Sen. Patty Murray will face Dino Rossi in the November general election, continuing the fight for a U.S. Senate seat that started even before the Republican former legislator got into the race in May.
With hundreds of thousands of ballots still to count, Murray was pulling down the most votes Tuesday night in the state’s top-two primary, and Rossi was a somewhat distant second, but far ahead of tea party favorite Clint Didier, a former NFL player turned Eltopia farmer. Bellingham businessman Paul Akers ran a distant fourth.
Murray said she wasn’t planning any change in strategy now that Rossi was the definite opponent, and she continued to call for more help for families and small businesses without returning to the policies of the Bush administration.
“I think people are having a tough time. We all want the country to get better faster,” she said.
Rossi continued the theme he’s played since entering the race, calling for curbs to federal spending.
“People understand that we’re spending too much money,” he told the Associated Press. “They know that you can’t keep borrowing from the Chinese and the Saudis and printing money and expect that all to pan out just fine, because it won’t.”
In a year widely regarded as difficult for incumbents, some office holders like Murray had a relatively easy night.
U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican seeking her fourth term in Eastern Washington’s 5th District, got more votes than her five challengers combined. In Western Washington, sitting members of Congress of both parties also easily made it through to the general election.
McMorris Rodgers will face former television weatherman and outdoor reporter Daryl Romeyn, a surprise entry into the race. Local Democrats had recruited Spokane Valley resident Clyde Cordero, but Tuesday night they seemed ready to accept Romeyn, with longtime Democrat Don Hamilton calling him “our standard bearer.”
Supreme Court Justice Jim Johnson easily topped challenger Stan Rumbaugh and will be unopposed on the November ballot. Justice Richard Sanders, however, was falling short of the simple majority needed to advance unopposed to the general and could run against Charlie Wiggins in the general election.
Other incumbents had a rougher night.
In the Spokane area, state Sen. Chris Marr was running behind Republican challenger Mike Baumgartner in the 6th Legislative District, despite having a much larger campaign fund. Both advance to the general election, and Republicans will likely pour more into Baumgartner’s campaign in hopes of retaking a Senate seat they’d held for more than 60 years.
“I think it’s clear that voters are going to choose responsibility and they want a balanced budget. They clearly do not want the reckless spending that they’ve been getting out of Olympia,” Baumgartner said at a GOP gathering.
“You didn’t think it would be easy to defend the first Democrat to hold the seat in 60 years,” Marr told Democrats at a gathering in central Spokane, noting that he lost the primary four years ago but won the general. “We just have to redouble our efforts.”
Also in 6th, Democratic Rep. John Driscoll was on top of a three-way race, but pulling in only 41 percent of the vote. He’ll likely have a rematch with Republican John Ahern, the legislator he ousted just two years ago, although GOP newcomer Shelly O’Quinn wasn’t ready to concede.
All county incumbents were on track to run in the general election, although some didn’t top their fields. County Prosecutor Steve Tucker turned back challenges from fellow Republicans Chris Bugbee and Dave Stevens, but was running second, about 2,000 votes behind Democratic challenger Frank Malone.
Malone’s first-place showing was a highlight for Democrats watching election returns. He didn’t get many high-profile endorsements in the primary but feels confident headed into the general election: “Sometimes being the insider is not the golden path.”
Tucker, who is seeking his fourth term, called the results a vote of confidence, but one with a message: “Every election cycle you find out where you are letting down a little bit. These are wake-up calls.”
Bugbee said he would support Tucker, and Stevens said he wished his former boss luck and hoped Tucker saw the results as a wake-up call.
Assessor Ralph Baker is on top of a six-person field with about 30 percent of the votes, and could face fellow Republican Vicki Horton in the general election. Horton was running about 1,500 votes ahead of Andrew Jackson, who was splitting votes with fellow Democrat Sadie Charlene Cooney.
County Commissioner Bonnie Mager, the board’s sole Democrat, easily topped a five-person field. Former Spokane City Councilman Al French was leading for the No. 2, about 400 votes ahead of Jeff Holy and 500 ahead of Steve Salvatori.