● Pres-by-LD: Our project to calculate the 2016 presidential results for every state legislative seat in the nation hits Washington, where one rogue Democrat gives the GOP control of the state Senate and where Democrats have a bare state House majority. You can find our master list of states here, which we'll be updating as we add new states; you can also find all our data from 2016 and past cycles here.
Each of the Evergreen State's 49 legislative districts has two state representatives and one state senator. The two House members are each elected every two years: Candidates must choose whether to run for the position one or position two seat (also known as the A or B seat). The two House seats, as well as the Senate seat, have identical boundaries. Senators are elected to four-year terms, with half the chamber up every two years. Candidates run on one ballot in the August primary and the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, advance to the general election in each race.
Hillary Clinton carried Washington 54-38, a similar margin as Barack Obama's 56-41 win four years before, and she took 30 of the 34 legislative seats that Obama won; Trump carried all of the Romney districts. Washington's legislative and congressional lines were drawn up by a bipartisan commission, and they don't seem to have favored either party. One way to illustrate this is to sort each seat by Trump's margin of victory over Clinton and see how the seat in the middle—known as the median seat—voted. This district backed Clinton 53-39, just a little to the right of her statewide performance.
But despite Clinton's clear win, Democrats have only a nominal 25-24 majority in the Senate. But state Sen. Tim Sheldon, who has repeatedly been elected as a Democrat, is allied with the GOP, and his vote allows Team Red to run the chamber. The state House has a tiny 50-48 Democratic majority but since there are no defectors, Democrat Frank Chopp sits in the speaker's chair.
We'll start with a look at the state Senate. Seven Republicans hold Clinton seats, while only one mainstream Democrat represents Trump territory. That Democrat is Dean Takko, whose southwestern LD-19 swung from 54-44 Obama all the way to 51-42 Trump. Takko had served as a state representative and was appointed to the Senate in 2015 after the incumbent took another job. Takko won the 2016 election 55-45, and the seat won't be up again until 2020.
Renegade Democrat Tim Sheldon's LD-35, which is located west of Tacoma, swung from 51-46 Obama to 47-44 Trump. However, Democrats may have a Sheldon-proof majority a year before the 2018 elections. Last year, Republican state Sen. Andy Hill died of lung cancer, and there will be a special election in November of 2017 for his old LD-45. This seat, which is located east of Seattle, went from 58-40 Obama all the way to 65-28 Clinton, making it the bluest GOP-held seat in either chamber.
Republican Dino Rossi, who ran for governor in 2004 and 2008 and the U.S. Senate in 2010, was appointed to replace Hill, but Rossi says he's not interested in running in the special. Democrats have consolidated behind prosecutor Manka Dhingra, while it's unclear whom the GOP will field. If Democrats can flip this seat, they'll have control of the Senate for the first time since Sheldon and now-former state Sen. Rodney Tom launched their coup in late 2012.
LD-45 will be up again in the fall of 2018, and Democrats have a few other GOP-held Senate seats they can target next year. LD-30, held by Republican Mark Miloscia (a former Democratic state representative) went from 59-39 Obama to 57-36 Clinton. LD-47, represented by Republican Joe Fain, went from 56-42 Obama to 54-38 Clinton. Both Miloscia and Fain decisively won during the 2014 GOP wave but if next year is good for Democrats, they could be in for a tougher fight. The GOP-held LD-26 and LD-42 both narrowly backed Clinton (she carried the latter seat by just 10 votes), but they'll be tough targets.
Democrats could also try exacting revenge on Sheldon next year, but their best bet may be to deny him a place in the general election rather than try beating him in November. Indeed, this almost happened in 2014, when Democrat Irene Bowling took first in the top-two primary with 35 percent while Sheldon edged Republican Travis Couture by just 600 votes for the second-place spot. However, Sheldon ended up beating Bowling 54-46 a few months later.
We'll turn next to the state House. In the 2014 GOP wave, Republicans chipped the Democratic majority down from 55-43 to just 51-47; in the fall of 2015, the GOP picked up a Democratic seat in a special election. Democrats hoped that the presidential race would allow them to expand their majority, but their narrow 50-48 majority didn't move.
Just like in the state Senate, ticket-splitting overwhelmingly helps the GOP. Eleven Republican represent Clinton seats, while state Rep. Brian Blake is the one Democrat to hail from a Trump district. Blake represents the same aforementioned LD-19 that sends Dean Takko to the state Senate. After Blake, the House Democrats in the reddest seat are Mike Chapman and Steve Tharinger, whose LD-24 went from 54-43 Obama to 49-43 Clinton.
Team Blue will get the chance to play offensive next year. The bluest GOP-held seat is LD-05, which elects Republican state Reps. Jay Rodne and Paul Graves to the lower house, even though it has a Democratic state senator. This seat, located east of Seattle, went from 53-44 Obama to 55-37 Clinton, but Rodne won a seventh term 52-48 while Graves won his first term 54-46. Three other Republicans hold seats where Clinton's margin of victory was over 10 percent, while those remaining six Republicans hold districts where her margin was no greater than 3.2 percent.
● AL-Gov: Next year's open-seat GOP primary has not been easy to follow. To begin with, it's not clear that this will be an open seat. GOP Gov. Robert Bentley is under investigation for allegedly using state resources to conceal an affair with a staffer. If the state House votes to impeach him, Bentley's powers will pass to GOP Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey unless the state Senate acquits him; if the state Senate votes to convict Bentley, Ivey will officially become governor. It also doesn't help that, while several Alabama Republicans have made noises about running for governor, many of the biggest names in state politics have been publicly silent. Political columnist Steve Flowers provides some new details about what some of the potential GOP candidates are up to, but we may be waiting a while for this contest to take shape.
One of the names we've occasionally heard mentioned is Public Service Commission President Twinkle Cavanaugh. However, Flowers says that Cavanaugh is "already out running for governor," though Cavanaugh has yet to announce anything publicly and her social media pages don't identify her as a candidate. Flowers also says that state Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan, a longtime politician who was first elected to the legislature in 1974 as a Democrat, is planning to get in. Flowers adds that Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle is "seriously considering," but that while Secretary of State John Merrill is being encouraged, Flowers doubts he'll go for it. State Treasurer Young Boozer (who won in 2010 with the tagline "Funny name, serious leadership") is keeping his 2018 plans very quiet.
But wait… there's more! Roy Moore, the twice-disgraced former chief justice of the state supreme court, has been publicly flirting with a third run for governor, but he's also talked about challenging appointed GOP Sen. Luther Strange or running for attorney general. Moore was suspended from office last year for defying federal court orders on same-sex marriage; In 2003, Moore was outright removed from the bench for refusing to comply with a federal judge's order to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the grounds of the state supreme court. But while Moore's 2006 primary challenge to incumbent Bob Riley badly failed and he took a distant fourth in 2010, Flowers writes that unreleased polls show that Moore is popular in this very conservative state.
State Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh is also talking about running for either the Senate or for governor, but he likely starts with little name recognition. But Flowers says that Marsh reportedly is wealthy, and he's "itching to pull the trigger on the governor's race."
We've also heard from plenty of other Republicans, though some seem more serious than others. State Auditor Jim Zeigler, a longtime Bentley critic, is talking about running, and he even recently self-published a novel about a candidate who "stood up in the Bentley years and, in 2018, stood out from the rest." We've also heard interest from Jefferson County Commissioner David Carrington; Troy University Chancellor Jack Hawkins Jr.; and former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, while Rep. Rep. Bradley Byrne hasn't said no. One person who has been quiet is Ivey, who may end up becoming governor without being elected to the post.
● NJ-Gov: On Tuesday, Democratic state Assemblyman John Wisniewski announced that he had raised the $450,000 he needed to qualify for state public matching funds in the June primary. Under this system, candidates receive $2 for every $1 they raise, though they're not allowed to spend more than $6.4 million in the primary. Clinton-era U.S. Undersecretary of the Treasury Jim Johnson has already qualified, while state Sen. Ray Lesniak recently said he doubts he'll raise enough. Phil Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive and ambassador to Germany who is backed by the state's powerful Democratic establishment, is personally wealthy and can spend whatever he needs to spend.
● CA-49: Last cycle, Republican Rep. Darrell Issa pulled off a 1,621-vote victory over Marine veteran Doug Applegate in a contest that looked completely uncompetitive for most of the cycle. Applegate quickly announced he would seek a rematch, but this time, he'll have some intra-party competition. Environmental attorney Mike Levin, who served as executive director of the Orange County Democratic Party a decade ago, kicked off his bid earlier this month, but Applegate is arguing that he has the inside track to face Issa again. Applegate is out with a Strategies 360 poll of the June 2018 top two primary that gives Issa a 43-39 lead, while Levin takes third with just 9. In California, the two candidates with the most votes in the June primary advance to the general regardless of party.
Levin unsurprisingly starts out almost completely unknown, while Democratic voters have a good opinion of Applegate after he almost beat the hated Issa. This seat, which includes both the San Diego media market and the very expensive Los Angeles market, is not cheap to advertise in at all. Things could very well change if Levin can raise or self-fund enough to get his name out, but it's too early to know Levin's capabilities. This suburban San Diego seat swung from 52-46 Romney to 51-43 Clinton, and both parties are likely to get involved here far earlier this time.
● MN-03: Last cycle, this suburban Minneapolis seat swung from 50-49 Obama to 51-41 Clinton, but Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen decisively beat highly-touted Democratic state Sen. Terri Bonoff 57-43. Paulsen is a very strong fundraiser and a formidable campaigner, but if Trump damages the GOP brand across the country, he could be vulnerable. No one has publicly expressed interest in challenging Paulsen, though the Minneapolis Star-Tribune says that Dean Phillips, a businessman and philanthropist who is the heir to the Phillips Distilling Company fortune, may be interested. According to state Rep. Jon Applebaum, "a lot of national and local people are asking him to run and that he is strongly considering it." The paper says that Phillips, who is also the grandson of the original Dear Abby, can self-fund.
● Special Elections: On Tuesday, Pennsylvania Democrats competed for HD-197, a Philadelphia seat that gave Obama 97 percent of the vote… but there was no Democrat on the ballot. As Johnny Longtorso recently explained, the Democrats originally nominated Freddie Ramirez, who was struck from the ballot when it was determined that he didn't live in the district. After the courts ruled that it was too late for Democrat Emilio Vasquez to make the ballot, Team Blue mounted a write-in campaign for him. So, how did it go? Johnny Longtorso checks in:
Pennsylvania HD-197: And the winner is... someone who's not the Republican. Write-ins accounted for 93 percent of the votes cast in this special election, while Republican Lucinda Little, the only candidate on the ballot, received 7 percent. We will know who won on Friday when write-ins are counted; Democrat Emilio Vasquez seems the most likely victor.
Democrats handed out stamps spelling "Emilio Vazquez" outside of polling places, while the Green Party did the same thing for their write-in candidate, Cheri Honkala. Another Democrat, Edward Loyd, also launched a write-in campaign, but he didn't have any organizational muscle behind him.
The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, and James Lambert.