Senate elections predictions, part 1
This post regards this cycle's Senate races, including the top 5 potential pick-up opportunities for each caucus. First off, I'm not predicting any change in the partisan seat distribution this cycle. Each side has a couple seats that could feasibly change, but I don't think any of them are especially likely. Democrats already have a 32-17 seat advantage and have few pick-up opportunities, and Republicans have a few chances to close the gap but are still at a disadvantage.
1. 28th District:
Democratic challenger Debi Srail is challenging incumbent Senator Mike Carrell in this suburban Pierce County district. Traditionally the district has been a GOP leaner, dominated for many years by liberal Republican Senator Shirley Winsley. Carrell has served the district in the legislature since 1994, first in the House and then joining the Senate by appointment following Winsley's retirement in 2004. Since that appointment, Democrats have picked up both of the district's House seats. Srail has ran twice for House seats and lost both times, but came close in the primary election where Carrell won 51.6%-48.4%. I'm predicting a similar result in the general election, where turnout will be higher but ultimately I don't see anything that suggests a flip in the results. This is a swing district, after all, and I don't think having Obama at the top of the ticket will make as big a difference as it would on the Eastside.
Carrell [R] 52%
Srail [D] 48%
2. District 18:
For all the seats Democrats have picked off in formerly-GOP suburbia, they have thus far been largely unable to break through in southwestern districts like the 17th and 18th. Senator Joe Zarelli, a lock-step conservative in a conservative district, is seeking his fourth full term. His challenger is Jon Haugen, a career military man. Zarelli won the primary 55%-45%, slightly ahead of his 54% victory for reelection in 2004 against Dave Seabrook. My assessment of this race is that Zarelli may be a little polarizing and that may continue to cause some swing voters to go Democratic for Senate while voting for Jaime Herrera and Ed Orcutt down-ballot, but should continue to win by mid to high single-digits.
Zarelli [R] 53%
Haugen [D] 47%
3. District 17:
Another southwestern seat with an endangered GOP incumbent. The 17th is more Democrat-friendly than the 18th but incumbent Senator Don Benton seems to have a firmer grasp on his seat than Zarelli in the neighbouring 18th. He was reelected in 2004 by twelve points and won his primary against college professor David Carrier by nine points. Carrier will keep it close but I have a hard time seeing Benton go down after he scared off bigger names in the early-going.
Benton [R] 54%
Carrier [D] 46%
4. District 39:
In the interest of full disclosure, for anybody who hasn't read this weblog in the past, I will readily admit to my intense dislike for Val Stevens. There is nothing I would like more than to see her hateful, fundamentalist rhetoric soundly denounced by voters in her staunchly-conservative district. I'm fully prepared to be disappointed yet again, as her Democratic opponent has way too much baggage to have a shot. Fred Walser suffers from several transgressions as police chief for the city of Sultan and has plead guilty to a misdemeanor offense for providing false information while in office. Making no moral judgment on these problems, I'm quite certain it makes it close to impossible to win. Indeed, Stevens took nearly 60% of the vote in the primary election compared to mid-50s in her three previous general election showings.
Stevens [R] 58%
Walser [D] 42%
5. District 40:
The open 40th presents an opportunity for Republicans that they normally wouldn't have, being able to target what is normally a solidly-Democratic seat. Unfortunately for them, this is a pretty rotten year to try to convince a group of Democratic-leaning voters to crossover to even a good Republican candidate. They're running former Rep. Steve Van Luven while San Juan County Councilman Kevin Ranker emerged from the crowded Democratic field to make the runoff. Van Luven "won" the primary, taking 38% of the vote, but when you consider that he was running against five Democrats and an also-ran, it's quite apparent he has a long way to go. Especially against Ranker, arguably the most likable of the possible Democratic candidates. Ranker has the support of the major newspapers in the district and there's no reason to think this will turn out close even with the calibre of Van Luven.
Ranker [D] 59%
Van Luven [R] 41%
Next up are the five best Republican targets.