Republican tide ebbs in Issaquah-area races

November 9, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

Both parties highlight successes in local contests

The national GOP tsunami carried Republicans into statehouses across the nation on Election Day, but in Washington, the wave amounted to little more than a gentle crest.

Republicans did not dislodge Democrats from majorities in the state Senate or state House of Representatives, but candidates faced a testier electorate, and Democrats face shrunken majorities in both chambers.

Despite strong candidates and a favorable political environment, Republicans did not reclaim a majority in Issaquah-area statehouse seats.

Democrats and Republicans trumpeted successes in the days after Election Day, as elections offices tallied the remaining ballots for statehouse contests.

“We were aligned well with the desires of the people this year,” state GOP Chairman Luke Esser said. “They were not in the mood for any more taxes, they wanted a government to live within a budget, they did not want government to grow — and that was the message you were hearing from our party and most of our candidates.”

State Sen. Ed Murray, Senate Democratic Campaign Committee co-chairman, said the party eked out successes despite the odds.

“Given the amount of money they spent, and given what a bad year it was for Democrats, that we did really well,” he said.

Matt Barreto, a University of Washington associate political science professor, said the GOP made inroads, but the party needs to tailor messages to the Evergreen State electorate to succeed in future contests.

“The generic messages just don’t resonate as well. They need to localize it and contextualize it,” Barreto said. “They need to be talking about what’s happening in Issaquah or Bellevue or Kirkland or Redmond or Vancouver or the peninsula. Until they do that, they’re going to always end up coming up short.”

‘Voters are frustrated’

In the run-up to Election Day, observers said the 41st and 48th legislative district seats could hold the key to a Republican takeover in the Legislature. The electorate delivered mixed results for the GOP: a possible state Senate pickup in the 41st District.

“The state of Washington wasn’t as affected by the political tsunami as other parts of the United States were,” Seattle political consultant Ron Dotzauer said.

Republican Steve Litzow, a Mercer Island city councilman, maintained a slim lead against incumbent Democrat Randy Gordon in the week since the election.

King County Council members appointed Gordon to the seat in January, after then-Sen. Fred Jarrett resigned for a county post.

“Is it a bit of a problem for an appointee? The answer is yes and, by the way, that’s irrespective of political party,” Dotzauer said. “You don’t have the advantage that you get from name recognition from serving in office.”

The district includes Talus and other Cougar Mountain communities in Issaquah, plus Newcastle and rural King County.

Since Election Day, the tight state Senate race in the 48th Legislative District has seesawed to favor Democrat Rodney Tom. The incumbent lagged behind Republican challenger Gregg Bennett on election night, but Tom has built a lead to more than 1,000 votes in the subsequent days.

“Voters are frustrated. They feel they’re not being heard. They’re having to make tough decisions in their personal lives and they don’t think us in government are treating them as adults,” Tom said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

The district includes the Greenwood Point and South Cove neighborhoods in Issaquah, plus parts of Bellevue, Kirkland and Redmond.

‘Tired of the election’

Democrats and Republicans claimed distinct advantages in the race to court Issaquah and Eastside residents.

“I think the Republicans were much better on message discipline, but the Democrats still had the better boots-on-the-ground efforts,” Dotzauer said. “Their voter contact, voter turnout campaign is part of the reason that all of these late-breaking counts are moving in Democrats’ favor.”

Observers said the national GOP tide fizzled in the Evergreen State due to the nature of the local electorate.

“But the Tea Party angst that added on to that elsewhere was nowhere as near pronounced in Washington,” Western Washington University political science professor Todd Donovan said. “It sort of makes sense to see Dems lose seats in Kirkland, Bellevue, Bothell — those are swing areas. But the weak national wave maybe spared some Dem incumbents in other areas.”

The party in power also benefited from a stubborn, independent streak present in local voters. Experts said the Eastside electorate focuses less on the political party and more on the candidates.

“I don’t think the Republicans could have asked for a better year for them,” Murray said.

Legislators said the state could benefit if the latest arrivals pledge to foster bipartisanship, though leaders in both parties said residents should expect a combative mood at the Capitol.

“Hopefully, we can get away from the next election cycle and really concentrate on what is in the best interest of the citizens of the state of Washington,” Tom said. “People are tired of the election, and people want us to be adults and go down to Olympia and do what is in their interest.”

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or Comment at


Voters in Issaquah and the surrounding area returned familiar faces to Olympia and Washington, D.C., on Election Day.

5th Legislative District

Incumbent Republicans Glenn Anderson and Jay Rodne recaptured state House of Representatives seat in dual landslides.

The representatives trounced little known or underfunded candidates to cruise to re-election. The incumbents campaigned as fiscal conservatives in a political environment hostile to tax increases.

In a rematch of the close 2008 contest, Anderson amassed almost 60 percent of the vote to defeat North Bend Democrat David Spring. Rodne outdistanced Sammamish Democrat Greg Hoover for the other House seat by a similar margin.

Anderson, a Fall City resident, has served in the state House for a decade. King County Council members appointed Rodne, a North Bend attorney, to the seat in 2004, after then-Rep. Cheryl Pflug joined the state Senate. Rodne has been elected and re-elected since.

Besides Issaquah, the 5th Legislative District includes North Bend and Snoqualmie, plus parts of Sammamish, Renton and unincorporated King County.

41st Legislative District

In the days after the election, the 41st Legislative District appeared to be a battleground to determine control of the state Senate.

Republican Steve Litzow maintained a narrow lead against incumbent Democrat Randy Gordon as Election Day faded, but victories in other districts appeared to keep the Senate in the Democrats’ hands.

Litzow and Gordon campaigned to serve the last years of former Sen. Fred Jarrett’s term. The seat is up for election again in 2012.

Incumbent House of Representatives Democrat Judy Clibborn opened a sizable lead against Bellevue Republican Stephen Strader on election night, but the contest for the other 41st District House seat turned out to be a close race.

Incumbent Democrat Marcie Maxwell solidified a lead against Republican Peter Dunbar, a Mercer Island physician, in the days since the election.

The district includes Talus and other Cougar Mountain communities in Issaquah, plus Newcastle and rural King County.

48th Legislative District

State Sen. Rodney Tom appeared to be headed for defeat as Election Day came to a close.

In the days after the election, Tom assembled a slight lead against Bellevue Republican Gregg Bennett.

The race for a state House of Representatives contest in the district also dragged past Election Day. In the end, Democrat Ross Hunter edged out Republican Diane Tebelius, a former state GOP chairwoman and federal prosecutor in a close contest, for another House of Representatives term.

“Over the past few months, we have had a vigorous debate over the future of our great state,” Tebelius said in a concession statement. “Washington’s fiscal health must be restored by growing jobs in the private sector and not growing government.”

Incumbent Democrat Deb Eddy cruised to re-election in the district’s other House race.

The district includes the Greenwood Point and South Cove neighborhoods in Issaquah, plus parts of Bellevue, Kirkland and Redmond.

King County District Court

King County District Court is due to receive another judge to handle a burgeoning caseload: Donna Tucker.

The longtime substitute judge and Newcastle attorney outpaced Redmond City Prosecutor Larry Mitchell in the race to sit on the District Court bench in the Northeast Division. The area includes Issaquah, Sammamish and other Eastside communities.

Judge Michael Finkle, a Sammamish resident, outpolled Issaquah attorney John L. O’Brien in the contest for the other Northeast Division seat. In February, the King County Council tapped Finkle — then part of the Seattle City Attorney’s Office — to fill the just-added District Court post.

District Court handles misdemeanor criminal cases, drunken driving offenses and traffic infractions, requests for domestic violence protection orders, small claims and some civil cases.

The court is on track for a record year of more than 253,000 filings by the end of December. The county — backed by the state — increased the number of District Court judges last year to address the caseload.

8th Congressional District

Republican Congressman Dave Reichert surged to a fourth term amid a national GOP tide, despite a spirited challenge from Democrat Suzan DelBene.

Reichert, a former King County sheriff, represents Issaquah and the 8th Congressional District. The district stretches across eastern King and Pierce counties. In the end, Reichert carried both counties by sizable margins and outdistanced DelBene by about 16,000 votes.

DelBene, a former Microsoft and tech executive, touted a reputation for business acumen and a moderate brand of politics as a good fit for the independent district.

Democrats often outpoll Republicans in state and federal races in the district, but no Democrat has ever represented the area in Congress. Reichert fills a seat held by Jennifer Dunn — mother of King County Councilman Reagan Dunn — for a dozen years. The congressman survived strong challenges from Democrat Darcy Burner, a former Microsoft project manager, as Democrats toppled Republicans elsewhere in 2006 and 2008.

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2 Responses to “Republican tide ebbs in Issaquah-area races”

  1. Issy Parent on November 10th, 2010 10:15 am

    Senator Tom was down 133 votes after one small posting of ballots election night. On the second posting his lead went to over and 300 and now after one week, he is ahead by a substantial margin.

  2. Inclement weather delays recount decision in Issaquah state Senate race : The Issaquah Press – News, Sports, Classifieds in Issaquah, WA on November 23rd, 2010 1:08 pm

    […] the national GOP tide, the election left Issaquah’s delegation in Olympia unchanged for the most […]

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