Mercer Islanders and Democrats Lisa Wellman, Tana Senn and Judy Clibborn are winning their respective races for the state Senator and state Representative positions in the 41st Legislative District in the Nov. 8 general election, according to initial results posted at 8:45 p.m.
The presidential race isn’t the only close one worth watching, as the results in swing districts around the state, including the 41st, could determine control over the Washington state government.
Wellman, a former teacher and technology executive, is leading fellow Islander and incumbent Sen. Steve Litzow 55.10 percent to 44.81 percent. Her victory would have implications for the balance of power in the state Legislature, as the Democrats look to cut into the Republican hold on the Senate.
Before the election, the Democrats had a two-seat lead in the state House (50-48), while the Republicans had a majority in the Senate (26-23). Whoever controls the Legislature will have to work with incumbent Gov. Jay Inslee, who is beating challenger Bill Bryant.
With narrow margins of control in each chamber and the possibility of either or both changing hands in the November election, a lot of money was raised and spent to influence close races. The 41st District includes Mercer Island, Bellevue and Sammamish, and has been inundated with signs, mailers and ads throughout the campaign.
According to the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC), Wellman raised more than $467,000 and received around $141,000 in independent spending supporting her candidacy. Litzow raised more than $795,000, leading all legislative candidates, followed by Steve O’Ban (R-Tacoma) and Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah). Litzow received over $463,000 in independent spending, but more than $499,000 in independent dollars were spent against him.
Litzow appeared to be leading Wellman in early returns in the August primary, though she ended up beating him by one and a half percentage points.
Senn and Clibborn, both incumbents, defeated their Republican challengers handily in the primaries. In the general election, Senn is leading John Pass 67.25 percent to 32.68 percent, while Michael Appleby trails Clibborn 32.26 percent to 64.67 percent, according to early returns.
Clibborn has served in the Legislature since 2002, and Senn has served since 2013. Both were previously on the Mercer Island City Council.
Litzow, first elected to the Legislature in 2010 also after a stint on the Mercer Island City Council, is chair of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee. He was the lead sponsor of Senate Bill 6194, which secured a new source of state funding for charters. Senn and Clibborn voted for the bill in the House, and Wellman has said that she is not opposed to charter schools.
He and Wellman had different views about how to fully fund K-12 schools statewide, which will be the focal point of the 2017 Legislative session.
The state is under a constitutional obligation to fully fund public education and is not meeting that requirement, according to the supreme court’s 2012 McCleary decision. Wellman said she would support a capital gains tax to help come up with the $3 billion needed to fund education, while Litzow said the solution would be closing tax loopholes and adjusting local and state levies. Neither would support a state income tax.
In other results, Sound Transit’s Proposition 1 is passing, with 58.57 percent of voters in King County approving the $54 billion measure to add light rail and other transit options in the region. Initiative 732, the carbon tax, is failing but the gun safety Initiative 1491 is passing with 71.2 percent approval. Chris Reykdal has a narrow lead over Erin Jones in the race for Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Election results will be certified on Nov. 29. See www.kingcounty.gov/elections for more.