The polls have closed in Washington State, where primary elections were held today. Most of the attention is on three races that will help determine what Congress looks like next year. They are the race for the Senate seat held by Patty Murray and the races in the Third and Eighth congressional districts.
In the Third District, Democratic incumbent Brian Baird is retiring. Larry Sabato rates it a “toss up” whether the Republicans will capture the seat.
The Eighth District presents us with a rarity this year — a Republican incumbent, Dave Reichert, who is not certain of re-election. Sabato rates the race “leans Republican.”
So what should we be watching for over the next hours?
On the Senate side, it seems clear that the Republicans will nominate Dino Rossi, who narrowly missed out on being elected governor in 2004, amidst substantial allegations of fraud. Interest will center on how Rossi’s primary vote compares to Murray’s. This, in turn, depends partly on how well Clint Didier (a former star tight-end/H-Back with the Washington Redskins) does on the Republican side.
Didier has Sarah Palin’s support and is a big favorite of the Tea Party. A good showing by Didier might deter Rossi from running his general election campaign from close to the center, nothwithstanding that Washington is a “blue” state. According to Liz Mair, the author of a fine blog on Washington state politics, the political pros in the state expect Didier to collect almost one vote for every two cast for Rossi, and that Rossi will run at least 10 percentage points behind Murray.
In the Third District, Danny Heck is the front-runner on the Democratic side. The Republican race pits David Castillo, who reportedly has most of the Tea Party support and is the favorite of the three newspapers in the district, against state Rep. Jaime Herrera, the favorite of the National Republican Congressional Committee. From the outside, it probably matters less who wins this primary than the degree to which the loser quickly gets behind the winner.
Both Liz and her panel of pros think Herrera will win the primary.
In the Eighth District, watch for the magnitude of the “protest” vote against Reichert, who is generally considered a centrist.
I’ll try to update this post over the next hour or two.
UPDATE: With almost one-third of the vote in, Didier is receiving about the level of support Liz and her pros expected, but Rossi is exceeding their expectations. As it stands now, Murray has 42 percent of the vote; Rossi 37 percent, and Didier 12 percent.
WOOPS: More than half the votes have been counted now, and Murray is up to 46 percent of the vote, while Rossi is down to 34 percent. Didier is still at 12 percent. If this count holds, it’s a pretty good showing by Murray, I would think [note: this result would just about mirror what a recent PPP poll showed and, according to PPP, is consistent with a narrow 49-46 Murray win in November, given Rossi’s superior support among independents].
In the Third District, it will be Heck against Herrera. With two-thirds of the vote in, Heck is at 32 percent and Herrera at 29. Castillo is a distant fourth, behind another Republican, with only 12 percent. Heck can’t be happy that Herrera was this close even with so much competion on the Republican side. And given the fairly weak showings of Didier and Castillo, one can view this as a bad night for the Tea Party.
FInally, with about half of the votes counted in the Eighth District, Reichert is at 47 percent, compared to only 26 percent for his Democratic challenger, Suzan DelBene. The protest vote against Reichert does not look too substantial, and he seems like a good bet to hold his seat against DelBene’s challenge, I would think.
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