This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.
If Washington voters are mad, they largely kept it to themselves this election.
The anti-incumbent fever supposedly sweeping the nation didn’t materialize in any big way Tuesday night. With few exceptions, incumbency conferred its usual advantages as sitting politicians enjoyed healthy leads.
But the armor wasn’t without some chinks. A number of Democratic state senators appear to be in trouble – and some experts read signs of distress in the returns for U.S. Senate and the state’s only open congressional seat.
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray had 46 percent of the vote as of election night, pulling her barely out of the “bad news” category. But her Republican opponent Dino Rossi also didn’t fare as well as supporters might have hoped; he will have to both win the tea party vote and appeal to the middle to succeed in November.
Down in Southwest Washington, Democrat Denny Heck – running to replace U.S. Rep. Brian Baird – came out on top of a six-way race.
But his primary win is not resounding enough to predict a general election victory. The three Republican candidates together drew a far greater share of the vote than Heck and the other Democrat in the race.
Rep. Adam Smith of Tacoma, facing a bigger field of challengers than usual, won a slimmer majority than in years past, prompting at least one national analyst to warn Smith to be looking over his shoulder.
But the threat is minimal. Smith still outpolled his Republican opponents by eight percentage points. Across the aisle, Congressman Dave Reichert also doesn’t seem to have much to fear, despite his 48 percent showing in the primary. Democrats barely mustered 38 percent of the vote.
Down the ballot, things get more interesting. In the 28th Legislative District, Republican attorney Steve O’Ban was nipping at Democratic state Rep. Troy Kelley’s heels, while over in the 2nd, veteran GOP lawmaker Tom Campbell got pummeled by businessman JT Wilcox.
In the South Sound, moderate Democrats fared better than their more liberal colleagues. On the Gig Harbor peninsula, two members of the centrist “roadkill caucus” – Sen. Derek Kilmer and Rep. Larry Seaquist – had healthy leads over challengers.
Meanwhile, Rep. Tami Green of Lakewood, a leader among “progressives,” couldn’t best the Republican vote. But she still got 48 percent of the vote in a three-way race. If that’s voter anger, then it was expressed with classic Northwest reserve.
Perhaps Washington is an anomaly. Perhaps the primary was uneventful only when measured against expectations of a watershed year. Perhaps this is just the slow simmer leading to November’s boil.
Our best prediction: Voters will keep the pundits guessing.