This morning was the first opportunity I had to really study the primary election returns. Of course, this is all preliminary. There are well over 250,000 ballots that haven't been counted yet, and there are also a handful of ballots still in the mail that haven't been received yet. More than 20 counties are counting today, and the results will be updated by 5:00 pm -- but the counting will continue next week.
Counties have until Sept. 3rd to certify their election results, and then the Secretary of State has until Sept. 9th to put his stamp of approval on the primary results. In the meantime, here are one hack's early impressions.
1. Turn-out was terrible.
As of Thursday night, fewer than 29% of eligible voters had cast ballots in the primary election. Even assuming there are a few overseas or military ballots that haven't been received yet, it's highly unlikely turn-out will exceed 35%. Further, the worst turn-out in the state was in the Democratic stronghold of King County, currently at 23.4%. It's no coincidence that King County is one of only two counties that hasn't converted to voting entirely by mail. I keep a workbook showing election results back to 1996, and the 2008 primary will be the worst turn-out, by far, of any primary where the statewide offices were on the ballot. Maybe voting in August wasn't such a good idea after all.
2. The Governor did OK.
As of Thursday night, Gregoire was leading Rossi by about 3%. That doesn't sound like much, but after digging a layer or two deeper, the trends are encouraging. In the 2004 general election, Gregoire only carried 8 counties and she lost in Pierce and Snohomish counties. In the 2008 primary, Gregoire is carrying 13 counties, including Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap. Further, as of this writing, Gregoire is beating Rossi by more than 25% in King County, and King County accounts for about 1/3 of the uncounted ballots statewide. Finally, according to pollster Stuart Elway, primary voters tend to be older and more conservative than general election voters.
3. The Democrats did very well overall in Legislative races.
I've updated my projections on the number of seats that will be held by both parties in the Senate and the House next year. With the caveat that this is just one guy's opinion, here are my impressions as of today:
- In the Senate, Democrats are likely to have a minimum of 32 seats, with a maximum of 33. Republicans are likely to have a minimum of 16 seats, with a maximum of 17. Democrats currently have a 32-17 majority in the Senate, so my current projection is Republicans will, at best, hold steady.
- In the House, Democrats are likely to have a minimum of 58 seats, with a maximum of 66. Republicans are likely to have a minimum of 32 seats, with a maximum of 40. Democrats currently have a 63-35 majority in the House, so my current projection is Republicans will, at best, gain a couple of seats.
4. Incumbent Public Lands Commissioner Doug Sutherland (R) is in trouble.
Sutherland's Democratic challenger, Peter Goldmark, is only 1.7% behind at this time, with a lot of King County votes still outstanding. Terry Bergeson, the incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction, should also be concerned, considering she only received 40.4% against a host of challengers. Incumbent Attorney General Rob McKenna (R) is probably breathing a little easier today, with a 12.8% lead today over challenger John Ladenburg (D). However, that gap should close over the next few days, which, combined with McKenna's polarizing and partisan tenure in office, means this race is likely to remain in play.
5. There won't be any Supreme Court elections on the November ballot.
All three incumbent justices running for re-election this year exceeded 50% of the vote in the primary: Mary Fairhurst, Charles Johnson and Debra Stephens. Candidates for nonpartisan offices that receive a majority in the primary are elected and don't appear on the general election ballot in November.
In other words, because they didn't participate in the August primary, 70% of the registered voters have no voice in the Supreme Court elections.
PS: I'll comment on specific Congressional and Legislative races next week, so stay tuned!