Tight race for 'very swing, very purple' East King County district

The 41st District's state senate race could be one of the closest local races this election and have implications for the balance of power in the state legislature.

SEATTLE - It could be one of the closest Washington races on election night and have implications for the balance of power in the state legislature.

Legislative district 41 includes Mercer Island, Bellevue and Sammamish, and with one week to Election Day, the district has been inundated with signs, mailers and ads.

“I'll just be glad when next Tuesday comes, because I am sick of all of it,” said voter Jackie Roberts.

“It’s going to be a very close race,” said voter Larry Mounger. “It could go into a recount, it’s going to be that close.”  

Even the incumbent, Republican State Senator Steve Litzow admits the race will be tight.

“I won my 2010 election by 192 votes,” he said of the year he was first elected to the State Senate.

He calls the district “very swing, very purple.” But this year, the State Democratic Party is hoping to turn the district blue.

Litzow’s Democratic challenger Lisa Wellman narrowly won the August primary by less than 500 votes. A former teacher and tech executive, Wellman is running as a first time candidate.  

“I was very frustrated with what was happening and even more by what wasn't happening,” Wellman said of her decision to run.

Both candidates cite education funding as their top issue. Sen. Litzow, Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, argues he’s got the experience to meet a critical McCleary deadline next year.

“We've made tremendous progress in the past four years,” Litzow said, pointing to an additional $4.5 billion in education funding over the past several years.

“I believe I bring a bi-partisan record of accomplishment and levels of experience to make sure we can continue to do that,” he continued.

But, Wellman, who sells herself as a candidate with “a Democratic heart but CEO brain” argues more can be done.

“McCleary is the least we can do but not the best we can do,” she said. “I think we need to prepare kids for a 21st century economy. I don't think that's happening.”

When asked how the candidates would fund the final leg of McCleary, estimated around $3.5 billion over two years, both candidates said they do not support a state income tax.

“I believe we’re going to have new revenues with closing tax loopholes, streamlining sales tax, and making adjustments to the local and state levies,” Litzow said of possible funding sources.

“Certainly there will be some money coming in from growth. I’d like to restructure the B and O tax, I think that needs to happen, and I also think we need to look at a capital gains tax. Those are things on the table,” said Wellman of her plan.

Litzow said he does not support a capital gains tax, calling it too volatile. The legislature blocked a capital gains proposal in the Governor’s budget proposal, last cycle.

Aside from education funding, Litzow says transportation is another top issue for voters in his district. Wellman lists homelessness and gun safety as additional key issues among voters she’s contacting.

While the candidates say local issues dominate talk at the doors, Litzow calls the national election the elephant in the room. 

"That has taken all the oxygen out of the room. Everybody is focused on that,” acknowledges Litzow who distanced himself from Trump early on. “As we go door to door, this is very local. We're telling people please vote."

However, it's still unknown how the top of the ticket could potentially impact races down ballot. The State Democratic Party senses an opening in swing districts like the 41st. 

Related: Fight for the State Senate

“I even had one gentlemen tell me I was going to be his first Democrat. When a Republican gives you $100, you know he's sincere,” said Wellman.

Money raised:

Sen. Litzow leads in the money of all legislative candidates, raising more than $750,000. Additionally, he’s received nearly $340,000 in independent spending. More than $437,000 in independent dollars have been spent against him. Read more about Litzow's campaign finance.

Wellman has raised more than $413,000 and has received around $75,000 in independent spending supporting her candidacy. More than $594,000 dollars in independent money has been spent in opposition. Read more about Wellman's campaign finance.

 

Copyright 2016 KING


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