The TV's been humming with a flood of political ads for weeks now, but if you think that's been wild, well, it's just the beginning. With the Primary Election in the books, it's on to the Nov. 2 General Election - and a lot more TV ads.
If you're a candidate and you haven't already bought air time, you better hurry up. Washington state is still counted among those swing states in the presidential race, which means we will continue to see lots of ads from those two campaigns. Then there's the 5th District Congressional race, in which both national parties started advertising before the primary.
In an Associated Press story last week, the race between Don Barbieri and Cathy McMorris, who emerged as the Republican candidate on Tuesday night, was highlighted as one of the two most pivotal races in the nation. (The other is in Buffalo, N.Y.) If 12 seats swing to Democrats, the balance of power in Congress will shift for the first time in 10 years -- when Tom Foley lost. Due to redistricting, however, only about 40 races nationwide are even considered competitive.
The big story out of the Washington primary, however, is how many people voted Democrat. Rather than a somewhat even split, Democrats turned out in force. Statewide, in the Governor's race as of Tuesday night, more than 80,000 more Democratic voters turned out that Republicans. Even in conservative-leaning Spokane County, as of Tuesday night, only about 1,500 more Republicans turned out.
Spokane could be a bellwether for the balance of power in Olympia, too, as the even split between Democrats and Republicans could be upset in the 6th District, where Laurie Dolan is back for another try at the Senate seat (she lost to Jim West in her previous try). She'll face Brad Benson, who has served the 6th District as a state rep and outpolled Brian Murray.
5th District Congressional Race
The three Republicans aiming for a shot at George Nethercutt's job played nice -- although they all proclaimed they would be the best candidate to face Don Barbieri in the General Election. Meanwhile, Barbieri spent heavily before the primary, even without an opponent. He may have run through a good chunk of his war chest, but it probably won't matter: Political insiders say the candidates in this race won't want for money, as it will begin to pour in right away.
So did the Republicans give themselves the best chance to keep the seat? If the party really did think one candidate was better than another, perhaps someone would have received a quiet tap on the shoulder to step aside. As it turned out, if either Larry Sheahan or Shaun Cross had not been in the race, the remaining candidate could have beaten McMorris. As of 11 pm Tuesday night, Cross and Sheahan had nearly 3,000 more votes, combined, than McMorris.
As the party's candidate, McMorris has the conservative credentials the party loves, and she ran a solid primary campaign by nailing down financial support and key endorsements. But she will be facing an opponent who was the CEO of a publicly traded corporation; he started on that path at about the time she was born. McMorris's business acumen consists of working her family's orchard and her MBA from the University of Washington. Since she was 24 years old, she has been a state representative. Whether she stacks up favorably on personal accomplishments may not matter, as she has the wind at her back. Even as the statewide turnout was heavily tilted toward Democrats, as of Tuesday evening, nearly 15,000 more votes were cast for Republicans than for Barbieri.
Look for McMorris to bring up Barbieri's lack of legislative experience (he has none) as he trumpets his own fiscal conservative credentials in attempts to peel off some Spokane County Republicans who share his focus on business issues.
On election night, just after the race was called, McMorris could finally take a deep breath: "We've been working hard for over a year, and it's finally paid off," she said. "We've run a positive, upbeat, exciting campaign so far, and that's what we'll continue to do. Without a doubt we have a lot of work to do, and the first thing is to bring together and unite the Republicans."
From his primary election gathering Tuesday night, Barbieri said the issues he has been campaigning on have been well received, and he intends to stay with them through November: "What we're going to do is exactly what we've been doing. Stay on the issues that the voters care about: jobs, healthcare and fiscal responsibility -- issues we hear about day in and day out."
As for the influx of outside money, Barbieri said voters should be skeptical: "You saw we were attacked on Friday, and we don't believe that is what we should be doing. Negativism doesn't solve problems. Why we were being attacked, we were being misrepresented. We saved jobs and turned a bankrupt company into a strong successful operation."
Money will surely flow into the district on his behalf, too, but Barbieri says he personally will not go negative. "What the country wants is to get rid of [negative campaigning] and get back to focusing on community wellness."
On election night, McMorris agreed: "We're going to run a positive campaign. I look forward to debating the issues with Don, and we'll have numerous occasions to do so."
Spokane County Commissioners
No big surprises for the two open County Commissioner seats. Democrat Bill Burke, who has run for the job before, will face Mark Richard, who survived a split vote with Matt Ewers and Steve Peterson. And in the other open seat, Republican Todd Mielke ran unopposed and will face Linda Wolverton, the veteran Democratic County Treasurer.
Washington State Governor
Despite having the experience of managing the state's largest county, Ron Sims just didn't catch fire with voters. His state tax overhaul was well received in some quarters, but not in numbers enough to derail the Chris Gregoire machine. Due to the new primary election system, it's hard to say how much to view the returns as a window on the General Election. But if they can be used as any kind of guide, the big Democrat turnout should put the fear of God into Republicans. So Dino Rossi has his work cut out for him, especially since Gregoire should be able to convert those who voted for Sims. The news isn't better for George Nethercutt, who will have to get the Republican Party faithful out to the polls on Nov. 2.
Washington State Attorney General
Maybe Deborah Senn got some sympathy for the thrashing she suffered at the hands of a last-minute TV ad campaign that was belatedly linked to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. If that's the case, the ad campaign backfired, because now she's in the hunt of the job of Attorney General. She beat Mark Sidran to face Rob McKenna, a King County Councilman who, despite not having practiced law for more than a decade, defeated Mike Vaska.
Primary Election 2004 Results
All results as of Tuesday, 11 pm; bold names advance to general
PATTY MURRAY 295,625
GEORGE NETHERCUTT 117,118
Washington State Governor
CHRISTINE GREGOIRE 217,887
DINO ROSSI 168,196
RON SIMS 84,102
ROB MCKENNA 148,237
MIKE VASKA 43,857
DEBORAH SENN 161,922
MARK SIDRAN 136,770
Results by district
U.S. House of Representatives District 5
DON BARBIERI 36,842
SHAUN CROSS 11.833
CATHY McMORRIS 24,627
LARRY SHEAHAN 15,107
Washington State Senate
State Senator District 6
BRAD BENSON 5,971
LAURIE DOLAN 10,100
BRIAN MURRAY 5,458
State House of Representatives
District 3 Position 1
JAMES HOLSCHEN JR 1,445
DAVID STEVENS 2,763
ALEX WOOD 7,829
Superior Court Judge Position 6
SAM F COZZA 51,804
STEVE EUGSTER 12,130
Superior Court Judge Position 8
HAROLD D CLARKE III 26,866
GAIL SCHWARTZ 16,624
JOE VALENTE 12,930
Superior Court Judge Position 11
MICHAEL D ELSTON 25,940
GREG SYPOLT 27,896
Spokane County Commissioner
TOM HARGREAVES 3,266
BARBARA LAMPERT 1,714
TODD MIELKE 10,925
LINDA WOLVERTON 5,281
BILL BURKE 5,427
MATT EWERS 3,131
STEVE PETERSON 2,986
MARK RICHARD 4,553
BRIAN SAYRS 3,426
BALLOT MEASURES and INITIATIVES
Proposition No. 1 — Sales Tax For Criminal Justice and Public Safety Purposes
City of Spokane Proposition No. 1 EMS Levy
City of Spokane Valley Proposition No. 1 — Road bonds
For complete, updated results, go to spokanecounty.org and go to election results, or vote.wa.gov/results.