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November 7, 2018

Historic midterm election sees Dr. Schrier sent to Congress

After months of unprecedented campaign spending, voter enthusiasm, and political divide, the votes were finally tallied on Tuesday (or most of them, anyway). The result? Progressive gains but not the full-on "blue wave" that was seemingly portended in the August primary election, as Republicans stemmed the tide in the state Legislature and added seats in the U.S. Senate.

At the congressional level, Democrats will take control of the House of Representatives, highlighted locally by the likely election of WSMA member Dr. Kim Schrier—one of 100 new women in the House. A pediatrician from Issaquah, Schrier is comfortably leading Republican Dino Rossi and looks to be the only female physician in Congress. Not surprisingly, Schrier ran on a platform that featured health care policy prominently.

Schrier will join a new Democratic majority that will surely provide a foil to a Republican-retained Senate and the Trump administration—and likely usher in even more political divide in D.C. Two other closely-watched Washington races saw incumbent Republicans re-elected to Congress, with the victories of Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler.

Statewide ballot measures yielded a victory for a gun control initiative that largely aligns with WSMA policy on requiring safe storage and restricting the purchase of firearms under certain circumstances. But a proposal to establish a new state carbon tax to combat climate change, endorsed by the WSMA at October's House of Delegates, was defeated. Elsewhere, three states approved ballot measures to expand Medicaid (Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah).

The state Legislature looks likely to add several Democrats to the House of Representatives and Senate, widening Democratic control of both chambers. While a less drastic swing than some had predicted, the gains are significant and will have implications for health care policy and the state budget over the next two years.

In the state Senate, Democrats lead in two seats that are currently held by Republicans, the 30th District centered on Federal Way and the Kitsap Peninsula's 26th District, with several other races too close to call. And Democrats are leading in seven state House seats that Republicans hold, though again, final tallies will depend on late returns that have favored Republicans in recent years. If those results hold, however, Democratic margins of control would shift to 27-22 in the Senate and 57-41 in the House.

Voter turnout in Washington state is on the highest pace for a midterm election in generations. That type of turnout would typically benefit Democrats (as Republicans are more reliable voters in midterms), though the effect was muted by high enthusiasm by folks on both sides of the aisle. Whether the enthusiasm is attributable to Trump, the campaign spending that resulted in a deluge of ads and mailers, or just general increased interest in politics remains to be seen.

What we do know is that the next election cycle started even before this update will be published, with the 2020 presidential race gearing up and folks jockeying for position at the state level. WSMA's advocacy will transition to the legislative session that begins in January, but WAMPAC—the WSMA's nonpartisan campaign arm—is always monitoring the state's election landscape and looking for opportunities to engage physicians. If you're interested in getting more involved, consider joining the WAMPAC Diamond Club to help ensure the physician voice remains relevant as campaigns continue to get more expensive, and more important, than ever.

Join or renew your membership today