Democrat Chris Reykdal of Tumwater was on his way to his first term representing South Sound’s 22nd District in the state House in early election returns Tuesday.
Reykdal, a school board member, led conservative Lacey City Council member Jason Hearn after the first round of 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 on to their House and Senate majorities.
Democrats in rural Thurston County districts were struggling to hold on to 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 on to relatively slim leads, and Republican Rep. Tom Campbell of Spanaway was losing to Republican business consultant J.T. Wilcox of Roy.
“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 could not be reached immediately to comment.
Reykdal is completing his first term on the Tumwater school board 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 health care 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 the two House seats and the Senate seat since 1984.
In 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 fewer 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 revenue to plug part of a multibillion-dollar budget gap in April, and she also voted to temporarily suspend the two-thirds supermajority tax-increase 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, Sen. Tim Sheldon was one his way to another four-year term and said it appears Republicans would pick up seats, making the Senate more balanced. The 20-year veteran Democrat was well ahead of self-styled “tea party grandma” Nancy Williams of Allyn.
Also in trouble Tuesday night was Rep. Campbell, a chiropractor who trailed fellow Republican Wilcox by roughly three to two 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.
In the 20th District that serves southwest Thurston and all of Lewis County, 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.
Brad Shannon: 360-704-6869, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.theolympian.com/politicsblog