Brad Toft: State Senate race is too close to call, despite Mark Mullet’s lead
November 8, 2012
By Warren Kagarise
NEW — 12:10 p.m. Nov. 8, 2012
The contest for the 5th Legislative District state Senate seat is too close to call, Snoqualmie Republican Brad Toft said Thursday, despite a 3,307-vote lead for Issaquah Democrat Mark Mullet.
The race attracted attention in recent weeks for the insults the candidates lobbed at one another and, for a time, observers said the match-up could determine state Senate control. However, Republicans did not gain enough seats on Election Day to crack the Democrats’ majority in the chamber.
Mullet held about 54 percent — or 23,216 votes — to Toft’s 46 percent — or 19,909 votes — among more than 43,000 ballots counted in the race so far.
King County Elections is scheduled to release additional results at 4:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Thursday.
“The preliminary vote shows my messages of economic growth, funding education first and encouraging responsible tax policy have resonated with many voters,” Toft said in a statement. “Although the opposition spent more than a quarter of a million dollars in their exaggerated claims against me and my family, nearly half the voters apparently dismissed the tactics as mere politics. Although the results are far from final, I see this as a triumph of truth over corruption.”
Mullet declared victory after the initial election results landed Tuesday night.
“I spent my life in statistics. My previous career as managing director at Bank of America revolved around statistics,” he said in a Thursday interview. “The election is over. The math behind it is reliable.”
The election results released at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday added 4,012 ballots to the 39,174 ballots tallied in the race on Election Day.
So far, county elections officials received about 985,000 ballots and tallied 609,611 by Wednesday — or about 62 percent, elections office spokeswoman Kim van Ekstrom said Thursday.
Ballot processing continues until every ballot is counted and the election is certified Nov. 27.
Toft’s campaign said the uncounted ballots could shift the balance in the race — a claim Mullet dismissed.
“I would be surprised if it changes more than half of a percent either way, but that’s what I would think is the maximum fluctuation,” Mullet said.
In dueling emails to supporters and journalists, Mullet and Toft campaign staffers dug in. Mullet’s campaign asked supporters to collect yard signs and donate to fund last-minute advertising. Toft’s campaign reiterated the candidate’s intention to wait for more election results.
“The Toft-Mullet match-up is not as close as our latest polls demonstrated,” Terry LaBrue, Toft’s campaign communications director, said in a statement. “We need to wait and see because we expect the final vote will be much closer. The GOP has a built-in five-point advantage in the redrawn 5th Legislative District. In addition, Brad was able to reframe the contentious contest to connect Mark Mullet with the unfolding Gov. Gregoire/Sen. Pflug bribery scandal.”
The seat opened after then-state Sen. Cheryl Pflug suddenly withdrew from the campaign in May, and Gov. Chris Gregoire appointed the Maple Valley Republican to a state post. Pflug later resigned from the Senate and endorsed Mullet.
The actions opened a rift between Pflug and other Republicans.
In July, King County Council members appointed Sammamish Republican Dino Rossi — former state senator for the district, in addition to a former candidate for governor and U.S. Senate — to the seat in a caretaker role until Mullet or Toft is elected.
“We did everything we could to hold onto the Senate seat,” 5th Legislative District GOP Chairman Bob Brunjes said in statement. “The 5th is one of the few all-Republican districts on the west side of the state and has been so for more than a decade.”
The last Democrat elected to represent the district in Olympia, Kathleen Drew, won election in 1992. (Drew is now a candidate for secretary of state.)
In the state House of Representatives, Republicans Jay Rodne and Glenn Anderson represent the district. Issaquah School Board member Chad Magendanz, a Republican, won election Tuesday to succeed the retiring Anderson in the House.