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Republican Herrera elected to Wash. 3rd District

OLYMPIA — Jaime Herrera was elected to Washington state’s open 3rd Congressional District seat tonight, becoming the first Republican to represent the district in a dozen years.

Democrat Denny Heck conceded to Herrera after early returns showed her with a solid lead.

With 78 percent of the expected vote counted in unofficial returns, Herrera led Heck 53 percent to 47 percent. She will take over the seat being vacated by retiring Democratic Rep. Brian Baird.

“I’m humbled,” Herrera said after being notified by The Associated Press of Heck’s concession. “There’s a lot of work ahead. Right now I am very, very aware of the fact that this isn’t a big swing for Republicans. It’s a big swing against the current direction. I have two years to work for solutions. I have two years to put our country on the right track.”

Herrera, a state representative from Camas, is a former aide to GOP U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. She was appointed to her state House seat in 2007, and was elected in 2008.

Heck served five terms in the Legislature before going on to be then-Gov. Booth Gardner’s chief of staff. He founded the TVW public affairs network in 1993, co-owns a land development company in southwest Washington and is a lead investor in an electronic records company.

In a written statement issued tonight, Heck congratulated Herrera and commended her “for her well-run campaign.”

The last Republican to hold the 3rd District seat was Linda Smith, who won a write-in campaign during the 1994 GOP takeover of Congress. Baird was elected in 1998 after Smith gave up her seat for an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate.

The politically diverse district spans southwest Washington from Olympia south to Vancouver and from the Cascade Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. President George Bush won the district in both 2000 and 2004. President Barack Obama won it in 2008 with 53 percent of the vote.

Republicans were also hoping to prevail in the 2nd District, where Republican John Koster had a slight lead over Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen.

With 63 percent of the expected vote counted in unofficial returns, Koster led Larsen with 50.4 percent of the vote compared to Larsen’s 49.6 percent. Koster, a farmer from Arlington, has the backing of tea party activists and the endorsement of 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Larsen was first elected to the seat in 2000, beating Koster, who was then a state representative, by four percentage points.

The 2nd District spans the northern part of Western Washington from just north of Seattle up to the border with Canada, and includes the San Juan Islands.

Republican Rep. Dave Reichert was re-elected tonight after Democrat Suzan DelBene conceded the race. Reichert claimed 54 percent of the vote. With about 63 percent of the expected vote counted tonight, Democratic Rep. Adam Smith was ahead of Republican Dick Muri with 54 percent of the vote.

Elsewhere in the state, Republican Reps. Doc Hastings and McMorris Rodgers easily won re-election in their conservative Eastern Washington districts, as did Democrats Jay Inslee, Norm Dicks and Jim McDermott for their seats west of the Cascade Mountains.