was elected last year during a special election. 

Money raised:

Hickel: $265,484.53; Reeves, $231,688.10

Independent spending: $190,902.61 in support of Hickel, $174,124.59 in opposition. $159,038.29 in support of $195,492.47 in opposition.

Note, President Obama has endorsed both Democratic candidates in this district.

District 44, Snohomish County

House Position 1—An open seat race between former County Executive John Lovick (D) and Janice Huxford, a first-time Republican candidate. Lovick led Huxford in the August primary.

Money raised: Lovick $233,527.8; Huxford $247,304.59

Independent spending: $102,814.77 in support of Lovick, $92,304.01 in opposition

$23,286.30 in support of Huxford; $165,647.29 in opposition

District 31, South King County, Northeast Pierce County

Position two is a seat left open by outgoing Democrat Chris Hurst. Republican Phil Fortunato held a slight lead in the primary, ahead of Democrat Lane Walthers.

Money raised: Walthers, $150,385.21, Fortunato $71,910.

Independent Spending: $502 in support of Walthers, $58,742 in opposition

$83,641 in opposition of Fortunato.

District 19, Represents Pacific and Wahkiakum Counites and part of Cowlitz, Lewis, and Grays Harbor Counties

House Position 1—Republican Jim Walsh held a slight lead over Democrat Teresa Purcell who edged out fellow Democrat JD Rossetti in the August primary.

Money raised: Purcell $211,592.95, Walsh 134,362.09

Independent Spending: $9,335.36 in support of Purcell, $79,287.64 in opposition

$14,000 in support of Walsh, 34,567.06 in opposition.

Note, this district includes a portion of Grays Harbor County, Donald Trump’s best county during the presidential primary. While traditionally the region has been a Democratic stronghold, recent election results show the district becoming more competitive.

District 5 , East King County, Carnation, North Bend, Snoqualmie, Issaquah, parts of Renton.

House Position 2—An open seat vacated by Republican Rep. Chad Magandanz who is running for state Senate. Republican Paul Graves led Democrat Darcy Burner in the August primary.

Money raised: Graves, $249,698.20; Burner, $186,240.66

Independent spending: $14,140.91 in support of Graves, none in opposition, as of Thursday.

$1,131.96 in support of Burner, $45,938.91 in opposition.

Source of fundraising totals comes from Public Disclosure Commission, as of Thursday.

Related: Fight for the State Senate

Copyright 2016 KING


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