2 veteran politicians gain ground Wednesday

A pair of prominent South Sound politicians teetering on the verge of elimination from their contests saw their prospects improve slightly Wednesday.

Republican Pierce County Councilman Shawn Bunney was running third for an open state House seat, putting Republican Cathy Dahlquist and Democrat Peggy Levesque in position to advance to the Nov. 2 ballot.

But tens of thousands of votes have yet to be counted in Pierce and King counties, which the district straddles, and Bunney was ahead among Pierce County voters. He predicted he would advance.

“I think there’s a lot of movement left in the numbers,” Bunney said.

Levesque, who led Bunney for second place by a shrinking margin that stood at 108 votes Wednesday, said the race was too close to call.

Another local government official seeking a legislative seat, Democratic Tacoma City Councilman Jake Fey, widened his slim lead over conservative Ken Nichols . Whoever prevails will face Democrat Laurie Jinkins in the runoff.

If Bunney and Fey survive, the fall campaign could see members of the same party face off in as many as four local contests for the Legislature.

Sen. Pam Roach of Auburn and Matt Richardson appear likely to continue their intra-Republican Party feud in the general election. And Rep. Tom Campbell, a Republican who doesn’t caucus with either party, is being challenged by J.T. Wilcox.

Wilcox, a political newcomer with a well-known name from his family farming business, took 59 percent of the vote to the 41 percent for Campbell, a 16-year incumbent.

Republicans said their hopes for a major political comeback in the state Senate and House were boosted Tuesday as several incumbent Democrats failed to capture half the vote or were actually trailing their GOP challenger.

“I think we’re within striking distance, no question about it,’’ said Senate Republican Leader Mike Hewitt of Walla Walla, who is now in a 31-18 minority.

Local incumbent Democrats who moved on to the general election but failed to reach a majority of votes include Rep. Dawn Morrell of Puyallup, Sen. Claudia Kauffman of Kent, Rep. Geoff Simpson of Covington and Rep. Tami Green of Lakewood. Democratic Rep. Troy Kelley barely captured half the vote against Republican Steve O’Ban.

But Democrats were not conceding much.

“We have about 15 seats that are close seats. That’s generally what we have at this stage. Most of them are fairly predictable. I think we’ll do fairly well in some of the toss-ups,” said Rep. Sam Hunt, an Olympia Democrat.

Staff writer Brad Shannon contributed to this report.