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Voters vent frustrations with GOP gains in county, state

Democrat Chris Marr conceded defeat Wednesday night in the record-breaking million-dollar battle for a Spokane County state Senate seat.

Marr made up some ground in the second day of ballot counting against Republican Michael Baumgartner, but he said it was too little to make a difference.

In a race marked by nasty and often false advertising on both sides, the two men sounded happier themes with the election behind them.

“I don’t think there’s any question about his dedication to public service,” Baumgartner said in an interview, echoing similar comments he made about Marr to a Republican gathering on election night.

Marr said he told Baumgartner in a phone call Wednesday evening that he would be “focused on things to make him successful.”

Nowhere was Republican strength more apparent locally than in the 6th Legislative District, where Marr is losing to Baumgartner by 8 percentage points. Just four years ago, Marr became the first Democrat to win the seat in nearly 70 years. Since then, he advanced into party leadership, becoming the Democratic whip in the Senate.

Despite Marr’s loss, local Democrats had a rare reason for hope after the Wednesday count.

Since mail-only voting began, late counts have tended to favor Republicans, but on Wednesday state Rep. John Driscoll, who represents the 6th District, gained nearly 400 votes against Republican John Ahern. He’s still behind by about 1,600 votes, but with 27,000 ballots left to count in that race Driscoll has a chance – albeit slight – of catching up if the trend continues.

Marr said the tightening is evidence of a successful Democratic get-out-the-vote effort.

Change also is headed to the county courthouse – though the only incumbent headed to defeat for certain is a Republican. Republican Assessor Ralph Baker lost to fellow Republican Vicki Horton, who works in Baker’s office.

Two high-profile Democrats, County Commissioner Bonnie Mager and County Treasurer Skip Chilberg, are trailing their Republican challengers by slight margins. If that trend holds, Auditor Vicky Dalton would be the only Democrat elected to county office.

Chilberg didn’t run a campaign but is widely recognized, having been in county office much of the past three decades. He is led by Republican Rob Chase, who won more than 1 percent of the vote in a write-in campaign in the primary to advance to the November ballot.

“It’s just really a reflection of voters’ dissatisfaction with Democrats in general,” Chilberg said. “There’s still a lot of uncounted votes.”

In a statewide race with national implications, Democratic Sen. Patty Murray expanded her small lead over Republican Dino Rossi on Wednesday as officials counted more ballots.

With about two-thirds of the expected ballots counted Wednesday evening, Murray led Rossi by about 51 percent to 49 percent. Her margin was roughly 27,000 votes out of the more than 1.5 million counted so far in unofficial returns.

Thousands of ballots still are being processed and will be counted in the days ahead, leaving the race too close to call. Both campaigns entered Wednesday’s vote count saying they could maintain paths to victory.

New batches of mail-in ballots show Republicans are gaining seats in the Washington state House and Senate. Democrats are likely to hang on to the House, but it’s not known which party will control the Senate.

Since the initial vote counts from Tuesday’s election, Republicans have been optimistic they can seize the Senate. After more ballots were tallied Wednesday, Democrats seem to be headed for defeat in three districts. Another four races remain close.

The GOP needs a net gain of seven seats to take control of the Senate.

More than a dozen House races remain in the balance. Republicans appear to have gained six seats after the latest vote counts. The GOP needs a net gain of 13 seats for a House majority.

There was more certainty about two initiatives that would have privatized liquor sales in Washington. By the end of counting on Wednesday, both were projected to fail.

As for Marr, he said he won’t rule out running for office in the future, but he said he won’t run in next year’s city elections.

“I gave at the office. That’s my excuse right now,” Marr said. “I have an offer to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in February.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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