Lost in all the hubbub over Republicans tightening their grip on the Washington State Senate is the prospect that the GOP could pick up as many as four House seats, leaving Democratic Speaker Frank Chopp with a much leaner majority than he probably envisioned while celebrating his crushing victory last night over Socialist challenger Jess Spear.
In the southwest Washington’s 17th District, Republican Lynda Wilson has a narrow 51 to 49 percent lead over Democratic incumbent Monica Stonier. She is winning by just 325 votes.
Even more surprising, Melanie Stambaugh, a 24-year-old Republican candidate running in the Puyallup-based 25th District, is leading six-term incumbent Democrat Dawn Morrell 53 percent to 46 percent. If she holds on, she would be one of the youngest legislators ever elected to the Legislature.
Also in Pierce County, in the 28th District, Republican Paul Wagemann and Democratic Christine Kilduff are in virtual tie, with Wagemann ahead by a mere 69 votes.
Over in the 35th District, which encompassed parts of Mason and Thurston counties, incumbent House Democrat Kathy Haigh is looking to survive a serious challenge from Republican Dan Griffey, who only trails by 223 votes.
If Republicans manage to run the table and pick up all four seats, the Democrat’s 12-seat advantage in the House would shrink from 55-43 to a less than comfortable 51-47.
“This really is the story – not the Senate, but what could happen in the House,” says former legislator and ex-GOP chair Chris Vance.
Thousands of votes are still to be counted, so these races could be in doubt for days. In statewide races, an automatic recount occurs if the margin is 2,000 votes and less than one-half a percentage point. If the gap is less than 1,000 and less than a quarter of a percent on the statewide measure, a manual recount is ordered, according to Dave Ammons, spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office.
For other races, such as a state House seat, the requirement for hand recount is a gap of less than 150 votes and less than one-quarter percent of total votes cast for the office.
In other electoral developments, incumbent Democratic state Rep. Roger Freeman, who died at the end of October at the age of 48, has a six-point lead over his Republican opponent, Jack Dovey.
The death was so recent that most voters were unaware that it had happened, and voted for the incumbent or cast their ballot on a party line. The two counties that make up the 30th district will select a temporary legislator from three possibilities offered by local Democrats and a special election would then be held next year.