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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Democrats take early lead in key Legislative races

Tania Beaudet, left, and and M.J. McNeill hold signs encouraging people to vote in the midterms next to the King County Elections ballot drop box in Burien, Wash., Tuesday, Nov. 6. 2018. (Bettina Hansen / Seattle Times)
By Lisa Baumann Associated Press

SEATTLE – Democrats took an early lead Tuesday in key Washington state legislative races that will determine if they boost their control in the Senate and House.

Initial returns Tuesday night showed several Republican incumbents and Republican candidates in open seats trailing or in close contests with their Democratic opponents.

One of those races showed Democrat Erin Frasier in the 19th District leading in early returns Tuesday with just over 50 percent of votes over Republican Rep. Jim Walsh of Aberdeen.

Rep. Mark Hargrove of Covington lagged in the District 47 with nearly 47 percent of the vote while Democratic challenger Debra Entenman had about 52 percent.

And in the 5th District around Issaquah, Republican incumbent Paul Graves had garnered nearly 47 percent of the vote Tuesday to Democratic challenger Lisa Callan’s 53 percent. Initial results also in that district showed Republican Chad Magendanz trailing Democrat Bill Ramos.

Democratic Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, head of the House Democratic Campaign Committee, said Tuesday that he expected to their majority to grow.

“We don’t know how the late returns are going to go,” Fitzgibbon said. “But it’s the first election since 2006 that House Democrats will pick up seats and our members are very excited to be going in that direction.”

While Democrats hold most statewide offices in Washington, the political split in the Legislature is much narrower. Democrats currently hold a two-seat advantage in the House and a one-seat advantage in the Senate.

Republicans in the Senate were trying to keep three Republican-held districts where the Democratic aggregate vote in the primary was higher than the Republican vote: Sen. Mark Miloscia’s seat, Sen. Doug Ericksen’s seat and the open seat in the 26th District left by retiring Port Angeles Sen. Jan Angel.

On Tuesday, Democrat Emily Randall had nearly 51 of the vote in her race against Republican Marty McClendon in the 26th District.

In the 30th District, where Democrat Claire Wilson seeks to oust Miloscia of Federal Way, Wilson was leading with 53 percent of the vote.

Sen. Ericksen of Ferndale, however, was leading opponent Pinky Vargas with just over 50 percent of the vote.

Justin Matheson, political director for the Senate Republican Campaign Committee said Tuesday night that they went into a lot of races in a defensive position and predicted they would be in good shape in a few of the closest races once more votes are counted.

“We’ll be down one seat tonight and are disappointed to lose it,” he said of the 30th District race. “But overall losing one is a pretty good scenario.”

In another closely-watched contest, incumbent Republican state Sen. Joe Fain of Auburn is seeking re-election to his third term in District 47 under the cloud of a 2007 rape accusation that he has denied. He had a narrow lead over Democrat Mona Das.

Another incumbent in the House, Republican Rep. Matt Manweller of Cle Elum, has said he will step down if re-elected after the Northwest News Network reported that a former Idaho high school student said she had a sexual relationship with him in the 1990s. He received more than 64 percent of the vote Tuesday over challenger Democratic opponent Sylvia Hammond.

Because Washington is a vote-by-mail state, additional votes will be counted in the following days.

All 98 state House seats were up for election Tuesday as well as 25 of the Senate’s 49 seats.