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Results of U.S. House primary elections, Washington State

The U.S. Capitol Building
The U.S. Capitol Building
Shaun Holt

Washington State held primary elections on August 5, and although the results have yet to be officially certified by Washington’s Secretary of State, here is how the 2014 midterm elections would line up barring any change.

The first Congressional district, which occupies most of Whatcom, Skagit and Snohomish County, as well as the northern part of King County, is represented by Democrat Suzan DelBene. She won election in 2012 to succeed Democratic Rep. Jay Inslee, who successfully ran for governor that year. Usually, the first time a politician comes up for re-election as an incumbent, they are considered more vulnerable, but just based on the primary results so far, DelBene has little to worry about. The Washington State Secretary of State’s website shows that she is presently leading the pack of candidates with a plurality, above 51%. There were a number of Republicans splitting the ballot, but Pedro Celis and Robert J. Sutherland each have 15% of the vote, with Sutherland maintaining a few hundred votes’ lead. John Orlinski, another Republican, sits back with 10%. Altogether, the Republicans split about 47% of the vote to DelBene’s 51%, so this could become a very close race. It will depend chiefly on whether Republicans can rally behind the nominee, and how voter turnout goes. This is definitely the race to watch in Washington State, and is likely to be an expensive one.

The second Congressional district, which includes the western parts of Whatcom, Skagit and Snohomish County, as well as all of Island and San Juan counties, has been represented by Democratic Rep. Rick Larsen since 2001. Now running for his eighth term, Larsen has accumulated 56% of the primary vote so far. His apparent challenger will be Republican B.J. Guillot, who has 32% of the vote.

In the third Congressional district, Republican Jaime Herrera Beutler was first elected in 2010, in the Republican takeover of the House. 2012 was an important electoral victory for her, and she looks pretty safe thus far. The primary results show her leading with 48% of the vote. Her nearest competitor, Bob Dingethal, has 38% of the vote, and is poised to move on to face Beutler in November. Although she has a 10% lead over him so far, good news for Beutler is the fact that she was splitting the vote with another Republican, Michael Delavar, who got 12%. So assuming the Republicans rally behind Beutler, she should lead the southwestern Washington district by a comfortable margin. Still, Beutler is perhaps the most vulnerable Republican running for re-election, so Democrats may invest heavily to try to steal the district, and their candidate is close enough to make this a competitive race.

The fourth Congressional district, encompassing the central part of the state, is a bit interesting. The incumbent, Republican Doc Hastings, who has served in Congress since 1995 as Washington State’s most conservative representative, is not running for re-election. Although normally this would mean Democrats would seek to win an open seat election, it appears they will not get the chance. The primary results show that two Republicans have the most votes so far, Clint Didier with 30%, and Dan Newhouse with 26%. Since Washington State’s top-two primary system means the top two candidates move on to the general election, regardless of party (so that no party is guaranteed a spot on the November ballot), it appears the fourth Congressional district will have two Republicans battling it out for the open seat election. This could be interesting, too, as disenfranchised Democrats may throw their support behind one of the candidates in an attempt to elect the lesser of two evils.

The fifth Congressional district, occupying the entire eastern edge of the state, is owned by Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a rising star in the GOP nationally, and, along with Beutler, one of the two women serving Washington State in the U.S. House of Representatives. If the primary is any indication, Rodgers has a safe 51% vote, with Democrat Joseph Pakootas coming in second with 28% of the vote. The rest of the vote was split between an Independent and another Republican. Barring anything unexpected, this looks like a safe Republican hold.

The sixth Congressional district, occupying the peninsula in the western part of the state, is served by Democratic Rep. Derek Kilmer. Decisively winning an open seat election in 2012, Kilmer has a commanding 58-34% lead over Republican Marty McClendon.

The seventh Congressional district, along the western side of King County, is held tightly by Democrat Jim McDermott, with a 76-9% lead over nearest challenger, Republican Craig Keller.

Moving on to an equally one-sided match-up, the eighth Congressional district is led by Republican Dave Reichert, who has a 62-28% lead over Democrat Jason Ritchie. Those numbers should tighten up a bit, as Ritchie split the vote with another Democrat, so the Republican-Democrat split is really about 62-38%. While that is far from competitive, Democrats will work to change it from being a guaranteed Republican hold to only a safe Republican district, and eventually to a leans Republican status, and finally to a toss-up.

Democrat Adam Smith holds the ninth Congressional district, in southwest King County and part of Pierce County. Elected in 1996, Smith leads the primary vote 63-28% over Republican Doug Basler. Those numbers should actually shift a little more towards Smith, as another Democrat stole 5% of the vote from him.

Last is Washington’s tenth Congressional district, occupying most of Thurston County. This one is fairly close, with Democratic incumbent Denny Heck leading Republican challenger Joyce McDonald 51-41%. This is Heck’s first time up for election as the incumbent, so McDonald will hope that strong Republican turnout in November leads her to switch the district to Republican control. While this new district appears to lean Democratic, if things fall the right way, Republicans might pull off an upset here.

So all in all, if Democrats hope to gain any seats in Washington, it will probably be Beutler’s third district. Republicans will eye the first and tenth district as the most vulnerable, both being freshmen incumbents (DelBene and Heck, respectively). However, presently both of the Democratic incumbents lead with over 50% of the primary vote, so strong turnout from Republicans would be a must to pick up any seats in this state. This could happen, as midterm elections historically go against the incumbent President, in this case President Obama. Republican incumbents look pretty safe in the fifth and eighth districts (Rodgers and Reichert), and Democratic incumbents look in a good spot in the second (Larsen), sixth (Kilmer) and ninth (Smith) district. The seventh district (McDermott) is a virtual lock for the Democrats, such that even qualifying it by saying it is a “virtual” lock is to greatly understate it. The open seat fourth looks to be a guaranteed Republican hold, as it appears two Republicans will advance to compete against each other in November. Still, it would be an interesting race to see play out, and how contentious the race becomes.