Chris Reykdal of Tumwater emerged as the top Democrat in the 22nd Legislative District race for retiring Rep. Brendan Williams' seat Tuesday, but, as many predicted, the top vote-getter in the race was Republican Jason Hearn of Lacey.
Hearn was capturing nearly 35 percent of the vote in early returns, and Reykdal had nearly 27 percent, followed by Stew Henderson, the local Democratic Party’s favored candidate, who was polling about 22 percent. Three other candidates had less than 10 percent.
If early results hold up, Reykdal and Hearn move on to a Nov. 2 showdown that pits a liberal Democrat from the Tumwater school board against a conservative Lacey councilman in a district that has favored Democrats for three decades.
“The election was about the economy, and it’s about jobs. In our community that means protecting (state) workers,” Reykdal said of the message he heard from voters. “The other thing is people want us to examine the tax code. They want an honest revenue conversation, not an all-cuts budget solution.”
Hearn welcomed the support and said he would listen to voters in order to represent the district. “We’re going to use this opportunity to continue to listen to what they are wanting. Our message is a new direction and bringing stability to the district and to the state,” Hearn said.
Henderson conceded the race and praised Reykdal, saying he’ll clearly win in November. “He’s a great candidate. He’s going to be a great representative. This district is going to be very well served by having him in there,” Henderson said.
Thurston County auditor Kim Wyman said that with about 50,000 votes counted, the outcome was unlikely to change.
Other candidates in the running were Tumwater City Council member Judi Hoefling, a Democrat; Steve Robinson, a tribal ex- pert on natural resources policy who ran as a Progressive Dem; Demo Party candidate Jeremy Miller, who is an advocate for more liberal marijuana laws; and F.G. Fred Jensen, an anti-abortion activist who listed his party affiliation as “Prolife Democrat.’’
In other contested legislative contests in South Sound:
2nd district Rep. Tom Campbell, a Republican who provides votes to Democrats on health, consumer and environmental issues, was trailing to fellow Republican J.T. Wilcox, but both move on to the November ballot. Wilcox is a businessman whose extended family has been in the egg and dairy business near Yelm for decades, and his campaign says Campbell has an anti-business voting record.
Campbell raised $133,914 compared to $119,420 for Wilcox, making them the two highest fundraisers among South Sound legislative candidates. 22nd district Rep. Sam Hunt was easily defeating two challengers, Democrat Justin Kover and Chris Ward, who had no party affiliation. Ward, a reclusive candidate who said he works in retail, was collecting about 28 percent of the vote and advances to the November ballot against Hunt, who had over 60 percent in early returns. Ward spoke out against state spending, and Hunt campaigned on protecting funding for education and state employees.
35th district Rep. Fred Finn, a first-term Democrat and owner of a commercial real estate and development firm, was in a close race against Republican challenger Linda Simpson of Bremerton. Trailing and on his way to being eliminated was Independent Glenn Gaither, a state correctional officer from Hoodsport. Both challengers criticized the level of state spending and tax increases that Finn voted for. Finn led the field in fundraising with $79,808; neither Simpson nor Gaither reported any fundraising so far.
In another contested 35th-district race, Democrat Justin Stang ran a write-in campaign against Democratic Sen. Tim Sheldon of Potlatch and Republican Nancy C. Williams of Belfair. Stang was motivated by a controversial wood-to-energy power plant proposed in Mason County, but he faced high hurdles to finish ahead of Williams.
In one other 2nd district race, former state Sen. Marilyn Rasmussen, D-Eatonville, was trailing Republican Rep. Jim McCune in her bid to return to office.
In the 22nd district contest, Henderson and Reykdal raised the most money of the seven candidates. A coalition of labor groups including firefighters put more than $26,000 into independent ads for Reykdal, who raised $66,800 on his own and sewed up most labor endorsements.
Henderson raised $71,932 from more than 500 separate donors and was the Thurston County Democrats’ formal nominee. He also had backing from environmentalists, the endorsement of an abortion rights group and, along with Reykdal, shared the endorsement of the Washington Federation of State Employees.
Top issues in the campaign were how best to stimulate job growth, how to sustain revenues for the state budget and how to fix the state’s tax system, which relies on sales and business taxes that fell sharply in the recession.
Hearn emerges from the primary in the unusual position of having raised less than five other candidates but getting the most votes. His showing was not unexpected, and county auditor Wyman said before votes came in she expected Hearn to capture the GOP base, about 30 to 35 percent of the vote, just by walking through the door.
On Tuesday that was good enough to lead the field.