November 2, 2010 was a remarkable day for our country. Throughout America quality, conservative candidates of conviction were elected to the Congress. Republicans now hold more seats in the House of Representatives than at any time since 1938. In a year in which Republicans had to defend more Senate seats than Democrats, the GOP won 2/3 of the contested Senate races, picking up six seats. Even more remarkable is the fact that the GOP now controls a majority of State Legislatures and Governorships. It was a romp in “blue” states like Pennsylvania and Illinois, in “purple” states like Nevada, and in “red” states like Idaho and Alabama (where the GOP took control of the legislature for the first time in 136 years!). The GOP won big everywhere – everywhere except Washington State. What happened here?
In 1994, Republicans captured 52 seats in the US House for their first majority in over 40 years. While Republicans were being swept into office nationally, the same was happening here in Washington State. That year, the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 9th Congressional Districts flipped from Democrat to Republican. In addition, Republicans captured both houses of the State Legislature – flipping 26 seats in the State House!
Fast forward 16 years later to 2010. Republicans have once again been swept into power in historic proportions. When all is said and done, the GOP will have gained a minimum of 65 seats in the US House. At the state level, 19 state legislatures flipped from Democrat to Republican and the GOP won Democrat-held Gubernatorial seats in Iowa, Ohio, Michigan Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin to name a few. However, in our state it appears that Republicans will gain four seats in the state House and four in the state Senate. Dino Rossi ran an excellent campaign for the US Senate, but fell short. On election night it looked as if John Koster would unseat Rick Larsen in the 2nd Congressional District, but now that looks unlikely. What happened? How did the tsunami that hit at the Congressional and Legislative level miss Washington State?
With the exception of the House race in the 42nd Legislative District, it appears that all of the races that were close on election night have broken for the Democrats. Whether it was the race for the State Senate in the 48th, State House in the 28th, or State Senate in the 44th, Republican candidates who were ahead on election night are now losing. These results speak to a glaring lack of a sustained ground game on the part of Republicans. More specifically, it speaks to a lack of dedicated, grassroots doorknocks and phone calls overseen by the Washington State Republican Party and implemented by GOP County Chairs throughout the state. In short, the Democrats are now kicking our butts in an arena in which the GOP used to dominate.
I don’t make this point to cast blame – the results are the results and there is no denying them. In 1994, Senator Slade Gorton won nearly 55% of the vote statewide. That wasn’t an anomaly, it was a result, in part, of the exceptional Republican ground game that the late Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn had begun building years prior. We need to start from the ground up and rebuild this machine. Part 2 will talk about what should happen.