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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

West of Midnight

As it happens, I was in the eastern time zone yesterday, and thus following the primary returns from Wyoming and Washington involved some serious sleep deprivation. Newcomers to the West Coast like me complain a lot about having to get up early in the morning to deal with East Coast people and news, but it sure is nice to have those three extra hours when sluggish machines and poll workers are slowly churning out election returns.
The Wyoming GOP gubernatorial primary created the only cliffhanger of the night, with former U.S. Attorney Matt Mead leading State Auditor Rita by just over 700 votes. Right-wing crusader Ron Micheli finished a strong third, and political scion Colin Simpson a relatively poor fourth. Mead self-funded to the tune of $900,000, and had to overcome RINO accusations, particularly from Micheli. Myer’s loss denies Wyoming the certainty of a female governor, since state party chair Leslie Peterson won the Democratic nomination by a 48-39 margin over Pete Gosar.
In Washington, which uses the “Top 2 Blanket Primary” system that voters in California are soon to encounter, the primary was mostly a positioning test for the general election. The one outcome thought to be in doubt going into yesterday was in the 3d congressional district, where national Republican party favorite Jaime Herrera burnished the GOP’s diversity image by winning a general election spot alongside Democrat Denny Heck for the seat held by retiring Democrat Brian Baird. Would-be conservative spoiler David Castillo finished far back.
In the U.S. Senate race, two-time gubernatorial nominee Dino Rossi did himself some good by winning 34%, while Tea Partyish former NFL player Clint Didier came in at a disappointing 12%. Incumbent Patty Murry has 46%, though that percentage is likely to rise a bit when late mail ballots from the Democratic bastion of King County trickle in.
Over at RealClearPolitics, Sean Trende has collected data from previous “blanket primary” results in Washington that show a very close relationship between primary and general election performance for major-party candidates. He suggests yesterday’s results show Murray to be very vulnerable; Herrera a virtual lead-pipe cinch to win; and a couple of Democratic incumbent congressman in some peril. I do wonder if Sean is paying attention to when Washington primaries have been held in the past; some were in September, when you’d guess turnout would be higher than in August, and public opinion a bit closer to where it would wind up in November. But he’s got the datasets, so his conclusions are worth considering.
Finally, there was one other notable contest out west last night: a special “general election” in California to choose a successor in the state senate to Abel Maldonado, who was appointed Lt. Gov. earlier this year. Republican Sam Blakeslee defeated Democrat John Laird (confirming the order of finish in the special primary held in June), mainly based on strong performance by Blakeslee in his House district. But what’s interesting about this result is that about 158,000 votes were cast in this obscure state legislative election. The total two-party vote in Wyoming’s primary was just over 127,000. Wyoming has two seats in the United States Senate. Think about that next time you wonder if the ability of 41 Senators to control the national agenda via the filibuster might be a tad undemocratic.

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