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Voting reveals continued state split

Thu., Aug. 9, 2012

East Side, West Side trends traceable in several key races

For years, statewide elected officials have proclaimed the Cascade Curtain a thing of the past and insisted Washington is one state.

Tuesday’s primary election for governor and some other statewide offices suggests that while the curtain may be opening, it’s still there.

Democrat Jay Inslee and Republican Rob McKenna both easily advanced to the general election in the Top Two primary. But the latest voter returns show the state sharply divided – if not on the precise line running along the state’s most prominent mountain range, then at least on the criterion of whether a county borders saltwater.

Using the traditional colors for the nation’s two major parties, the secretary of state’s election website paints Eastern Washington Republican red and most of the counties bordering the Puget Sound and Pacific Ocean Democratic blue.

In the latest update of ballot counts Wednesday, that split gives Inslee, a former congressman, an edge of more than 35,000 votes over Attorney General McKenna. Both are West Siders: Inslee lives on Bainbridge Island and McKenna in Bellevue.

But while McKenna lives in King County and once served on its county council, he collected only about 35 percent of the vote in the state’s most populous county and trails Inslee there by about 41,000 votes.

The high-profile governor’s race is not the only one where votes break sharply along geographic and political lines. The public lands commissioner race between Democratic incumbent Peter Goldmark and Republican Clint Didier shows a similar blue-red split, despite the fact that both these candidates are East Siders: Goldmark is from Okanogan County and Didier from Franklin County.

The map for the attorney general’s race would seem to upend the split, because Democrat Bob Ferguson leads Republican Reagan Dunn in a handful of East Side counties that went for Didier and McKenna. But that ignores the fact that the combined votes for Dunn and attorney Stephen Pidgeon, a fellow Republican with tea party support, exceed Ferguson’s total in all those counties.

Republican Kim Wyman sits atop a seven-person field for secretary of state in 38 of the state’s 39 counties. But that mostly red map also could be a bit deceiving. The Thurston County auditor, who was the only GOP candidate in the race, was near or above 50 percent of the vote in most East Side counties but below 40 percent in many Puget Sound counties, where different Democrats came in second place. Wyman will face former legislator Kathleen Drew, also of Thurston County, in the general election.

Democrat Maria Cantwell easily leads her seven challengers for U.S. Senate in 31 of the state’s 39 counties. Republican Mike Baumgartner won a crescent of Eastern Washington counties but not his home county of Spokane.

Campaign resources and name familiarity may have more to do with that than geopolitical divisions. Cantwell, a 12-year veteran of the Senate, had spent some $6.3 million on her campaign as of mid-July, the Federal Elections Commission reports; Baumgartner, a state senator in his first term, had spent $422,000.

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