Upcoming Conference | 2019 Re-Wire Policy Conference, Dec 10, 2019 Register

House Dems could be heading to a historic 73 vote majority

The primary election returns in Washington State portend a major wave for Democratic candidates in legislative races.

Based on results from last night’s primary, House Democrats could pick up as many as 23 seats, giving them a 73 seat majority for the first time in 80 years.

First, let me preface a review of specific races by saying a couple of things about this primary.

  • This primary electorate is not the general.  Generally speaking, primary electorates are more committed, partisan voters. They are also older, whiter and more affluent, generally speaking.  So, it’s reasonable to think that this is a high water mark of sorts for Republicans as they head into the general.
  • Most legislative candidates aren’t well known.  So, party identification matters a lot.  And, in mid-terms, generally speaking, the incumbent president is one of the most important contributing factors to party support.  A president in office generally drives opposition voters to the polls.  The could be happening here.
  • This turnout is low relative to the general election.  Statewide, the current ballot return percentage is 26.8% as of election night.  That will rise as late mail in ballots are tabulated.  But the general election is likely to be much, much higher.  In 2016, the turnout was 78.8%.  In 2014, it was a more modest 54.2%.  These are statewide results, and every district will vary, but anyway you cut it, it’s likely to be a stronger turnout for Democrats in November 2018 than it was in August 2018, or November 2014.

So, all of those things point to a likely even greater turnout for Democrats this fall.  Generally speaking, I don’t think any of those things are a surprise.  Many campaign watchers would find all of the above to be within the mainstream thinking of campaigns.

What’s a shock in this August primary is how far ahead various Democrats are compared to their Republican counterparts.  This is true for both challengers and incumbents.  Here are some examples from House races.

  • 5th LD:  Both a popular Republican incumbent and a former Republican legislator in an open seat are losing in this east King County district that has been a firewall for Republicans over the years in King County.
  • 6th LD:  Both a Republican incumbent and a Republican challenger in an open seat are losing in this very Republican but changing district in the west Spokane suburbs.
  • 10th LD:  This has been a swing district on Whidbey island over the years, but both Republican incumbents are losing.
  • 12th LD:  Ann Diamond has a reasonable pathway to become the first Independent legislator in Washington in over 100 years in what is a very conservative district in north central Washington.
  • 17th LD:  Vicki Kraft looks vulnerable here, unable to overcome the cumulative Democratic vote in this conservative Clark County district.  Popular and hard working Republican Paul Harris looks like he is safe heading to re-election in the district.
  • 18th LD:  Both Republican candidates, one of whom is an incumbent, are in deep trouble in the SW Washington district.
  • 19th LD:  Incumbent Jim Walsh is down two points as of this writing.
  • 25th LD:  One seat has a Democrat safely in the lead.  The other has a chunk of independent votes in the primary that will likely swing the election in November.  Both seats are currently held by Republicans.
  • 26th LD:  Both incumbents are losing in this fiscally conservative district centered near Gig Harbor.
  • 28th LD:  Dick Muri trails in this south Pierce County district, long a swing district for both parties.
  • 30th LD:  Linda Kochmar is trailing in a district surrounding Federal Way.
  • 35th LD:  One Republican incumbent trails, one leads, but both races are very close.
  • 39th LD:  Both of these seats in this very Republican district are close.
  • 42nd LD:  Both seats, currently held by Republicans, appear like Democratic pickups.
  • 44th LD:  Mark Harmsworth, a smart and politically savvy Republican incumbent, is losing handily.
  • 47th LD:  Mark Hargrove is just under 50% against a combined Democratic vote in a split district.

You get the picture.

That’s 23 potential pickups for House Democrats based on these returns, which as I’ve said above, are likely as good as things will get for Republicans.

This represents a major shift that could combine to give Democrats a 73-25 majority in the House.

The last time Democrats had a 73 member majority was 1939.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president.