What’s at stake this election | The Petri Dish

OLYMPIA — You will be hard-pressed to find many in Washington who can’t wait until 8 p.m. Tuesday when voting will end and ballot counting begins in the 2016 Election ordeal.

Sure, we all want to know which of the least-popular presidential candidates since the arrival of continuous tracking polls will be elected president of the United States.

There’s also a bunch of decisions which could shake-up the state’s political class and reshape the economic landscape. Here are four issues to watch:

Takeover or takedown? A major story line in this election is whether Republicans or Democrats can seize control of the state Legislature or if each party will continue to rule one chamber in the 2017 session.

In the House, Democrats hold a 50-48 advantage. While Republicans need to gain at least two seats, Democrats performed well in battleground districts in the primary to tamp down talk of a transition of power.

In the Senate, the mood is a little different. Republicans rule with a 26-23 majority counting the renegade Democrat in their caucus. After Democratic candidate Lisa Wellman beat Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, in the primary, confidence among Senate Democratic leaders soared of closing the gap.

What’s in a name? If Cyrus Habib loses his run for lieutenant governor, pundits from politics and academia will ruminate on how voters may have found the Democratic state senator from Kirkland too liberal for their taste.

But those analysts also may wonder aloud whether his last name cost him votes. It may be politically incorrect to say yet there’s no ignoring a reality that voters, in the privacy of their homes, do make selections for reasons other than a candidate’s resume. In this case, they may be more comfortable with a guy with a good Irish name, Marty McClendon, even if he is the lone Republican candidate for statewide office who warmly embraces Donald Trump for president.

What will be the verdict? The fate of three incumbent state Supreme Court justices and the future of the court itself should become clearer Tuesday.

Billionaire backers of charter schools, gun control and Trump poured impressive sums of money into efforts to oust Chief Justice Barbara Madsen and Justices Charles Wiggins and Mary Yu. Unseating one would be an accomplishment, all three a major achievement in the state’s political history.

Staying put? Eight years ago Gov. Jay Inslee, then a Democratic congressman, coveted a role in the incoming administration of President Barack Obama. His name surfaced in prognostications of those getting vetted to lead the departments of energy and interior. No job offers came.

Should Hillary Clinton be the next president, Inslee’s name will again be tossed around. If the governor is re-elected to a second term, he’ll finish it, a campaign spokesman insisted.

“He’s not going to serve in the Clinton Administration,” said Inslee spokesman Jamal Raad. “He thinks that governor is the second best job in the state, second only to Russell Wilson’s job.”

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com and on Twitter at @dospueblos

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