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Former party chairs handicap state Senate control, see GOP takeover as long shot

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on June 4, 2012 at 11:37 am |
June 4, 2012 11:37 am

The state Senate is up for grabs this November. Both political parties have a chance to grab full control. Or they could remain in the limbo they’re in now, with Democrats nominally in charge but unable to keep their more conservative members in line, which allowed Senate Republicans to control the budget process this year.

Two pundits who used to be their party’s state chairmen, Democrat Paul Berendt and Republican Chris Vance, analyzed the field in separate recent op/eds. You can read them on the websites of The Stranger (Berendt) and Crosscut (Vance).

Berendt asserts Democrats will be able to pick up the seats they need to retake full control. Vance doesn’t go there but does say the chances of a full Republican takeover have been greatly diminished.

Both of them see Democrats conceding that GOP Sen. Bruce Dammeier of Puyallup will win the seat formerly held by Sen. Jim Kastama. Berendt:

Expect this seat to go to Republicans (even Democrats privately acknowledge that Rep. Bruce Dammeier is a strong candidate), but since the conservative Kastama was one of the Democrats who sided with Republicans on the budget, the loss of this seat will make little difference the actual Senate balance of power.

Both also agree Republican Sen. Mike Carrell of Lakewood will be a top target. Berendt:

On the Democratic side, Steilacoom School Board member Yoshie Wong has just thrown her hat into the ring. She brings proven electability (she won her school board seat with over 62 percent of the vote) and strong progressive values that should excite the Democratic base. While Wong entered the race later than other candidates, the district’s Democratic leanings puts this seat in play.

Vance:

Carrell was elected to the House in 1994, and has served in the Senate since 2004.  He has narrowly survived several close elections in the 28th, which is a district that leans towards Democrats.  Wong is a Steilacoom School Board member.  She is getting a very late start, but if the Senate Democrats decide to invest money here they can put Carrell under pressure. Leaning Republican.

If Dammeier and Carrell win, which seems like the likeliest outcome, Republicans still will face strong Democratic bids to unseat Sen. Don Benton of Vancouver and Sen. Steve Litzow of Mercer Island and to take the seat now held by Sen. Cheryl Pflug of Issaquah, who unexpectedly quit to take a gubernatorial appointment without giving her fellow Republicans time to recruit a prominent replacement. It’s possible Eatonville GOP Sen. Randi Becker will have a tough race, too.

To take over, Republicans would need to successfully defend all of those seats plus Carrell’s while also unseating two of these three lawmakers: Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen of Camano Island, Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe of Bothell and Sen. Brian Hatfield of Raymond. It’s a tall order.

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