Democrats dominate Issaquah voters’ choices
January 1, 2013
By Warren Kagarise
Strong get-out-the vote operation boosts candidates
Democrats dominated Issaquah in the November election.
City voters chose Democrats for every federal and statewide office on the ballot — sometimes by a broad margin and others by a handful of votes.
Issaquah overwhelmingly supported Democrats in the races for president and vice president, U.S. senator and U.S. representative, and every statewide office. Only incumbent Republican Steve Litzow, a 41st Legislative District state senator representing about half of Issaquah, earned support from a majority of voters inside city limits.
The information comes from a detailed analysis of precinct results in the Nov. 6 election.
“I think in the end, the Democrats just had the model right,” Peter Graves, Washington State Republican Party executive director, said in a recent interview. “They turned out the voters that they knew they needed to win.”
Benton Strong, communications director for Washington State Democrats, attributed the successes to working to get voters to return ballots on time.
“You saw how a strong get-out-the-vote operation can help candidates win elections, especially when they’re close,” he said. “You know that these elections are within two, three, four points and that’s where that field operation really makes a big difference.”
The contest atop the ballot between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and the race for governor between Democrat Jay Inslee and Republican Rob McKenna, captured the most attention — and votes — among the local electorate.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden trounced Republican challengers Romney and Paul Ryan inside city limits. (In the presidential contest, third-party candidates claimed 2 percent among the local electorate.)
Though Inslee prevailed in Issaquah, McKenna garnered 1,583 more votes than the Romney-Ryan ticket, so at least some voters split between the parties in deciding the contests for president and governor.
Interest waned in items farther down the ballot, such as contests for the Legislature and for King County sheriff. Though the Inslee-McKenna matchup received nonstop attention as Election Day neared, 435 more people voted for president than governor.
Voter participation proves crucial
Officials at the state Democratic and Republican organizations said the presence of Obama atop the ballot also influenced voter behavior.
“We ran a really strong field operation and a really strong get-out-the-vote operation, and we made sure that people turned their ballots in,” Strong said. “You’re seeing that not just in election results. All you’ve got to do is look at turnout numbers.”
King County matched the record set in 2008 for voter turnout in a presidential election, 84 percent. Statewide, turnout reached 81 percent, based on intense interest in the contests for president, governor and statewide ballot measures.
The local electorate endorsed measures to approve same-sex marriage, legalize marijuana, authorize charter schools and set a supermajority in the Legislature for tax hikes. The ballot measures all passed statewide, too.
“My guess is, all else being equal, things that turned people out were the gay marriage referendum,” Graves said. “I doubt that Initiative 502 had much significance in terms over voter turnout, but I’ve got to think that R-74 may have tilted the balance a little bit.”
Though the high-performing Issaquah School District is unlikely to include a charter school under Initiative 1240, parents and local education advocates campaigned for the ballot measure, and the measure received a more solid margin citywide than statewide.
Graves noted a disconnect in voters’ choices to support Democrats and a ballot measure to require a supermajority in the Legislature for tax hikes. Inslee carried Issaquah, but Initiative 1185 passed overwhelmingly inside the city.
“You take a look at how they voted for president and for governor, and then you take a look at how they voted on fiscal issues,” he said. “We’ve been saying this for years, that voters are very fiscally conservative but for some reason are more and more electing Democrats to the Legislature. It’s anybody’s guess as to why they are voting so strongly for handcuffing a Democrat Legislature while returning Democrats to the Legislature.”
Local ties bolster some candidates
In some cases, candidates’ ties to Issaquah and name recognition from past elections translated into support.
Issaquah City Councilman Mark Mullet, a Democrat and Issaquah Highlands entrepreneur, clobbered Snoqualmie Republican Brad Toft in the 5th Legislative District state Senate race. Mullet reclaimed a seat the Democrats last held in the mid-1990s.
In the race for secretary of state, Democrat Kathleen Drew, a onetime Issaquah resident and former state senator, collected more votes inside city limits, but Republican Kim Wyman clinched Drew’s old legislative district, 55 percent to 45 percent, and won the election.
Issaquah Democrat Karen Porterfield outpaced incumbent Dave Reichert, a former King County sheriff and Auburn Republican — at least in Issaquah. Though Reichert cruised to another term to represent Issaquah and the 8th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, Porterfield received 85 more votes citywide.
Candidates’ roots did not influence voters in other contests.
Though Republican Chad Magendanz is familiar to voters from serving on the Issaquah School Board, North Bend Democrat David Spring carried Issaquah by a reed-thin, 40-vote margin in a state House of Representatives contest. Magendanz carried the 5th Legislative District to succeed Glenn Anderson in Olympia.
The incumbent in the contested 41st Legislative District state House race, Renton Democrat Marcie Maxwell, bested Issaquah Republican Tim Eaves by 193 votes citywide en route to re-election.
King County Councilman Reagan Dunn, a Republican, represents communities south of Issaquah on the council, but did not edge out King County Councilman Bob Ferguson, a Democrat, among city voters in the race for attorney general. Ferguson trumped Dunn statewide to succeed McKenna in the post.