With only a few exceptions, incumbents were winning handily in early counting Tuesday for Legislative races in North Idaho and Eastern Washington.
In the closest race in North Idaho, state Sen. John Goedde was holding onto a 900-vote margin over Democratic challenger Ken Howard for the seat representing the 4th Legislative District that covers most of Coeur d’Alene.
Howard challenged Goedde, who is chairman of the Senate’s Education Committee, on education issues, calling it “unconscionable” that school districts would have to sue the state to secure funding to fix unsafe schools. Goedde, however, said he was proud of his record on education, and said work that remains to be done includes creating guidelines for teacher evaluations and establishing a reasonable budget for education.
In Idaho’s 1st legislative district, sufficient results to judge one of the two races were not expected before press time. In that race, Republican Rep. Eric Anderson was facing for the third time Democratic challenger Steve Elgar; Anderson beat Elgar only by a fraction of a percentage point two years ago and by a narrow margin in 2004. In the other race, Republican incumbent George Eskridge was beating Democratic challenger Tom Hollingsworth by a wide margin.
Over the border, it may be several days before the winners are known for the two House seats representing the 6th District. After early counting, Republican incumbent John Ahern and Democratic incumbent Don Barlow were narrowly losing to their better-financed challengers, Democrat John Driscoll and Republican Kevin Parker.
The 6th District represents a crescent-shaped area that surrounds central Spokane on the north, south and west. More money was given to 6th District House candidates this year – almost $800,000 – then ever before.
Although Barlow’s campaign raised about $13,000 more than Parker’s, independent groups spent $200,000 more on the race than groups who campaigned for Barlow. Driscoll’s money advantage over Ahern was less pronounced. He raised about $10,000 more than Ahern and independent groups for Driscoll only outpaced those supporting Ahern by about $15,000.
“I’m optimistic that the trend will hold as it is now,” Driscoll said after early numbers showed him slightly ahead.
Only one seat was contested in the giant 7th District, which covers an expansive area north and west of Spokane. In that contest, Republican Shelly Short, the former deputy district director for U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, won the right to replace retiring Rep. Bob Sump, R-Republic.
Short, who was endorsed by Sump, and Lincoln County architect Sue Lani Madsen beat three other Republicans in the August primary. Short overcame a theft charge filed against her husband when he was accused of embezzling more than $3,000 from a volunteer organization. The Shorts repaid the money and argued the charge was politically motivated.
In Spokane Valley’s 4th district, where a Democrat hasn’t won since 1992, Republican Bob McCaslin, 82, appears likely to hold onto the 4th District Senate seat.
Despite losing by 20 percentage points in the primary, Liberty Lake City Councilwoman Judith Owens, 62, ran an aggressive campaign, raising more than $100,000 in her attempt to unseat McCaslin, who has served in the Legislature 28 years.
In the most contested House race in the 4th, attorney Matt Shea held a significant lead after Tuesday’s count over retired teacher Tim Hattenburg. Shea will replace retiring Rep. Lynn Schindler.
Shea, who was the top vote-getter in the primary, raised almost three times as much as Hattenburg’s $25,000 campaign pot.
Incumbent Rep. Larry Crouse will hold on to the other 4th District seat. He held a strong advantage over Democratic challenger Linda J. Thompson, executive director of the Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council.
There were no surprises in the 3rd District. which covers central Spokane. Incumbent Democrats Sen. Lisa Brown, Rep. Alex Wood and Rep. Timm Ormsby easily held onto their seats.
Incumbents also coasted to victory in the 9th district which encompasses an area larger than Connecticut south of Spokane. Rep. Steve Hailey, R-Mesa, and Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, held commanding leads over their Democratic opponents after Tuesday’s counting.