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Morning Wire:  Sen. Andy Billig, election update, Sen. Joe Fain

We are still sorting through the lessons of last Tuesday’s election, so we’ve captured a number of stories for you below. Much is from our independent reporting team tracking Olympia and state politics. Some we’ve curated for you from other outlets.  It’s an approach that we hope adds value to your understanding of the issues facing our state.

If you have any thoughts on stories we should be covering as we head into the legislative session, drop us a note to let us know.

With help from Emily Boerger and Sara Gentzler

1. Billig elected Senate Majority Leader

Yesterday, Washington State Senate Democrats elected Sen. Andy Billig as the new Senate Majority Leader. Sen. Billig, a Spokane businessman, previously served a term in the House and is now in his second term as Senator. A Twitter thread from Senate Dems highlights Billig’s work on campaign finance reform, health care expansion, and improving access and quality of early learning programs. On a fun note, Andy Billig’s Twitter bio mentions he’s not only a Senator, Dad, and Baseball Executive, but also an “Ironman & Juggler.”

Billig will take the place of Sen. Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, who will retire after serving in the State Legislature for over ten years and as Senate Democrats’ leader since 2013. In a press statement, Nelson remarked, “Andy has proven his commitment to progressive values through his work on education, campaign transparency and water quality. I am leaving the Senate in good hands with a majority leader who will truly put people first.”

2.  Making sense of the House elections last week

In the aftermath of last week’s state House elections, I heard from members on both sidesof the aisle helping to make sense of what we saw on Tuesday. Rep. JT Wilcox let me know that House Republicans closed the gap from the primary to the general due to an extensive and early GOTV effort.  Republicans directed resources away from TV and mail and put it into chasing votes.

House Democrats highlighted that this was the first time they’d picked up seats since 2006.  (That’s right: zero Obama coattails from 8 years of work.)  It also resulted in pushing turning King County effectively entirely blue, with no King County House LDsrepresented by Republicans (save a portion of the 31st).

3.  Women win in Washington State

One of the biggest stories to come out of the 2018 midterms is the success of women running for office across the country. This was seen both at the national level and in Washington State. Races like those in Washington’s 5th, 6th, 28th, 29th, and 30th LDs are all increasing female representation in the state legislature.

Emily Boerger spoke with Karen Besserman, Executive Director of Emerge Washington, about encouraging women to run for office, the importance of diversity, and election trends we are likely to see moving forward.

4. Liberty State campaign: “Stage II” begins January 2019

Rep. Matt Shea, who recently received national attention for a written manifesto he authored on the “Biblical Basis for War,” is also well-known for his desire to create “Liberty State,” the nation’s 51st state encompassing all Washington counties to the east of the Cascade Mountains.

recent PSA posted on Liberty State’s website claims Liberty State has support in 16 of 20 counties at the “grassroots level” and that the initiative will enter “Stage II” in January 2019. The speaker on the PSA, “Lady Liberty,” also says the Liberty State Constitution is 95 percent complete. The PSA concludes, “It is easier to divided the state than to fix it…”

5. Fain concedes to Mona Das in the 47th LD

A Republican-held seat in the Washington State Senate officially flipped last Friday, November 9, when Sen. Joe Fain conceded to Democratic challenger Mona Das. Current returns show Das leading Fain by 1.22 percent of the vote.

Fain’s concession came a day after the Senate Facilities and Operations Committee approved a special budget authorization to hire an independent investigator who would look into a rape allegation against Sen. Fain — a decision that received bipartisan supportIt had been unclear if and how the Senate would proceed with an investigation since late September, when Candace Faber tweeted that Fain allegedly raped her in 2007. Now that Fain has conceded, an investigation’s path forward is again unclear.

6.  Election update: Senate Dems look to gain two seats, House Dems still on-track to gain seven

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It’s been a week since initial election results were released and there are still tight races in both chambers of Washington’s State legislature. If results were to stay where they are, Senate Dems’ majority would expand to 27-22; House Dems’ majority would grow to 57-41. But there are several races that could change those numbers.

In the Senate, two races have now officially flipped Republican-to-Democrat. Two others are vulnerable, with races narrowly leaning Republican by a margin of less than one percentage point (the 26th and 42nd LDs). The House has more moving parts: Five seats appear to be sure flips from Republican to Democrat. There are six races in which candidates are separated by less than two points: Four leaning Republican (6th, Position 217th, Position 119th, Position 142nd, Position 1), two leaning Democrat (10th, Position 242nd, Position 2). All that volatility considered, Senate Dems’ numbers could reach 29; the number of House Dems could range anywhere from 55 to 61.

7.  DelBene, Heck vie to lead DCCC; vote Nov. 28th

The day after Democrats took control of the US House, Washington State Representatives Suzan DelBene and Denny Heck announced their intent to compete for Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) for the 2020 cycle. Both Representatives currently hold leadership positions within the DCCC – DelBene is the Finance Co-Chair and Heck is the Recruitment Chair.

In her letter announcing her interest in the position, DelBene says she will focus on improving the Democratic party’s digital communication and fundraising/data analytics programs. “We can’t let Republicans beat us by using newer technologies to reach voters,” writes DelBene. Heck’s letter also stressed the importance of utilizing new technologies and says that with the new majority, House Dems will need to switch from strictly playing offense to protecting incumbents. Also vying for the job are Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18) and Cheri Bustos (IL-17). Axios describes Bustos as the favorite.

8.  Washington Supreme Court Justice Gonzalez is winning in every county

Gonzalez-Choi election 2018

Leading up to the election, we (and other outletswrote about the race for Position 8 on Washington’s State Supreme Court. Early polling suggested Gonzalez’s seat on the court wasn’t completely secure despite the fact that his challenger, Nathan Choi, is far less qualified. Early results from this year’s election show that something separates it from 2012, when Gonzalez won just 10 of 39 counties in his race against a similarly under-the-radar opponent.

Gonzalez is dominating in every county this election. But the two counties giving him the lowest percentage of votes are, interestingly, the same two counties a statistical analysis out of UW called out for “racially polarized voting” during the 2012 race.