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The Washington State Senate: A GOP Opportunity

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

With every passing week, states across the country are faced with reduced revenues, budget shortfalls and deficits. Washington State is no different, but the state’s leaders approach to the situation merits our attention.


Although previous reports had indicated an improving economy, the most recent forecast was hugely disappointing for Evergreen State lawmakers after it showed more deficits. Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt described the 2010 legislative session as a “‘missed opportunity’: If there ever was a perfect time for state government to look inward and make much-needed reforms, this was the year. Rather than take this approach, majority-party budget writers chose to turn to tax and fee increases.” In an effort to act sooner rather than later, Hewitt joined House Minority Leader Rich DeBolt in calling for a special session only to be rebuffed by Democrats.

As voters continue to express outrage at how the President, Democrat governors and legislative leaders are handling fiscal and budgetary matters, it should come as no surprise the Washington Senate is ripe for huge gains. “‘I think we’re within striking distance, no question about it,’” Hewitt said. Democrats currently maintain a 31-18 majority in the Senate – if the GOP can gain a net of seven seats, it will take the majority. In any other year, this would be a stretch. Not this year.

Last month’s primaries gave voters a glimpse of the trouble ahead for incumbent Democrats. In Seattle, most notably, several Democrats garnered fewer votes than their Republican challengers in the state’s top-two primary system, where the top two finishers, regardless of party affiliation, advance to the general election. According to the Seattle Times, Republicans are confident the primary results will lead to November gains in the state House and Senate. For former Washington Republican Party chairman Chris Vance, the primaries demonstrated a normalizing of state politics that should create a more evenly divided political landscape after Election Day. “‘During the Bush years, the Democrats picked up a bunch of seats they have no business holding,’” Vance said. “‘They're going to lose them this cycle.’”


Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt asserts “there are four races where Republicans lead the Democratic incumbent and three other” races where Republicans are within striking distance to pickup. Further, Washington Republicans are “helped by having just six Senate seats up this election, compared with 19 for the Democrats,” Hewitt said. One of the key Senate matchups to watch will be in the 47th District where Republican Joe Fain is seeking to oust Democrat incumbent Claudia Kauffman.

In the primary, Fain bested Kauffman by 10-points. Fain is not the only Republican surging in 47th District. “[A] couple of races in the 47th are showing a trend that may paint the Democratic district with more Republican colors,” writes the Covington Reporter. “If [Republican House candidate Mark] Hargove and Fain both win their races it would signal a significant change in the political spectrum in the 47th.”For Fain, the economy, fiscal responsibility and education reform are his top priorities. “‘The three issues are pretty cut and dry in this cycle,’” Fain said. He notes that Kauffman’s re-election will only add to the Evergreen State’s ongoing economic woes. According to Fain, Kauffman “‘voted to spend $800 million in new taxes this last legislative session…[s]he is fiscally irresponsible…[h]er values just don’t match my district and my community.’”

Sensing trouble, the Democrats are up with an ad attacking Fain. The Washington State Wire said the new ad “makes Kauffman the top contender so far for this year’s stretch award – for the ad that reaches the farthest.” The Kauffman ad is “a case of the pot calling the kettle black,” councilman Reagan Dunn said. “Kauffman’s record demonstrates a certain lack of restraint…‘she voted for every spending bill that came before her as a state senator.’”


Earlier this month, we noted “2010 could prove to be a banner year for Washington Republicans.” With the 47th District serving as a bellwether for Senate control, Republicans are poised to move this chamber into conservative hands.

For more information on Republican Joe Fain’ bid in Washington visit:

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