Early results of Tuesday's election show Republicans holding leads in key state Senate races, giving them a chance to take control of the chamber for the first time since 2004.
Meanwhile, Democrats are holding off GOP challenges in the House.
In the Senate, Republican challengers were leading incumbent Democrat legislators in seven key races, including in the 6th district, where first-term Sen. Chris Marr, D-Spokane, vice chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, was down by 20 points.
Other Senate races were much closer — three with margins of less than 1 percentage point.
Early House results show Democrats fending off Republican challenges in more than a dozen key races.
We’ve “had some great candidates,” said Luke Esser, chairman of the state’s Republican Party. “Democrats helped us out by governing in a way the people of the state didn’t approve. It was a very potent combination.”
“We’ll know a lot more tomorrow,” Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown said Tuesday night. “There are races that are awfully close. It looks like we’ll hold our majority but it’ll be a narrower majority.”
She said the Democrats are proud of what they’ve accomplished – including environmental victories, expanded domestic partnerships and a constitutional amendment to allow school district levies to pass with a simple majority. But, she added, “It’s clear that the tough economy and the national mood has moved the pendulum in the other direction.
Early House results show there are more than a dozen House races up for grabs.
House Republican Organizational Committee Director Kevin Carns said he’s confident his party will win more than half of those contested seats. “There isn’t a single Republican seat in jeopardy,” Carns said.
Democrats have held commanding majorities in the state Legislature for the past six years. To take control of the House, Republicans need a 13-seat surge.
“There are a lot of races, we’re cautiously optimistic that we will maintain our leads,” said Rep. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, the House Democrats’ campaign chairman. “I think we’ll maintain the majority, but it will be a smaller majority.”
Among the close races was the bout between Democratic Rep. Troy Kelley and Republican attorney Steve O’Ban in Tacoma – where nearly half a million dollars have been spent. Kelley led with nearly 52 percent of the vote.
Another competitive race is in the 42nd District, where House Ways and Means Chairwoman Kelli Linville, D-Bellingham, faced Lyndenarea Republican businessman Vincent Buys. Of 34,959 votes counted, Linville was trailing 47.83 percent to Buy’s 52.17 percent.
In Spokane, Michael Baumgartner, who has a Harvard master’s degree and experience in civilian foreign service in Iraq and Afghanistan, was clobbering Marr with nearly 60 percent of the vote.