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Democrats sweep Washington state

People in attendance at the Democratic election party at the Silverdale Beach Hotel rejoice after Barack Obama was named the projected winner Tuesday night. - Photo by Jesse Beals
People in attendance at the Democratic election party at the Silverdale Beach Hotel rejoice after Barack Obama was named the projected winner Tuesday night.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

While President-elect Barack Obama garnered national headlines Tuesday night with his historic victory over Republican Sen. John McCain from Arizona, the local political scene was dominated by Democrats as well.

As of Thursday morning, Democrats were ahead in all but one state race locally, leaving local Republican leaders to ponder the future after a series of defeats similar to the Republican landslides in the 1994 elections, two years after President Bill Clinton won his first term in office.

During the 2006 statewide elections, Democrats in Kitsap County ousted longtime 23rd District State Rep. Bev Woods (R-Kingston), who was defeated by then-Bainbridge Island City Councilwoman Christine Rolfes. After the defeat, Woods blamed the outcome partly on the national movement away from the Republican Party to Democratic candidates.

On Tuesday night, Kitsap County Republican Chairman Jack Hamilton, who ran unsuccessfully in 2006 for the Kitsap County Commissioner's seat now occupied by Josh Brown, offered a brief assessment of the situation Tuesday night.

"So far it has been disappointing, disappointing and frustrating," Hamilton said. "We start again tomorrow morning and we go back into the fight and we keep pressing, there is not an option about it."

All bets were off on what was going to happen during this year's election in respect to the enthusiasm for Obama and the lukewarm approach to McCain, he said.

"Obviously there were some significant coat tails here, how many coat tails there were we won't know till later," he said. "We will have to sit down and do the analysis and figure out what the numbers say and go from there."

Here's a breakdown of the state and local races with the updated numbers as of Thursday morning:

• U.S. Congressional District 1

Congressman Jay Inslee, who represents the northern parts of Kitsap County including Bainbridge Island and Poulsbo, held a commanding 144,266 to 64,371 lead over challenger Republican Larry Ishmael.

• U.S. Congressional District 6

Three days after the death of his mother, Congressman Norm Dicks (D-Belfair) easily bested challenger Republican Doug Cloud by a 122,165 to 59,623 margin. Dicks was first elected to Congress in the late 1970s to represent the district, which encompasses his hometown of Bremerton as well as parts of Jefferson and Mason counties.

• Governor's race:

Gov. Chris Gregoire appears headed for her second term in office as she successfully fended off another strong challenge from former state senator Republican Dino Rossi. Gregoire had a 1,033,403, or 54 percent to 883,812, or a 46 percent lead over Rossi.

• 23rd District State Senate

Incumbent Democrat Phil Rockefeller (Bainbridge Island) appeared well on his way to a victory over Poulsbo City Councilwoman Connie Lord, who was recruited by the Kitsap County Republican Party to run against him. The initial returns showed Rockefeller with a 27,722 to 16,332 lead over Lord.

"I've been very confident but I take nothing for granted," Rockefeller said Tuesday night. "I worked hard to get here and I'm going to do the same to stay."

In what might be viewed as a concession statement, Lord said, "It's pretty evident that people at the national level wanted national change. Not so much at the local level. If they wanted change at the local level they would have gotten rid of the incumbents."

• 23rd District State Representative races

Incumbent Democrats Sherry Appleton and Christine Rolfes had significant leads over their Republican challengers during the initial returns in keeping with national and statewide election trends.

Appleton was ahead of Larry Cooney by a 27,584 to 16,147 vote margin, while Rolfes had a similar lead over Mark Lowe, with 27,188 votes to 16,486.

Appleton said Tuesday night that her agenda for the upcoming legislative session is already set with affordable health insurance being at the top of the list.

“We spend more money on people who are uninsured than we do on people who are insured,” she said. "Those without insurance either wait until they are critical to seek care or use emergency rooms for primary care."

While Rolfes was pleased with the outcome, Lowe expressed his bitter displeasure with the results across the board Tuesday night.

"It's a sad day for America," he said. "It's not disappointing, it pisses me off. I don't see good things coming from this on a national or local level."

• 35th District State Representative races

Once again, Democrats maintained their hold on the district as incumbent Kathy Haigh outdistanced Republican challenger Marco Brown to win her sixth consecutive term in office Tuesday night with a 29,199 to 17,467 lead during the initial returns.

While thrilled to be re-elected, Haigh said the upcoming legislative session is going to be challenging especially from a budget perspective.

"We're going to have to make some tough decisions, and hopefully we'll use a scalpel knife rather than a hatchet," Haigh said.

Fellow Democrat Fred Finn saw his narrow lead over Republican challenger Randy Neatherlin expand during the initial returns to a 26,499 to 20,039 margin by Thursday afternoon.

"We're very pleased right now, but it's not over till it's over," Finn said Tuesday night. "It's going to be a long night."

Like Haigh, Finn agreed the No. 1 issue facing the state Legislature in the upcoming session is going to be budget.

"How do we balance the budget and take care of things like education, cleaning up Hood Canal and providing jobs," Finn said.

• Kitsap County Commissioner District 1

Incumbent Democrat Steve Bauer, who was selected by the Kitsap County Democrats to serve the remainder of former North Kitsap Commissioner Chris Endresen's unexpired term in 2007, had a commanding lead over Republican Sandra LaCelle after the initial returns. Bauer had 47,097 votes to LaCelle's 31,132.

• Kitsap County Commissioner District 2

In one of the closest races in the county, former commissioner Democrat Charlotte Garrido held a 38,432 to 35,448 lead over Republican Tim Matthes during the initial returns.

Matthes won the Aug. 19 primary by more than 2,000 votes in a crowded four-candidate field with Garrido coming in a distant second.

Despite the initial results, Hamilton wasn't ready to concede the race Tuesday night.

"The Tim Matthes race is not over either," Hamilton said. "It's well within the margin of error, there are some possibilities there."

However, by Thursday morning Garrido's lead had only shrunk slightly to a 40,491 to 37,797 vote margin.

• Kitsap County Auditor

Democrat Walt Washington, who was selected to serve out the remainder of former auditor Karen Flynn's term in 2007, led Republican challenger Larry Clark by a 44,332 to 33,391 margin during the initial returns.

Clark, who lost the Aug. 19 primary by less than 5,000 votes, was disappointed Tuesday night.

"When I look at my race, I wonder how do you go backwards from the primary to the general election, when you are running a good solid campaign and you are out everyday and you have visibility that is 10 times that of your opponents, it's not about the D next to his name it's about the R next to mine," Clark said.

• Kitsap County Superior Court Judge, Court 1

In one of the few non-partisan races, Jeanette Dalton appeared poised for a seat on the Kitsap County Superior Court with a 40,581 to 29,170 lead over Bruce Danielson.

North Kitsap Herald Editor Celeste Cornish and Bainbridge Island Review Staff Writer Sean Roach contributed to this report.

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