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Top 10 things we’ll learn from primary vote (UPDATED with answers)

Post by Peter Callaghan / The News Tribune on Aug. 7, 2012 at 11:10 pm with No Comments »
August 8, 2012 8:54 am

Only between 50 percent and 60 percent 60 and 70 percent of the votes cast for the 2012 Washington state primary will be counted tonight so we will have to wait until at least Friday to know the answers to these questions. (See comment below on turnout).

What we won’t learn for sure is why was turnout so low – low by recent standards and low by the overly rosy prediction by state and local elections officials. Maybe it was the earliest ever primary date, the culmination of a move to increase the time between the primary and the general to help assure that military ballots are returned and counted. Maybe, as one of my colleagues guesses, it is the inability of the primary to compete with the Olympics.

But here, at least, is one list of issues that will be known once primary votes are all tallied:

Pierce County Auditor S. Clifford Davis examines railroad car seal on one of last three boxes of absentee ballots from the 1940 election. Deputy Auditor Arthur Schlegel looks on. (Richards Collection, Tacoma Public Library)

1) Will U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell break 60 percent of the total votes? After having a well-funded challenge from insurance company executive Mike McGavick in 2006, Cantwell did not draw a first-tier Republican opponent this year. First-term Spokane state Sen. Mike Baumgartner has been active and enthusiastic but hasn’t found much support, having raised less than $700,000. Cantwell has raised more than $8 million. (Answer: Not quite, she carried 56 percent so far)

2) Will U.S. Rep. Adam Smith break 60 percent? Smith’s 9th Congressional District was dramatically changed by redistricting, going well into Seattle and Bellevue. But he has not drawn a serious Republican challenger and surprisingly didn’t face a well-positioned liberal from his own party. (Answer: Yes, is at 60.6 percent).

3) Will Dick Muri or Stan Flemming face Denny Heck in the new 10th Congressional District? The 10th was drawn for Heck. Even Republican members of the redistricting commissioner concede that, saying they used it to make surrounding districts more Republican. One of the two Republicans on the Pierce County Council will try to prove that assumption wrong. (Answer: Muri)

4) What the heck will happen in the wild 1st Congressional District race? There are about 100 Democratic candidates (give or take 95) and is is likely that only one will survive to try to keep John Koster from winning this open seat. And then there’s the odd aspect of a double election _ one to fill out Jay Inslee’s final six weeks in Congress, the other to represent the district for the following two years. (Answer: Suzan DelBene will face Koster)

5) Who will win the beauty contest in the race for governor? By beauty contest I mean that the voters will not be electing either Jay Inslee or Rob McKenna tonight but instead will be expressing a preference since both will move on to the general election. Call it a poll with a really, really large sample size. Whichever candidate gets the most votes will try to claim it gives them momentum. Whichever candidate finishes second will blame it on the low turnout. (Answer: Inslee, with a 47 percent to 43 percent advantage so far)

6) Which Democrat will face off against Thurston County Auditor Kim Wyman? With the top two primary, there is no guarantee that the only Republican in the race will advance. But it will happen. Which means the interesting aspect of tonight’s voting is whether Jim Kastama, Kathleen Drew or Greg Nickels will be her rival. (Answer: Drew)

7) Who will have bragging rights in the slugfest known as the 27th District state senate race? Only two candidates filed for the open seat from the Tacoma district. Both are Democrats. Both will advance to the general election. So why have both Jack Connelly and Jeannie Darneille worked so hard and spent so much money? And why has the campaign become so negative so soon? Because a big total in the primary could change the dynamics of the general election. Connelly can self-fund if need be but Darneille needs to show funders that she is close enough to make the November runoff winnable. (Answer: Darneille with a big 60 percent to 40 percent advantage)

8) Will Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam survive until November? Well, will he? Washam is one of five candidates for the now non-partisan office. Only two will move on to November. Does the wounded Washam have enough support to be one of them? Put another way, will the four challengers – Mike Lonergan, Spiro Manthou, Billie O’Brien and Tim Farrell – so divide the dump Dale vote that only one will move on. (Answer: No. Washam finished fourth with Lonergan and O’Brien likely to face off in November)

9) Does Steve Gonzalez win for state Supreme Court? He should in that he is the appointed incumbent, has run a decent campaign (by Supreme Court terms) and has nearly every endorsement. All he needs is half the vote plus one to appear alone on the November ballot and Bruce Danielson has done nothing to campaign for the seat. But there is an odd history of voters who know little about candidates for this down-ballot office choosing the person with the more-common name. Who remembers Keith Callow? (Answer: Yes, with nearly 57 percent of the vote)

10) Will Richard Sanders‘ comeback campaign make it through to November? Sanders lost a close race two years ago to Charlie Wiggins. He wants to rejoin the court and is one of four seeking an open seat. But he must finish first or second to advance and all four – including John Ladenburg, Sheryl McCloud and Bruce Hilyer – have run active campaigns. (Answer: Maybe. Sanders is in a close contest for second place with Hilyer. McCloud won a plurality and will advance)

And as for turnout…824,539 votes were counted last night. If predictions of a 45 percent turnout prove accurate, that means less than 50 percent of the total vote was counted election night.

That’s one list. What questions are on yours?

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