31st District legislative incumbents return to Olympia state House to battle the budget

By Dennis Box-The Courier-Herald

By Dennis Box-The Courier-Herald

The 2008 presidential election brought a tidal wave of Democrats into national office, including Barack Obama as president, but the Ds in Washington state Legislature did not quite follow suit.

The Olympia Democrats already hold large majorities in House and Senate, but the party appears to have lost of few seats as the counting continues across the state.

Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat, easily won a second term over Republican challenger Dino Rossi. As of Friday, Gregoire was leading 53 percent to Rossi’s 46 percent.

In the 31st District, both incumbents, Republican Dan Roach from Bonney Lake and Chris Hurst, D-Greenwater, were wining by nearly 60 percent.

Roach is leading Ron Weigelt, D-Buckley, 59 to 40 percent and Hurst leads Sharon Hanek, R-Pierce County, 59 to 40 percent.

“This shows the citizens of the 31st are not very partisan,” Hurst said. “They are going to vote for results.”

In the 2008 session, the Democrats in the state House had a majority of 63-35. The Republicans expect to pick up two or three seats for the 2009 session.

On the Senate side, the Democrats hold a 32-17 advantage and will lose one seat. Marilyn Rasmussen, D-Eatonville from the 2nd District, appears to have lost to Republican Randi Becker who lives near Eatonville. Becker was raised in Enumclaw.

Both 31st District candidates said the budget will be the top priority for the legislature, which is an extended session.

“No matter what Gregoire says,” Roach said, “the real threat is increased taxes. We need to rein in taxes.”

Hurst said the Legislature will balance the budget without raising taxes and “do everything we can to stimulate the economy and work with the new (presidential) administration. If we are going to work toward bringing jobs back to the U.S. we need our fair share.”

Roach said with the apparent victory of Randy Dorn over incumbent Terry Bergeson for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Education the “WASL (Washington Assessment of Student Learning) is gone or will be radically modified. No one is saying it is not a major problem.”

In the 8th Congressional District, Republican incumbent Dave Reichert is leading Darcy Burner 52 to 47 percent and Burner has conceded.

The Pierce County executive race is still unclear. The race is being decided by “ranked-choice voting,” where voters rank their favored candidates in order. The latest algorithm results have Democrat Pat McCarthy leading Shawn Bunney, R-Bonney Lake, by about 52 percent to 48.

McCarthy, who is currently the Pierce County auditor, said the next algorithm will be run Friday.

With the choice system, when no candidate gains 50 percent, the candidate or candidates with the least votes are eliminated and the second choice listed on the ballots are factored into the calculations, called an algorithm.

Two of three statewide measures on the ballot appeared to be passing Monday morning.

Initiative 1000, allowing terminally ill people to obtain lethal prescriptions, was passing by nearly 58 percent. Initiative 1029, requiring long-term care workers to gain additional certification, was passing with 73 percent support.

Initiative 985, which would have opened high-occupancy lanes at certain times, was failing by 60 percent. Opponents feared it would draw money from education and other needs.

Sound Transit Proposition 1 was passing by 57 percent. The measure needed to be approved by voters in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.

King County voters faced eight charter amendments. Early results showed seven had earned greater than 50 percent support. Only amendment No. 7 (citizen initiative) had less than half the vote.

In the presidential election, Obama won the state over Republican John McCain by 57 percent to 40 percent. Obama took King County by 70 percent to 28 for McCain. In Pierce County, Obama came out ahead 55 percent to 43 percent.

Reach Dennis Box at dbox@courierherald.com or 360-802-8209.