Election Night for Washington Dems: Mixed Emotions, Unanswered Questions

Curtis Cartier
On the way out of the Westin Hotel and Washington Democrats' biggest election party of the night on Tuesday, Dem faithful Bruce Roby summed up the sentiment that many there likely felt.

"Let's just say I won't go to sleep happy," he said on the corner of 5th Avenue and Stewart Street.

Roby, like a lot of Democrats at the gathering, had seen a night of mixed emotions and unanswered questions.

He'd seen his party beaten soundly on the national stage, while somehow staving off total annihilation.

He'd the watched the highest profile race of the night between Democratic incumbent Sen. Patty Murray and Republican challenger Dino Rossi head toward a likely recount with Murray holding a narrow lead into the night.

And he'd seen a handful of local races split between parties and almost anything to do with new taxes go down in flames.


Over the chants of "Patty! Patty!" and occasional boos and hisses whenever a projection TV showed a reporter who mentioned a Republican, the crowd at the Westin witnessed a few scattered signs of hope amid a large and ominous cloud of disappointment.

In statewide elections, the income tax initiative I-1098, which was championed by many progressives, lost big. Voters also repealed a tax on candy and soda while still voting against the privatization of liquor sales and of workers compensation benefits.

Voters also rejected both liquor control initiatives that would have deregulated liquor sales to a much higher degree.

Congressional races split nearly down the middle with Republicans Jaime Herrera, Doc Hastings, Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Dave Reichert winning in the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 8th Districts, respectively, while Democrats Jay Inslee, Norm Dicks and Jim McDermott won House races in the 1st, 6th and 7th Districts.

Democrat Adam Smith held a six point lead in the 9th District, though by midnight, the race still hadn't been called.

In the 2nd district, less than 1,500 votes separated Democrat Rick Larsen and Republican John Koster, seeming to guarantee a recount.


The crowd at the Westin was highly diverse and featured everyone from young, Che Guevara T-shirt sporting hipsters, to middle aged, $10 cocktail sipping professionals, to older, union repping retired trade workers and everyone in between.

When news came in that the Republicans had taken control of the House of Representatives, some lamented openly.

"It's fucking terrible," said Jake Herrera, a young Democrat in a blue beanie and Patty Murray sticker. "People are idiots. They have no idea who the people they are voting for are."

Others started looking to the future.

"I think this may actually help us," said Ned Jursek, while holing his 9-year-old daughter Ella on his shoulders. "I'm hoping it will be kind of like when Gingrich swept in in '94 and the arrogance will help us in 2012."

Later, when Democrats appeared sure to retain control of the Senate, the crowd cheered.

"That's fantastic!" Linda Groswalski, a retired school teacher said happily. "I had thought we might lose both houses."

When Patty Murray finally took the stage around 10:10 pm, the crowd seemed to forget the national drubbing that their party was taking, showering the incumbent with adoration as she talked about the progress she felt they had made in her tenure.


But by the end, it was mostly confusion mixed with disenchantment that reigned supreme for attendees as they made their way home.

"Tonight was evidence that stupidity is more rampant than I had thought," said Dean Paton, a middle-aged Murray supporter, as he stepped off the downward traveling escalator, before disappearing into a long hallway and out into the night. "What else can you say?"

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