There are five special elections in the Washington State Senate. These are critical elections for in Washington because Republicans hold a slim one vote working majority in the Senate. Two of the races (the 37th and the 48th) are a lock for Democrats at this point. The 7th District in Eastern Washington is a tough district but for the first time Democrats are running good challengers there.
Most of the attention has focused on the 45th Legislative District. This is the race between Democrat Manka Dhinghra and Republican Jin-Young Englund. This is a district where Democrats (Roger Goodman and Larry Springer) hold two house seats. Manka Dhinghra has run an incredibly strong campaign. In the August primary, Dhingra garnered 51percent of the vote while Englund lagged ten points behind at 41 percent.
This result is counter to previous primary special elections in Washington State where Democrats have traditionally lagged behind in the primary and struggled to win in November. It adds to the data we are getting from around the country in special elections.
According to ALG Research, a national Democratic polling firm, there have been 29 legislative special elections around the country. In those elections, Democrats have substantially over performed past results. Since Trump’s inauguration, Democrats have run at an average of 12.1 points ahead of Hilary Clinton’s margin and 6.0 points ahead of Barack Obama’s 2012 margin. You can read there full analysis at: https://medium.com/@brian_and_zac/2017-special-elections-look-like-a-wave-70f883cd784d
If these trends continue into November, the 45th is completely out of reach for Republicans. However, this kind of wave puts another district, the 31st Legislative District, in play for Democrats.
Again according to ALG Research:
We found the best backwards predictor of this year’s special elections was:
· Average the district’s Presidential margin in 2012 and 2016
· Add 9.1 points — the average between how much Democrats are over-performing Clinton (12.1%) and Obama (6.0%) in special elections so far
Obama lost this district by 2 points in 2012. Clinton lost it by 9 points. So, If you do this math in the 31st Legislative District, the average of these Presidential margins is 5.5%. According to the data provided by ALG Research, this would put the 31st Senate seat in the potential win column.
The 31st Legislative District has been a Republican-leaning swing district for years. It generally performs in the low 40s for Democrats. However, Democrat Chris Hurst held a house seat for over a decade in the 31st before retiring in 2016.
Democrats have an excellent challenger in this race. Michelle Rylands is a former Military Police Officer in the US Army, works in local law enforcement and is a PTA President for the Auburn School District.
This is the kind of race that can sneak up on Republicans. However, it is also the kind of race that can also catch Democrats and their supporters flat-footed because of traditional Democratic performance in this district.
But by all accounts, Donald Trump is ensuring this isn’t a typical year. He is demotivating Republicans and pushing Democrats to vote at a historical level. The question is: Will Democrats capitalize on this wave in the 31st Legislative District and cement their majority in the Senate in 2017?