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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Democrats holding edge in Legislature

Democrat Amy Biviano, who trails Republican Matt Shea in the 4th Legislative District race, embraces her son, Alex, 14, before results came in during the Spokane County Democratic Election Party on Tuesday at the Red Lion Hotel at the Park. (Tyler Tjomsland)

Democrats appear likely to hold on to both chambers of the Washington Legislature.

Republicans had pushed to recapture the state Senate, where the Democrats currently have five more seats than Republicans. Control of the House has not been as much in dispute because Democrats have a wider margin, with 14 more seats than the GOP, and the party appeared to easily maintain a wide majority there.

Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, of Spokane, said Democrats were likely to hold about the same number they currently hold. She said voters apparently agreed with the priorities fought for by Democrats.

“It’s very encouraging given how tough the economy has been,” she said from a party gathering in Seattle.

State Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, agreed that the Senate majority would be similar to the current number, though he expects the GOP to pick up one seat.

He noted that even with the Democrats’ five-seat lead, Republicans were able to control the Senate’s budget this year because of Democrats who opted to side with Republicans.

“It’s still clearly divided in the Senate philosophically, on budget matters at least,” Padden said.

Locally, Republicans had hoped that the surprise announcement in the spring from Brown that she was retiring would create an opportunity to pick up a seat in the heavily leaning Democratic district, especially with Spokane City Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin, a Republican, already in the running.

But McLaughlin’s Democratic opponent, state Rep. Andy Billig, won the seat with 58 percent of the vote after Tuesday’s count.

“Our goal was to win, and we achieved that goal,” Billig said shortly after results were released.

McLaughlin did not concede Tuesday night.

“It’s going to be difficult to overcome,” McLaughlin said at the Republican Party’s gathering at the Davenport Hotel. “We are going to give it a couple days and see how things come in.”

Democrats easily won the two state House seats in the 3rd Legislative District. Marcus Riccelli had a commanding lead over day care center co-owner Tim Benn for the seat Billig is leaving to run for Senate. State Rep. Timm Ormsby easily defeated Spokane County public works inspector Dave White to win another term.

In the usual battle-heavy 6th Legislative District, which includes the West Plains and parts of the South Hill and North Spokane, action was relatively tame this election season with only one seat in contention. The district has recently voted for Democrats and Republicans, but Republicans swept the seats in 2010.

Former state Rep. Dennis Dellwo, a Democrat, faced attorney Republican Jeff Holy for the House seat now held by retiring Republican John Ahern. Holy appeared headed to victory, with 54 percent of the vote. He said he and his campaign team knocked on 18,806 doors during the campaign.

“You knock on doors in the 6th District because everyone expects a personal touch,” Holy said.

Dellwo conceded the race Tuesday night.

“Jeff was a good candidate,” Dellwo said. “I’ll be of any assistance I can to him.”

The most-watched local legislative race was in Spokane Valley’s 4th Legislative District between incumbent Republican Rep. Matt Shea and Democrat Amy Biviano, an accountant.

The district, which leans heavily Republican, appeared set to return Shea to the Legislature. He had 56 percent of the vote Tuesday night.

The race received extra attention because of the misdemeanor charge Shea faces for keeping a gun in his car without a valid concealed weapons permit. Revelations that Biviano appeared in Playboy when she was a student at Yale brought more focus to the race.

At the Republican Party gathering at the Davenport Hotel, Shea opened his short talk with a prayer.

“They threw everything they could at the message of freedom and liberty,” he said.

He introduced his family and asked supporters to raise their hands.

“Thank you for being there and supporting me through thick and thin,” said Shea, who refused to answer questions from a reporter.

Biviano acknowledged that Shea’s lead would likely hold, but said she will wait to concede until more votes are counted.

“We feel really good about the way we ran the race,” Biviano said. “We knew it would be a tough race.”

In the 7th Legislative District, state Rep. Joel Kretz easily won a fifth term over another Republican, Robert Wilson, a former candidate for Pend Oreille County sheriff and a retired Border Patrol agent. Kretz had about 64 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s count. The district includes all or part of five counties in northeastern Washington, including northern Spokane County.