Democrat Chris Reykdal of Tumwater was on his way to his first term representing South Sound's liberal 22nd District in the state House in early election returns tonight.
Reykdal, a school board member, led conservative Lacey City Council member Jason Hearn after the first round of mail-in ballots were counted in Thurston County. Also in the 22nd, liberal Democratic Rep. Sam Hunt of Olympia was easily turning back challenger Chris Ward, who professed no party affiliation and campaigned on a platform of less government spending.
Around the state, Democrats were hoping to hold onto their House and Senate majorities. But the 22nd district, which represents government-dominated Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater and north-central Thurston County, was looking like an easy exception for left-leaning candidates in South Sound.
Democrats in rural Thurston County districts were struggling to hold onto their seats in campaigns where Republican challengers voiced an anti-tax or anti-government message. Both Democratic Reps. Kathy Haigh of Shelton and Fred Finn of west Thurston County were holding onto relatively slim leads, and Republican Rep. Tom Campbell of Spanaway was losing to Republican business consultant J.T. Wilcox of Roy.
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What follows is a preview of my election story for tomorrow's paper:
22nd DISTRICT"This was the right district for us. We have progressive values. This district is not easily swayed by the national mood," Reykdal said of the results that put him up by several thousand votes.
Hearn said he was pleased with his showing in the liberal district and called it “an absolute privilege to be a candidate. This seat has run unopposed many times. I never felt that was healthy for the area to have a seat like this unopposed.’’
Reykdal is completing his first Tumwater school board term and serves as deputy leader of the state board for community colleges, and he campaigned on tax reform. In his campaign he said he would try to raise adequate taxes to pay for schools and healthcare programs already cut by lawmakers.
Hearn, a social conservative and owner of a media business, campaigned for less government spending and said he would seek to hold down taxes, preserve pensions and work for budget stability.
Reykdal raised more than $80,300 and spent at least $68,148, much of it coming during a hard-fought primary against six other Democrats in August. Hearn raised $18,397 and spent about $17,520 in a district where Democrats have held all three House and Senate seats since 1984.
35th DISTRICTIn one of the most closely watched local House races, Finn and Haigh were fending off challenges by anti-tax Republicans. Many votes remained to be counted, and losses by the incumbents could help minority Republicans close the Democrats’ 61-to-37 edge in the House.
Finn, a real-estate and construction company owner, was leading by a few percentage points over Republican Linda Simpson of Bremerton in early counts – despite his more than $140,000 edge in fundraising. Haigh, a veterinarian, held an even slimmer lead of less than 1,000 votes over Republican firefighter Daniel Griffey of Allyn.
Griffey was a tea-party candidate who grew angry over the Legislature’s suspension of a law requiring two-thirds supermajority votes to raise taxes. Haigh, a six-term incumbent, had voted for nearly $800 million in new revenues to plug part of a multibillion-dollar budget gap in April, and she also voted to temporarily suspend the two-thirds supermajority tax-hike rule.
Haigh said the race was too close to call and she would wait to see what vote counts on Friday show. "I'm feeling a little better. I'm not behind. That's a good feeling," she said.
Finn, seeking his second term, had voted for tax increases on pop, candy, gum and businesses, but he had voted against changing the vote requirements for taxes.
In the district's other race, Democratic Sen. Tim Sheldon was well ahead of self-styled "tea party grandma" Nancy Williams of Allyn. Sheldon called from New York while on a business trip and said it appears Republicans would pick up state Senate seats, making the chamber more balanced. Sheldon has often crossed sides to work with Republicans on budget, tax and regulatory issues.
2nd DISTRICTOne incumbent clearly in trouble Tuesday night was Rep. Campbell, a chiropractor who trailed fellow Republican Wilcox by roughly a three-to-two margin in early returns. Campbell was seeking a ninth term in the 2nd district that overlaps southeast Thurston and southwest Pierce counties.
Labor groups came to Campbell’s defense and used mailings to point out safety violations and fines at the family-run egg business where Wilcox had been a financial officer.
In the other 2nd district race, socially and fiscally conservative Rep. Jim McCune, R-Graham, led Democrat Marilyn Rasmussen, a conservative former state senator trying to make a political comeback.
20th DISTRICTIn the 20th district that serves southwest Thurston and all of Lewis counties, House Republican Leader Richard DeBolt of Chehalis was easily turning back Democrat Corinne Tobeck of Tumwater. And Rep. Gary Alexander, R-Thurston County, ran unopposed.