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Democrats still looking at gains in Washington Legislature

UPDATED: Fri., Nov. 9, 2018

Associated Press

SEATTLE – Democrats will pick up seats in the Washington state Legislature after Tuesday’s election. But the exact number remains unclear with a handful of races still too close to call.

In the Senate, party officials were watching several races Friday, including one involving Joe Fain of Auburn, a member of Senate Republican Leadership running for re-election under the cloud of a rape allegation he denies.

Fain conceded the race Friday evening in a Facebook post when the latest returns showed Democratic challenger Mona Das had extended her lead to 548 votes.

“I want to congratulate Senator-Elect Das on her new opportunity to serve South King County in the Washington State Senate,” he said. “I look forward to supporting her during the transition in any way I can.”

In September, Seattle resident Candace Faber tweeted that Fain raped her in 2007 in Washington, D.C. Faber said she was inspired to speak publicly as she watched the televised hearing on allegations against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Fain wasn’t in office at the time of the alleged assault.

A state Senate committee on Thursday approved an outside investigation into the rape allegation. Senate leaders said then that they may re-evaluate their decision if Fain loses his election. It wasn’t immediately known if Senate leaders would reconsider.

In another seat Democrats are hoping to flip, Republican Sen. Mark Miloscia of Federal Way trailed Friday by more than 3,500 votes Friday to challenger Claire Wilson in the 30th District.

Two other Senate contests, one for a seat in the 26th District vacated by Republican Sen. Jan Angell of Port Angeles and one for Ferndale Republican Sen. Doug Ericksen’s seat, were too close to call Friday.

Republican Marty McClendon was up by 222 votes over Democrat Emily Randall, while Ericksen led Pinky Vargas by only 72 votes, which could mean a recount for that race.

“We saw that we could win in districts where Hillary (Clinton) won, and we feel good if we end up with three seats,” Alex Bond, political director of the Washington Senate Democratic Campaign said Friday. “I think that’s a strong result that we’re proud of.”

While Democrats hold most statewide offices in Washington, the political split in the Legislature has been much narrower. Before Tuesday’s election, Democrats held a one-seat advantage in the Senate and a two-seat advantage in the House.

Party officials in the House Friday were paying close attention to seven races where Democrats were looking to gain seats and had won or were leading in recent returns.

“I think it’s becoming clearer,” Kevin Carns, executive director for the House Republican Organizational Committee said. “It looks like probably a net loss of seven seats. When you lose some it’s tough. But given the environment, we’re pretty happy with the results.”

In one of those contests, Democrat Jared M. Mead was declared the winner Friday by the Associated Press in District 44 over Republican Rep. Mark Harmsworth of Mill Creek.

In another Democratic seat pick-up, Democratic challenger Debra Entenman beat Rep. Mark Hargrove of Covington in District 47.

And in the 5th District around Issaquah, Republican Rep. Paul Graves lost to Democratic challenger Lisa Callan. Results in that district by Friday also showed Democrat Bill Ramos had beaten Republican Chad Magendanz.

Several other races remained too close to call Friday night.

Democratic Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, head of the House Democratic Campaign Committee, said Friday that although Democrats performed even better in the primary elections, it was never likely they were going to win every seat.

“It’s the first time in 12 years we’ve picked up any seats and we think we’ll have much more ability to pass our agenda through the House,” Fitzgibbon said.

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