Democrats are assured of keeping the state House and Senate.
But Senate Republicans are trying to hang on to enough seats to renew a coalition with conservative Democrats that they formed last session, giving them control on budget issues. To achieve that, they likely need Vancouver Sen. Don Benton to survive a challenge from Rep. Tim Probst. Benton was fighting for his political life Wednesday and managed to roughly half his challenger’s lead, to 102 votes.
Senate Republicans lost a seat to Issaquah’s Mark Mullet but claimed a new one with Puyallup Rep. Bruce Dammeier, and seemed headed toward defeating powerful Transportation Committee chairwoman Mary Margaret Haugen of Camano Island, who was trailing Rep. Barbara Bailey of Oak Harbor.
Gig Harbor Sen. Derek Kilmer will give up his seat after his election to Congress, but voters won’t choose a replacement for a year. In the meantime, the Pierce County Council and Kitsap County Board of Commissioners will confer to try to appoint a new senator, but they must choose a Democrat from a three-person list submitted by local party activists.
Republicans have prospects for gaining one or two seats in the state House, cutting into Democrats’ eight-vote majority. Steve O’Ban of Tacoma and Drew MacEwen of Union were among those snagging formerly Democratic seats. Federal Way City Councilwoman Linda Kochmar and Julie Olson of Ridgefield led narrowly in the races for two more.
But another Federal Way councilman, Roger Freeman, defeated a GOP incumbent, Rep. Katrina Asay. And Covington GOP Rep. Mark Hargrove clings to a slim lead, while former Democratic Rep. Dawn Morrell has a comfortable lead over Shelly Schlumpf in Puyallup for Republican Dammeier’s seat.