Jarogerick Johnson is viewed through the handle of a ballot tray as he removes ballots from Washington state's primary election from a sorting machine, Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018, at King County Election headquarters in Renton, Wash. Voters will decide which candidates advance to the November ballot in 10 congressional races, a U.S. Senate seat and dozens of legislative contests. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Democrats hopeful they can flip Washington House seat

August 07, 2018 - 9:06 pm

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — As the Democratic party eyes making gains in Congress, the Washington state primary contest getting the most attention in Tuesday's election is an open U.S. House seat Democrats hope to capture for the first time since the district east of Seattle was created in 1980.

Incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert is retiring after more than a decade. Among the dozen candidates on the ballot, Republican Dino Rossi, a former state senator who had unsuccessful runs for governor and U.S. Senate, is expected to advance along with one of three Democrats: pediatrician Kim Schrier, attorney Jason Rittereiser, and former federal public-health official Shannon Hader.

District 8 includes Seattle's eastern suburbs of Sammamish and Issaquah, which have seen their populations grow on the back of Microsoft, Google and other expanding technology companies. The district also includes more rural economies that are heavily dependent on agricultural exports.

The other nine U.S. House seats are also contested in the primary, with the incumbents seeking re-election. In the 5th Congressional District in eastern Washington, Republican incumbent Cathy McMorris Rodgers is expected to advance to November, along with Democrat Lisa Brown, a former chancellor of Washington State University who previously served as majority leader in the state Senate.

Nicholas Hentges, 27, of Spokane, dropped his ballot off in downtown Tuesday. Hentges said he was motivated to vote this year by dissatisfaction with the actions of President Donald Trump, and to help defeat McMorris Rodgers.

The expected face-off between McMorris Rodgers and Brown in November has seen a flurry of television attack ads in the Spokane market, and may be driving interest in the election.

In Spokane County, the return rate for mail-in ballots was running at 34 percent on Tuesday afternoon, well above the state average of 26 percent.

The lone statewide race is for U.S. Senate. Former state GOP chairwoman Susan Hutchison is among more than two dozen primary candidates challenging Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell, a three-term incumbent.

In Washington state's primary system, the top two vote getters in each race advance to the general election, regardless of party.

Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman says just over 26 percent of primary ballots had been returned as of midday.

In 76 of the 123 legislative races on the ballot, there's no contest, with 15 races unopposed. In 61 seats, there's only two candidates running, all of whom will automatically advance to the November ballot.

Seventeen of the races are for open seats with no incumbent: 14 in the House and three in the Senate. Democrats currently hold a one-seat advantage in the Senate, and a two-seat advantage in the House.

A handful of races have seen significant spending by outside groups, including the 30th District, where Democrats seek to oust Republican Sen. Mark Miloscia, and the 26th District, a seat left open by Republican Sen. Jan Angel's retirement.

Three state Supreme Court races are on the ballot, though Supreme Court Justices Susan Owens and Sheryl Gordon McCloud will advance unopposed to the November ballots. Opponents for each were stripped from the ballot after judges ruled they were ineligible to hold the seats since they both had been disbarred. Only Justice Steven Gonzalez, a member of the court since 2012, has an opponent, Bellevue attorney Nathan Choi, who has not raised any money in his campaign. Both Gonzalez and Choi will automatically advance to the November ballot.

Susan Cahill, a 66-year-old retired state employee in Olympia, Washington, said she dropped her ballot off at the mailbox on Sunday. She said she's a Democrat who has also voted for Republicans. But she said that her top of the ballot vote went to Cantwell.

Cahill said people in her community seem more engaged this year in part because of their reactions to Trump.

"I'm real impressed with a lot of my neighbors and friends," she said. "They're more vocal. There are more yard signs."

While voters began receiving their state primary ballots in the mail weeks ago, Tuesday is the last day for voters to get them in or postmarked for mail delivery. In some of the more competitive races, results may not be known for days as most counties will update vote counts only once a day.

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Associated Press writer Nicholas K. Geranios contributed from Spokane, Washington.

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