The close state legislative races we're still watching

Natalie Brand reports

It's been one week since Election Day, and the counting continues in competitive legislative races that could impact the balance of power in the state legislature.

Here are the races that we’re still watching:

District 19 along the Olympic Peninsula represents Pacific and Wahkiakum Counties and part of Cowlitz, Lewis, and Grays Harbor Counties.

This has been a longtime Democratic district that is trending Republican in the race for House Position 1.

Related: Longtime Democratic Grays Harbor gives Trump a boost

Republican Jim Walsh now leads Democrat Teresa Purcell by nearly 300 votes. He trailed her on Election Day but has made gains in the late count.

District 30 includes Federal Way, Des Moines, and part of Auburn.

Republicans lost ground in this South King County district. Democratic challenger Mike Pellicciotti unseated incumbent Linda Kochmar in position 1.

In position 2, Republican incumbent Teri Hickel trails Democratic challenger Kristine Reeves. While Hickel has tightened the race in the late count, she’s still behind by just under 800 votes.  

Related: Election results tracker

Rep. J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, who sits on the House Republicans campaign committee, says he’s not conceding the race but admits Republicans had a tough time this November in and around King County.

“The top of the ticket was tough on Republicans in King County,” Wilcox said.  “It may have been good in some other areas, but King County, we were not able to get people to look at the candidates themselves. It was more of a nationalized election.”

Republicans also lost the Senate seat in east King County’s 41st legislative district. First time candidate Lisa Wellman defeated Republican incumbent Steve Litzow.

Democrats in the Senate will likely hold onto their seat in the 5th district in East King County. However, Republican challenger Chad Magendanz has narrowed the margin in the late count. Incumbent Mark Mullet (D) currently leads by a little more than 800.

Ultimately, Republicans and the Majority Coalition Caucus will still maintain control of the state senate next year, likely by a margin of 25 to 24.

Democrats will likely control the House by the same margin 50-48, despite changes in districts 19 and 30. That split also takes into account a Republican pick-up in the 31st District in Pierce County.

So what do all of the changes mean? Lawmakers note the results reflect a prevalent theme this election cycle of a rural, urban divide.

“I think Washington State is much like the rest of the country,” said Rep. Wilcox. “We’re beginning to see an even more intensive sort where the only place Democrats can win is in pretty large urban areas.”

Democratic Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon of Seattle said there was a divide between urban and rural areas.

“The concerns of voters in urban areas and rural districts are not the same right now, and that neither party has articulated a hopeful vision for rural Washington or rural America," Rep. Fitzgibbon said, "And we need to do some soul searching and go to these communities and talk to people about what they think needs to be done.”

Copyright 2016 KING


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