Since 2006 Democrats have done better locally at getting out the vote than Republicans. So far this year that seems on the surface to be changing.
I don’t have solid data to back up my sense that Democrats have been better at it at least since 2006, but election data bears it out. Oh-six and oh-eight were Democratic years, so those are easy. In 2010, despite huge Republican gains nationally, Democrats held their own around here. In 2012 Kirby Wilbur, former Washington State Republican Party chairman, admitted his party did poorly in the entire state, blaming that in some part in the national party’s abandonment of the entire state.
Following Tuesday’s results Chris Tibbs, Kitsap GOP chairman, texted me, “The kcrp has mobilized in a way we haven’t since 1994.” Looking just at the race in the 26th Legislative District, it’s hard to argue against it. Republican Jan Angel, a member of the state House now going after the seat Democrat Nathan Schlicher was appointed to in January, won the night. But in Kitsap County her margin was huge, 56.9 percent to 42.8.
There are a lot of reasons to put off betting that Angel will win by the same margin in November, or that she will win at all, but Luanne Van Werven, interim state GOP party chairwoman, was counting it as a done deal. She released the following statement:
“With Rep. Jan Angel winning tonight’s primary by a decisive 9.5%, the message from voters in Kitsap and Pierce Counties is loud and clear: by supporting Governor Inslee’s liberal agenda, Nathan Schlicher has failed to represent his constituents. The Governor’s tax increase proposals, his decision to throw our kids in Washington’s education system under the bus, and his obstructionist D.C.-style of leadership in Olympia were soundly rejected as voters overwhelmingly casted their ballot for Rep. Jan Angel. Nathan Schlicher has sided with Seattle liberals over his own constituents 96% of the time during his brief tenure in Olympia, and it cost him big at the polls.
“Historically speaking, with a primary result such as Schlicher’s tonight, it is safe to say that Rep. Angel will cruise on to an easy victory in November. I look forward to finishing the job and electing her as the 26th member of the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus, and as the next state Senator of the 26th Legislative District.”
It is true that candidates who win primaries generally go on to win the general, so Angel has a certain advantage. Schlicher did better in Pierce County than in Kitsap, but he still lost. If nothing else, it puts Angel in the frontrunner position. This primary is technically meaningless, but there is no better polling available.
If Democrats are looking for help in November, the ballot itself offers little. There are two statewide initiatives, but one is dealing with how initiatives are treated and the other relates to genetically engineered foods. Neither would get out the vote like same-sex marriage rights. So Democrats get little help there.
Democrats can legitimately say, however, that they can pick up momentum. Angel has already spent way more than twice the money Schlicher has, in part because she has almost twice as much money as he does. Additionally, Republicans clearly made a primary win a priority here. I don’t see the same fire yet from Democrats. Jordan Schrader, reporter for the (Tacoma) News Tribune, wrote on July 31 that Democrats had not spent near the money on television, quoting Schlicher saying he didn’t think voters paid much attention to political television ads this time of year.
In the end the primary win should be seen as very good news for Republicans. But you have to wonder if someone who has been sleeping is going to wake up by November, and whether this might have been the alarm clock.
UPDATE: I wanted to test Van Werven’s assertion that Angel would “cruise” to victory in November. I’ll get to that. First, though, more comments from the candidates themselves.
Schlicher told the News Tribune he was happy with the results:
Schlicher’s glass-half-full argument is that he is cutting into the support of Angel, who won by 18 percentage points in November against a different rival in a much lower-spending House race.
“We’ve closed half the distance in a month. We’ve got three months until the general,” Schlicher, an emergency-room doctor, said in an interview. “This is so doable.”
Angel also spoke with the News Tribune, (This was their lead story. Ours was the Bremerton City Council race.) which you can read there. She also issued a written statement today expressing her optimism about the numbers.
“We have worked hard to get our message out about rebuilding our economy, strengthening schools, limiting taxes and meaningful government reforms. We aren’t done yet, there is still a November General election and tomorrow we go back to work.”
Now for some historical perspective. I went back and looked at the legislative races with just two candidates in the primary in 2008, 2010 and 2012. (In 2009 there was a single legislative race, but it had three candidates.)
In those three elections there were 31 two-person races in which the leader at the primary had less than 55 percent of the votes. Of those, two were overturned in the general election.
In 2008 Democrat Liz Loomis took 50.7 percent of the vote in the 44th Legislative Distict primary to Mike Hope’s 49.3 percent. In the general election Hope, a Republican received 50.1 percent to Loomis’ 49.9.
In 2010 Republican Brian Peck won the primary 53-47 in the 17th District, House Position 1 race. In the general election he was beaten 53.2 percent to 46.8 by Democrat Tim Probst.
Probst nearly did it again in 2012. State Sen. Don Benton, a Republican, won the primary with 52.1 percent compared to Probst’s 47.0 percent in the race for Benton’s 17th District state Senate seat. On general election night Benton was behind after the first votes were counted, but ended up winning by 78 votes.
In the same year, 2012, the race for the 47th District Position 1 seat in the House had Mark Hargrove with a 53.9 percent tally over Bud Sizemore’s 46.1. Hargrove, a Republican, ended up winning the general election by 157 votes, taking 50.2 percent of the final vote.
There was one other primary-to-general election overthrow in 2012. Mike Armstrong won the primary with 58.7 percent to Bud Hawkins’ 41.3 percent in the 12th Legislative District House Position 2 race. In the general election Hawkins managed to pull out the win. But Armstrong and Hawkins are both Republicans.