Local news

Some races still too close to call

Ahern, Barlow are narrowly behind

It may be several days before the winners are known for the two House seats representing one of the most divided districts in the state.

After Tuesday’s counting, Republican incumbent John Ahern and Democratic incumbent Don Barlow were narrowly behind in their races to continue representing the 6th Legislative District, which wraps around central Spokane.

Democrat John Driscoll was beating Ahern 51 percent to 49 percent for one seat in the district. Republican Kevin Parker held a similar advantage over Barlow.

The district is one of the most contested in the state. More money was given to 6th District House candidates this year – almost $800,000 – then ever before.

In many recent elections, including the August primary and the November general election in 2006, votes mailed late trended Republican.

“I’m not worried at all,” Ahern said. “We’re going to win, no two ways about it.”

Democratic state Sen. Chris Marr, who represents the district and wasn’t up for election on Tuesday, said he remained hopeful that Driscoll would hold his lead and that Barlow would make a comeback. He said Democrats have improved the get-out-the-vote effort from two years ago.

“I’m optimistic that the trend will hold as it is now,” Driscoll said after results were announced at the Spokane Democrats’ party at the Red Lion Hotel at the Park.

In one of the other closely watched contests in Eastern Washington, Republican Shelly Short, the former deputy district director for U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, likely will win the only contested race in the 7th District, which covers an expansive area north and west of Spokane.

She will replace retiring Rep. Bob Sump, R-Republic, who endorsed Short.

Short was beating Lincoln County architect Sue Lani Madsen, another Republican, 57 percent to 43 percent, after Tuesday’s counting. She appears headed to victory despite having to deal with a theft charge filed against her husband after 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, three Republicans held leads greater than 10 percentage points over their Democratic rivals.

Republican Bob McCaslin, 82, will hold on to his 4th District Senate seat. Despite losing by 20 percentage points in the primary, Liberty Lake City Councilwoman Judith Owens, 62, ran an aggressive campaign against McCaslin, raising more than $100,000. Also in the 4th, attorney Matt Shea held a significant lead after Tuesday’s count over retired teacher Tim Hattenburg for one of the district’s two House seats. Shea will replace retiring Rep. Lynn Schindler.

Incumbent Rep. Larry Crouse will keep the other 4th District seat after beating his 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 on to 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.

Across the border, most North Idaho incumbents in the Legislature appeared to be coasting to victory.

In the closest race in North Idaho, state Sen. John Goedde was holding on to a 900-vote margin over Democratic challenger Ken Howard for the seat representing the 4th Legislative District that covers most of Coeur d’Alene.

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.

Staff writer Alison Boggs contributed to this report. Jonathan Brunt can be reached at jonathanb@spokesman.com or (509) 459-5442.

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