WA-Legislature: Pres-by-LD

One happy result of our crowdsourcing presidential results-by-congressional district project is that it pointed our way to a spreadsheet put together by Benjamin Johnstone-Anderson, not an SSPer that I know of, but clearly an elections geek of the highest order. This spreadsheet covers the entire state of Washington at the precinct level (not just in split counties), and it’s designed to give results not just by congressional district, but also by municipality and legislative district.

The nice thing about this kind of spreadsheet is that it lets us do the same sort of analysis at the state level that we at SSP are fond of doing at the national level. By calculating a half-assed sort of PVI (based only on 2008 numbers) and arranging LDs from most to least Democratic, we can form a picture of who the most vulnerable legislators of each party are, much more precisely than just by looking at county-level data. (In most states you can at least look at party registration numbers to measure districts, but there’s no registration by party in Washington.) This would be a fantastic resource to have for as many states as possible, and I’d like to encourage other SSPers to perform and post the same sort of analysis for their states (if the necessary information can be found).


District Where 2008 % “PVI” Sen. Rep. 1 Rep.2
43 Univ. District 88.8/9.6 D+37 D (2010) D D
37 S. Seattle 86.1/12.6 D+34 D (2010) D D
36 Ballard 83.8/14.8 D+31 D (2010) D D
46 N. Seattle 82.6/15.9 D+30 D (2010) D D
34 W. Seattle 77.6/20.8 D+25 D (2012) D D
11 Renton 71.0/27.3 D+19 D (2012) D D
32 Shoreline 69.9/28.6 D+17 D (2010) D D
27 Tacoma 67.6/30.6 D+15 D (2012) D D
22 Olympia 64.7/33.4 D+12 D (2012) D D
29 Parkland 64.3/33.6 D+12 D (2010) D D
21 Lynnwood 64.1/34.2 D+12 D (2010) D D
33 Des Moines 63.6/34.7 D+11 D (2010) D D
48 Bellevue 63.5/35.0 D+11 D (2010) D D
41 Mercer I. 63.6/35.1 D+11 D (2012) D D
40 Mt. Vernon 62.9/35.3 D+10 D (2012) D D
38 Everett 61.3/36.3 D+9 D (2010) D D
1 Bothell 61.2/37.0 D+9 D (2012) D D
3 Spokane 60.0/36.9 D+8 D (2012) D D
45 Redmond 60.8/37.7 D+8 D (2010) D D
49 Vancouver 59.7/38.4 D+7 D (2012) D D
30 Federal Way 59.0/39.4 D+6 D (2010) D R
23 Bainbridge I. 58.7/39.5 D+6 D (2012) D D
5 Sammamish 57.5/41.1 D+5 R (2012) R R
19 Longview 56.6/40.9 D+4 D (2012) D D
24 Port Angeles 56.0/41.8 D+4 D (2012) D D
44 Snohomish 56.0/42.2 D+3 D (2010) D R
47 Auburn 55.8/42.6 D+3 D (2010) D D
28 Lakewood 55.6/42.8 D+3 R (2012) D D
42 Bellingham 53.8/44.2 D+1 R (2010) R D
35 Shelton 52.8/45.1 D+0 D (2010) D D
17 Orchards 52.0/46.3 R+1 R (2012) D D
39 Monroe 51.6/46.1 R+1 R (2012) R R
25 Puyallup 51.8/46.5 R+1 D (2012) R D
10 Oak Harbor 51.7/46.5 R+1 D (2012) R R
26 Port Orchard 51.1/46.9 R+1 D (2010) R D
31 Enumclaw 50.2/47.9 R+2 R (2010) R D
15 Sunnyside 49.7/48.4 R+3 R (2010) R R
6 Country Homes 49.6/48.5 R+3 D (2010) R D
2 Orting 47.9/50.1 R+5 R (2012) R R
18 Battle Ground 46.6/51.6 R+6 R (2012) R R
20 Centralia 45.4/52.5 R+7 R (2012) R R
9 Pullman 43.1/54.7 R+10 R (2012) R R
12 Wenatchee 42.8/55.3 R+10 R (2012) R R
4 Spokane Valley 42.3/55.1 R+10 R (2012) R R
14 Yakima 42.7/55.6 R+10 R (2012) R R
16 Walla Walla 38.6/59.6 R+14 R (2012) R D
7 Colville 38.1/58.9 R+14 R (2010) R R
13 Ellensburg 38.1/59.7 R+15 R (2010) R R
8 Kennewick 36.6/61.6 R+16 R (2010) R R

Analysis over the flip…

We can see that only about one-third of these districts are what you’d think of as being competitive (let’s say a “PVI” between D+5 and R+5)… and there are almost no legislators of the wrong party in uncompetitive seats. There’s only one Republican representative in a seat better than D+5, and one Democratic representative in a seat worse than R+5. This points to a big built-in structural advantage for Democrats in Washington; there are 23 (out of 49) districts greater than D+5, so they barely need to rely on swing territory at all to maintain control of the legislature.

The good news is, as much as the Democrats are in a position of strength in the legislature (near the 2/3s mark in each chamber), there’s still room to expand and not much defense to play. There are 7 Republican senators (out of 49) and 14 Republican representatives (out of 98) in districts won by Obama, while there are no Democratic senators and 1 Democratic representative in districts won by McCain.

In fact, the one Democratic senator who lost in 2008, Marilyn Rasmussen in the 2nd LD, would have been the only Democratic senator in a McCain district had she not lost in an upset. The top-of-the-ticket data goes a long way to explaining her loss; the 2nd is an growing exurban area in rural Pierce County with a lot of growth, so there’s an influx of new voters unfamiliar with Rasmussen’s long tenure in the district and thus not likely to ticket-split. This is also the same part of WA-08 that, both times, basically gave Dave Reichert his victory margin over Darcy Burner, and it seems to be one of the only areas in the state that is going in the wrong direction.

Unfortunately, the Democrats missed the opportunity in 2008 to take out the two most vulnerable GOP senators according to this table, Cheryl Pflug in the 5th and Mike Carrell in the 28th; they’re safe till 2012. (They also lost what was considered to be the most hotly contested senate race, a little further down the table. Don Benton in the 17th survived by only a few hundred votes.)

The most theoretically vulnerable GOP senator up in 2010 is Dale Brandland in the Bellingham-based 42nd; however in practice, two other senators slightly lower on the list, Pam Roach in the 31st and Jim Honeyford in the 15th, are likelier to be vulnerable (Honeyford because he represents Washington’s second-least-white district, with fast-growing Latino and Native populations but a mostly Anglo electorate, meaning that victory is possible with a larger minority turnout… and Roach simply because her sheer Jean Schmidt-style odiousness makes her a perpetual target).

Democrats will also be defending two senate freshmen in 2010 in districts that have an R+ PVI (although that Obama won): Derek Kilmer in the 26th and Chris Marr in the 6th. These are the two districts where the GOP picked up Democratic-held open House seats, so these races will bear watching.

The above-mentioned 5th may also be the best place to pick off some GOP representatives: Jay Rodne and Glenn Anderson. (One rep, Skip Priest in the 30th in the blue-collar suburbs of Federal Way, clocks in higher, but he’s pretty well-entrenched and certainly the most moderate Republican left in the House.) I’m wondering why the 5th (the furthest-out reaches of the affluent Eastside suburbs plus rural eastern King County) has never been heavily targeted; without seeing 2004 data, my guess is that it’s never voted anywhere near this heavily Democratic before. Even the nearby 41st and 48th had a mostly Republican legislative bench until a few years ago and probably didn’t go for Gore or Kerry by 25-point margins; this just seems to be the last district on the Eastside to fall into the Democratic column. We just need to show up to compete, preferably with some good candidates (like a certain netroots heroine with kickass fundraising skills?).

In the 2008 election, the Dems lost one Senate seat to drop back to a 31-18 lead. In the House, the Dems flipped two seats and the GOP flipped three, so the composition moved to a 62-36 edge and GOP each flipped two seats, for a wash, so the composition stayed at 63-35 edge. Dems need to gain 2 seats in the Senate and 4 3 in the House to make it over the magic 2/3s mark (although hopefully they won’t need to override Chris Gregoire on anything, but she won’t be around forever). Doable? Tough, but possibly so.

28 thoughts on “WA-Legislature: Pres-by-LD”

  1. but are you using national PVI or state PVI? I’m not a fan of PVI but I guess it’s a conservative tool to avoid overly ambitious or unnecessarily pessimistic political scenarios. Also, can you explain for us non-WA types, how two state reps represent the same district? Tks

  2. I wish it would be easy to figure out for other states.

    I think it’s funny that Dems win down the line, but Republicans top off pretty quickly. I think that tells you about their national profile.  

  3. Many things come to mind to contribute but I’ll start with these four:

    –Democrats in Washington really are playing in even the toughest districts.  The 8th LD (Tri-Cities) is the most Republican in the state but we ran a very strong candidate there, Carol Moser, a former state Transportation Commissioner, had lots of money from statewide Ds pumped in, and she only lost by 5 percent.

    –Sen. Pam Roach is certifiably insane.  She’s currently running for King County Elections Director (a newly created position) and will almost certainly lose despite her strong name recognition as it appears that the Republican vote will be split between her and former County Councilmember David Irons.  I don’t think it generates goodwill in her district that she is constantly trying to get a higher-paying position (while keeping her Senate seat, which she is allowed to do and intends to do).  She is expected not to run for reelection in 2010, however, enabling her son, Rep. Dan Roach, to run for her seat.

    –Darcy Burner doesn’t live in the 5th LD, she lives in the 48th.  Of course, her house burned down, so maybe she’ll move.

    –Had no idea the 15th was so competitive.  Never have thought of it as a battleground district.

  4. Stands out like a sore thumb.  It is D+5 with a Republican state senator and two R state legislators.  Open Left sent one of their front pagers to WA-8 and he had a particularly hard time in this area when he canvassed for Darcy Burner.  The people were blue collar Republicans who were unsophisticated to the point of being mislead.  Sherriff Dave had 20 years “government: experience but was a spectacularly ineffective Congressman precisely because the experience applies to what state and local government do, not what Congress does.  Darcy wanted to fix the war in Iraq but these folks wanted her to run for school board to get experience.  Well, you don’t fix Iraq on the school board.  And school board experience has little to do with most of what Congress does.

    Guess the D+2 of WA-8 is misleading because of these voters.  Thet will vote for a Democrat for President but not for Congress or the state legislature.  Time for a major educational campaign.

  5. Have they been aggressive in winning these races? Or have they grown complacent a la the CA Democratic Party in being in a constant state of ennui? It seems like there were a number of missed opportunities this year. How can we change that in 2010? And is the party willing to take some chances and grow their ranks in Olympia?

  6. I believe a few other states have versions of it but how does it work in WA?  Are there two separate state house elections for each district or just one with the two highest vote getters being elected?  Can’t say I’m a fan of this type of system.

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