"Harrison, Woods set for showdown"
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:14 PM
"Bainbridge Island and North Kitsap County will be ground zero in the battle to take control of the Washington state House of Representatives.That's because Democratic challenger David Harrison of Bainbridge Island wound up in a virtual tie with incumbent Republican Beverly Woods in Tuesday's primary election, suggesting a down-to-the-wire race in which the Democrats have a real chance at gaining a seat.I've received calls from all over the district and the state, Harrison said Thursday. I'm one of the few, if not the only challenger ahead of an incumbent. This will be one of the three or four hottest races in the state, he said.With about 75 percent of the votes counted, Harrison had a 100-vote lead over Woods in balloting for the 23d District position 2 House seat.Washington state is divided into 49 legislative districts, each of which elects one senator and two representatives, all on a district-wide basis. The 23d District covers all of Bainbridge Island and North Kitsap County.The state house is now evenly divided, with 49 members from each party, making the close Woods-Harrison race key for both parties.Incumbent Democrats in the 23rd District garnered substantially more votes than their Republican counterparts. Sen. Betti Sheldon of Bremerton had 13,335 votes, or 57 percent, to 9,198 votes (39 percent) for challenger Dan Murphy, a Bainbridge Island attorney.The results were remarkably similar in the race for the position 1 House seat. Rep. Phil Rockefeller (D-Bainbridge Island) garnered 13,049 votes (56 percent), while Republican challenger Phil Rasmussen of Poulsbo, a retired Naval officer, pulled 9,276 votes (40 percent).Libertarian candidates drew roughly 5 percent of the vote in each race. Sheldon Holman is the senate candidate. Dennis Haynes the place 1 House candidate, while his wife Diane Haynes is seeking the place 2 House seat.The position 2 race was also the last hurrah for Paul Zellinsky, who has served in the house both as a Democrat and a Republican. His write-in campaign pulled only 167 votes, not enough to put him on the general election ballot. None of the 23rd District candidates faced challengers within their own party, so the results were essentially meaningless. But because Washington voters may vote for their favorites irrespective of party label, the primary may provide an indication of voter sentiment.The primaries have, historically, been a decent predictor of general-election results, Kitsap County Auditor Karen Flynn said. It can be extremely helpful to the candidates themselves, to show them where they are strong and help them shape their strategies.Republican Phil Rasmussen said he would use the primary election data just that way.I haven't campaigned at all on Bainbridge up to now, he said, because I think it's pretty heavily Democratic. When we get the precinct-by-precinct breakdowns in early October, we'll start spending time there.Rasmussen said he was gratified with a 40 percent showing. Like the other Republican candidates, he asserted that GOP turnout in the primary was light because there were few intra-party contests to draw voters to the polls.Democrat Phil Rockefeller is looking ahead to public appearances before the Nov. 7 general election.It's only a primary, but I'm very encouraged, Rockefeller said. There are a number of candidate forums coming up in the next few weeks, so we'll be more concentrated on those.Republican Senate candidate Murphy pronounced himself well-satisfied with a 40 percent showing against incumbent Sheldon, repeating the theory that Republican turnout was low.With all the name recognition she has, to only pull 57 percent of the vote, I think she's in trouble, Murphy said. Murphy said he would continue to attack Sheldon's voting record.Some people may call it negative politics, he said. I call it telling the truth and exposing what she's doing.Sheldon saw the primary results as voter repudiation of Murphy's attacks.You always try to stay connected to the voters, but until you see those first primary votes, you never really know how you're doing, she said. Woods, a short-term incumbent who was appointed in November 1999 to fill the last year of Karen Schmidt's term, said she was pleased to find herself in a dead heat with Harrison. He spent twice what I spent, she said, and there was a low Republican turnout in Kitsap County. In the statewide intra-party races, Kitsap County voters strongly backed Maria Cantwell, who represented the area Congress from 1992-1994, over state Insurance Commissioner Deborah Senn in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. In fact, Cantwell actually received a handful more votes in the county than Republican incumbent Slade Gorton. In the Republican gubernatorial vote, it was no contest. Talk-show host John Carlson received almost six times as many votes in the county as state legislator Harold Hochstatter, although their combined total was still well below that of incumbent Gov. Gary Locke.In the U.S. congressional race, county voters gave incumbent Rep. Jay Inslee of Bainbridge Island 57 percent of the vote, compared to 39 percent for challenger Dan McDonald. That outcome closely mirrored the districtwide results, where Inslee took 56 percent of the vote compared to McDonald's 42 percent.In the voting for Kitsap County Commission, 1st District incumbent Democrat Chris Endresen pulled 57 percent of the vote to 43 percent for Republican challenger Scott Henden. In the 2nd Commissioner District, though, incumbent Charlotte Garrido was ousted by Republican-turned-Democrat D.W. Dusty Wiley, who will face Republican Jan Angel in the general election.The Kitsap County transit tax proposal failed 55-45 percent.Overall turnout was expected to hit 48.5 percent of the county's registered voters, auditor Karen Flynn said. That is just slightly higher than the turnout for the 1996 primary, but well below the 1996 general-election turnout of roughly 75 percent.One thing that is changing dramatically, though, is the proportion of voters who are mailing in absentee ballots rather than trekking to the polling places.Of the roughly 62,000 votes cast in the primary, just over 49,000 of them are mail-in absentee ballots, Flynn said.As of Friday afternoon, Flynn's office still had some 15,000 absentee ballots to count. Based on past experience, Flynn said those ballots might change the results somewhat - particularly the bragging rights count to determine whether Harrison or Woods pulled more votes - but is unlikely to change the outcome of any of the other races. "