‘We’ve Got Some Work To Do.’ Republicans React To Washington Primary Results

Supporters of Lisa Brown, the presumed Democratic opponent to Republican U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, walk in the Johnson 4th of July Parade in Johnson, Wash. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/TED S. WARREN
Supporters of Lisa Brown, the presumed Democratic opponent to Republican U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, walk in the Johnson 4th of July Parade in Johnson, Wash. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/TED S. WARREN

Note: The Washington Secretary of State pushes updates semi-regularly as vote tallies come in. See the most updated vote tallies from the SoS office.

Washington Republicans are regrouping after a primary election pounding Tuesday that extended beyond swing districts to rock-ribbed GOP pockets of the state.

“Obviously this didn’t go the way that we’d like it to,” said J.T. Wilcox, leader of the House Republican Caucus, on Wednesday morning.

ALL RESULTS: See all Washington primary results and highlighted races from NWPB’s Elections page

Republicans were trailing in 16 state House seats — from Grays Harbor County to Spokane — that are currently held by the GOP. Republicans were also in a deficit position in four state Senate seats they currently hold.

Among the Republican incumbents facing a potential Democratic “blue wave” come November was state Sen. Doug Ericksen of Ferndale, a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump, who had 46 percent of the vote after the first count Tuesday night. The two Democrats challenging him earned a combined 54 percent.

“We’ve got some work to do,” said Caleb Heimlich, state Republican Party chair. “There are some national trends at play.”

Heimlich said over the next 90 days until the November election, Republicans would work to connect with independent and swing voters about local issues such as taxes and “reminding voters what’s at stake” if Democrats gain more seats in the Legislature.

Both Heimlich and Wilcox said they expected late-arriving ballots to favor Republicans. But even so, the early results clearly put Republicans on notice.

Wilcox said his imperiled incumbents are no strangers to tough fights and are well-connected in their districts.

“Our members, the ones who are motivated to get out and activate their contacts [and] remind people of the way that they’ve fought for them in the past, they’re going to do very well,” Wilcox said in a voicemail message.

Meanwhile Democrats, buoyed by the early results, suddenly saw seats in play that they had not anticipated could be potential Democratic pick ups this year. This included in the 6th Legislative District, a Republican stronghold west of Spokane, where Republicans were trailing in two House races and an open state Senate contest.

“The Republican brand is extremely damaged,” said Christian Sinderman, a Democratic political strategist. “It’s an automatic disqualifier for an increasingly large number of voters.”

The early primary results prompted a gleeful Democratic Gov Jay Inslee to tweet an image of a blue wave and an invitation to President Donald Trump to visit Washington. “@realdonald trump the #waelex results last night were deeply concerning for Republicans,” Inslee wrote. “They need your help! Please come and campaign for them in WA this fall!”

Even as Republicans lost ground, incumbent Democrats in key swing legislative districts polled comfortably ahead of their challengers. For instance, state Sen. Steve Hobbs of Snohomish County—a key target of Republicans—had 57 percent of the vote after the initial vote count.

“This election shows tremendous Democratic momentum for November,” state Sen. Jamie Pedersen, chair of the Washington Senate Democratic Campaign, said in a statement.

CONGRESSIONAL UPSETS?

At the Congressional level, Democrats were also performing well after Tuesday’s early results.

In three districts currently held by Republicans — the 3rd in southwest Washington, the 5th in eastern Washington and the 8th spannin