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August 8, 2018

Blue wave looming? Primary election results favor Democrats

For months, the talk among political insiders has been whether we'd see a "blue wave" sweep more Democrats into office this year. The notion is that the party out of power at the federal level tends to make gains in midterm elections when there's no presidential election on the ballot. It's too soon to make definitive statements, but Republicans would do well to head for higher ground based on early primary election returns posted on Tuesday.

In essence, the primary election is a massive statewide political poll. And as we learned in 2016, it’s dangerous to put too much stock into polls. Not all primary ballots have been counted yet, and there’s a lot of time between now and the general election in November. But even with those caveats, it’s tough to read the primary results as anything other than the potential of a blue wave looming in November.

At the time of this writing, Republicans are trailing in 17 House races where they currently hold seats, in addition to four Senate races. For historical context, if Republicans were to lose 17 House seats it would put them at their smallest contingent in Olympia since 1941. Three Republican congressional seats also look to be at least closely contested, if not in jeopardy.

The WSMA has been closely watching the open-seat race in the state’s 8th Congressional District, being vacated by Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Auburn). Two Democratic physician candidates—Dr. Kim Schrier and Dr. Shannon Hader—faced off there in a crowded primary. Schrier currently leads the Democrats slightly, with a 1,000-vote advantage over attorney Jason Rittereiser, and 5,000 over Hader. The winner of that primary will advance to the general election against Republican Dino Rossi, a former state senator and gubernatorial candidate.

There are several state legislative districts where Republicans are in jeopardy of losing multiple seats. Republicans are trailing in two House races each in the Issaquah-area 5th District and Puyallup-area 25th District where they currently hold seats. The 26th District on the Kitsap Peninsula looks to feature close races for both House seats and the Senate slot. Ditto for Whatcom County’s 42nd District and Spokane Valley’s 6th District, both of which last sent a Democrat to Olympia in 2011.

It’s worth repeating that there are important caveats to keep in mind. Not all ballots have been counted, and late-arriving returns have often (though not always) favored Republicans in recent years. But we also know that turnout will likely be much higher in the general election, and higher turnout tends to benefit Democrats.

A lot can change between now and the general election on Nov. 6. But for Republicans to weather this storm and maintain any semblance of balance in Olympia next session, they may have to learn how to ride a blue wave.

This primary update comes courtesy of WAMPAC, WSMA's nonpartisan campaign arm. Learn more about WAMPAC and how it supports the house of medicine.

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