Improvements in the WA Senate?

In a State Senate race that was one of the most expensive legislative races in Washington State history, Republican Rep. Jan Angel is narrowly leading Democratic Sen. Nathan Schlicher in the 26th district covering Kitsap and parts of Pierce County.

While only 770 votes currently separate the candidates, that margin is expected to hold.

This was a special election to fill the Senate seat vacated by Derek Kilmer when he was elected to Congress.

If Angel wins, this result will have significant implications for the balance of power in the State Senate.  It would bring the Republicans within one vote of a majority in the Senate at 25-24.  However, since two Democrats joined with the Republicans in the last session to form a Majority Coalition, this would actually expand the current functional majority to 26-23.

For several years, the dynamic in the state legislature is that the Senate is the place where far left ideas from the downtown Seattle led House of Representatives go to die.  This result will only increase the likelihood of that continuing, at least for one more year.

For example, the abortion industry’s priority legislation, which would force every insurance policy bought and sold in Washington State to cover abortion even if the consumer doesn’t want it, was narrowly defeated in the Senate during the last session. It now appears to have an even tougher road in 2014.  Angel voted against that bill in the House while Schlicher had signed a public letter indicating his intention to support it.

Schlicher, a physician and strong proponent of the Affordable Care Act, was also opposed to a law requiring parents to be notified if their minor daughter intended to get an abortion; an idea Angel supports.

Another bill, giving a third-party a cause of action to get visitation with other people’s children over the objection of the parents, will also find a more difficult path forward as a result of this election.

The difference of 770 votes once again highlights the reality that relatively small groups of people have a significant impact on the public policy for the whole state.

The Majority Coalition that prevented passage of several of these bills in the last session was only possible because Don Benton, from Vancouver, won his Senate race by 37 votes in 2012.

This race was unusual because it also involved a California billionaire, environmentalist dumping hundreds of thousands of his own dollars attacking Angel.  It remains to be seen whether he will be back in 2014 when this seat will once again be up for election-this time for four years.

In lower profile races involving only Republicans, two other special elections for the state Senate were held yesterday as well.

In those races, Sen. Sharon Brown defeated Phillip Lemley for election to a seat she had been appointed to in the 8th district, in Tri-Cities. In the 7th district, covering northeastern Washington, Ferry County Commissioner Brian Dansel defeated Sen. John Smith, who had served one year after being appointed to replace former Sen. Bob Morton.

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