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Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

August 18, 2010 at 9:36 AM

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Anti-incumbency a weaker brew in Washington

Posted by Kyung M. Song

WASHINGTON -- The supposed wave of angry voters didn't quite sweep over Washington's primary election Tuesday.

All eight congressional incumbents as well as Sen. Patty Murray drew more votes than their top challengers. What's more, the two tea-party candidates for the Senate, Clint Didier and Paul Akers, received a combined 14.5 percent of the votes. That's below the 19 percent of the registered voters who professed strong support for the tea-party movement in a May Washington Poll conducted by the University of Washington.

It's always tricky to extrapolate primary results to the general election, because the voters who cast their ballots are so different. Still, Matt Barreto, associate professor of political science at UW who directs the poll, said Tuesday's results "could signal that, while some incumbents may lose, it will not mark a watershed year for Republicans similar to 1994."

Even Rep. Rick Larsen, who The Seattle Times concluded may be the most vulnerable member of the state's delegation, may well get reelected in November, Barreto said.

Larsen, D-Lake Stevens, received 42.9 percent of the votes, compared to 40.9. But two other Democratic candidates in the five-man field received another 10.5 percent, meaning that Democrats collectively garnered 53.4 percent of the votes in the 2nd District.

Rep. Jim McDermott of Seattle cruised to his customary victory, trouncing his five challengers by collecting 79 percent of the votes. With the 7th District a liberal stronghold, Republicans didn't bother to field a candidate there.

The GOP does have a bright spot in the 3rd District in southwest Washington, where Democrat Rep. Brian Baird is the only incumbent not running for reelection. Denny Heck, a Democrat, was the top vote getter with 32.2 percent of the total. Republican Jamie Herrera came in second with 26.1 percent.

Yet that district could well swing back to Republicans come fall, Barreto predicted. The three Republican candidates drew 53 percent of the votes, compared to 43 percent for Heck and another Democrat, Cheryl Christ.

The 3rd District may have been the "one place in Washington state were Republican voters were a bit more mobilized to vote," Barreto said. "The general election between Heck and Herrera could turn out to be one of the closest House races in the entire country."

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