By Pat Grubb
This story was updated at 4:47 p.m. on November 9 to reflect current election results.
By the time the much-heralded blue wave hit Washington state on Tuesday, it was more like a ripple than a wave, especially in Whatcom County. Incumbents on both sides of the aisle were returned to Washington, D.C. while Democratic challengers in local state races just managed to come close with no races determined after the first election count.
U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D) won handily over Republican challenger Susan Hutchison with 58.67 percent of the vote while U.S. representatives Suzan DelBene and Rick Larsen cruised to victory with 59.22 and 71.64 percent of the vote, respectively. In all, seven of Washington’s 10 congressional districts will be represented by Democrats; the remainder are Republicans including the eastside district 5’s Cathy McMorris Rodgers whose campaign was thought to be in trouble. Democrat Kim Schrier in district 8 beat perpetual Republican candidate Dino Rossi 52.68 to 47.32 percent.
Closer to home, the results are much more ambiguous. District 42 state senator Doug Ericksen’s race against challenger Pinky Vargas is too close to be called with Ericksen eking out a 72-vote margin, just .1 percent ahead of her. The Whatcom County elections office has an estimated 34 ballots in the office left to count but that figure can change. Justin Boneau, the least funded Democratic challenger to incumbent Luanne Van Werven for state legislative district 42, has just 131 votes fewer than Van Werven’s 35,964 vote count, a difference of just .18 percent. Democrat Sharon Shewmake, on the other hand, is 941 votes ahead of incumbent Vincent Buys with 36,379 votes, a difference of 1.32 percent, in district 42’s position 2. All three Democratic candidate have picked up more votes than their opponents since Tuesday’s count.
Depending upon future updates, the two closest races could result in automatic recounts. According to the Washington Office of the Secretary of State, a machine recount is required when the difference between the top two candidates is less than 2,000 votes and also less than 1/2 of 1 percent of the total number of votes cast for both candidates.
A manual recount is required when the difference between the top two candidates is less than 150 votes and also less than 1/4 of 1 percent of the total votes cast for both candidates.
Eric Richey is poised to become Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney, replacing Dave McEachran, after amassing 52,195 votes to James Erb’s 42,1148 count. Carol Frazey, running for Whatcom County Council At Large position galloped home with 57,185 votes over Mike Peetoom’s 39,964 total. Atul Deshmane, running for Public Utility District Commissioner 2 seat, garnered 48,162 votes against Paul Kenner’s 43,127 count.
Statewide, voters voted against Initiative 1631 which would have imposed taxes on pollution; voted for I-1634 that would prohibit local governments from imposing taxes on soda and other grocery items; voted overwhelmingly in favor of stricter gun controls as well as imposing new training and operating standards on police under I-940.
The Republican candidates and supporters spent election night at the Mt. Baker Rotary Club building in Lynden while the Democrats gathered at the Mt. Baker Theatre in downtown Bellingham. Addressing the faithful, Doug Ericksen told them “We will keep fighting every single day. We believe in life, we believe in protecting property rights and we will keep fighting for that every single day. We have more people who believe in us then who believe in them.”
Asked what she expected from the count, Pinky Vargas was sanguine. “I actually thought it might be close so I’m not really surprised right now,” she said, adding, “Democrats are typically a little later so I think we can make up those votes no problem.” Viewing state results, Vargas was ebullient. “I think it’s just women stepping up and realizing that it’s our time to show leadership. I think the support from all the other women, that camaraderie, is really what’s helped amplify other women’s voices and get us there. It felt like we were all in this together, and that alone was amazing. It was so inspirational.”
Turnout in Whatcom County was unprecedented for a mid-term election with 76.49 percent of the 143,179 registered voters casting ballots. This compares to 65 percent statewide and was sixth-highest in the state behind Garfield (82.62), Jefferson (82.2) San Juan (81.43), Wahkiakum (80.36) and Lincoln (78.05). The lowest voting county in the state was right next door with Skagit coming in with 43.01 percent turnout.
Photos by Oliver Lazenby and Oliver Hamlin
Election figures are current as of 4:47 p.m. on November 9. All numbers will be updated. To see total vote counts, hover your mouse over the pie chart.