The eyes of the Evergreen State will be on voters in this area during the coming months, as the 31st Legislative District has emerged as a crucial tipping point where the two major parties will tussle for control of Olympia.
Making the 31st a key battleground are two factors: first is the Democrats’ current, narrow 50-48 majority in the state House of Representatives; second is the up-for-grabs nature of the Position 2 seat in the Legislative District.
After longtime legislator Christopher Hurst announced he would be leaving state politics, his post became something of a political free-for-all. During last week’s primary election Republican Phil Fortunato and Independent Democrat Lane Walthers emerged as the voters’ top two choices, earning the right to advance to November’s general election.
Fortunato, an Auburn resident and former member of the House, received almost 40 percent of the vote. Walthers, an Enumclaw resident and firefighter with East Pierce Fire and Rescue, trailed slightly with a bit more than 37 percent support.
Eliminated during the primary were two Republicans, Enumclaw’s Morgan Irwin, with 14 percent of the vote, and Pablo Monroy, who netted 9 percent.
Republicans are sure to push hard for Fortunato, as a victory in November could result in a deadlocked House of Representatives, a situation that hasn’t existed for 15 years. If things really go the GOP’s way throughout the state, Republicans could gain House control. Democrats will be pushing just as hard to get Walthers elected and retain the party’s slim majority.
It’s all part of a larger power struggle in Olympia, where the GOP now enjoys majority status in the state Senate – a fact Democrats are hoping to flip come November.
And it’s all playing out in the shadow of the governor’s race, where Democratic incumbent Jay Inslee is looking for four more years at the state helm. Statewide results on election night showed Inslee as the clear leader of the pack with more than 48 percent of the vote; also advancing was Republican challenger Bill Bryant, who claimed 38 percent.
The governor’s race was much tighter in Pierce County, where Inslee garnered 44 percent to Bryant’s 42 percent.
The other 31st District race lacked any drama, with both candidates assured of advancing to November. Unless things change dramatically in the coming months, things will good for incumbent Republican Drew Stokesbary, who earned 74 percent support in the primary, easily outpolling Libertarian challenger John Frostad.
The 31st District Senate seat was not contested, as longtime lawmaker Pam Roach is in the midst of another term.
But Roach was still on the primary ballot, running for the No. 2 seat on the Pierce County Council.
A Republican, Roach was successful in her county bid, topping a field of three with almost 45 percent of the popular vote. Also advancing to November’s general election was Carolyn Edmonds, a Democrat who took better than 36 percent. Eliminated was Democrat Pat Jenkins, who polled close to 19 percent.
Results of the Aug. 2 primary are unofficial until certified by the county canvassing board. That action is slated for Tuesday, Aug. 16.