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Challengers doing well in some state Senate races

OLYMPIA — Challengers made some waves in primaries for the state Senate today, with Republicans and Democrats alike faring well in early returns against Democratic incumbents.

Snohomish County’s 38th District, which includes Everett and Marysville, will probably see an all-Democrat race in November. Challenger Nick Harper had about 35 percent of the vote against Sen. Jean Berkey, D-Everett, who had roughly 33 percent.

Harper was buoyed by a nearly $300,000 independent expenditure campaign that supported his candidacy and opposed Berkey’s. Traditional Democratic allies, particularly labor unions, were upset by Berkey’s positions in the Legislature supporting state worker furloughs and opposing repeal of a tax break for banks.

In the King County suburbs, two more Democratic senators were seeing stiff challenges from Republicans who are hoping to take back seats they lost during the George W. Bush administration.

In the 6th District, incumbent Sen. Chris Marr, a Democrat, was trailing his only challenger, Republican Michael Baumgartner, who had 52.3 percent of the vote. Both advance to the general election.

In the 47th District, Republican Joe Fain was leading Sen. Claudia Kauffman, D-Kent, by about 54 percent to 45 percent in early returns. In the 45th District, GOP challenger Andy Hill had about 51 percent and Sen. Eric Oemig, D-Kirkland, had about 49 percent.

Democrats controlled the Senate in the last legislative session by a split of 31-18, and Republicans are eyeing that chamber as their best chance of climbing back to relevance in one election cycle.

Suburban districts in Western Washington are particularly important to watch for signs of the political atmosphere, as they have swung between Republicans and Democrats in recent years.

In 2006, for example, discontent with the war in Iraq and other national issues helped drive large Republican losses in the suburbs and other districts.

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