Posted by: sweeneyblog | August 12, 2014

Fleetwood versus Ericksen: What Happened in Round One?

Round One

Round One

Election watchers had plenty to chew on after the final round of ballots were counted last week. When the dust had settled, Ericksen beat Fleetwood 57% to 43%. Ericksen’s allies declared victory, while many Democrats were left wondering what happened.

As always when looking at election numbers, there are no certainties. I have no magic device that lets me peer into the hearts of men and see what motivates them to vote one way or another but you can assemble theories and find evidence to support those theories.

Fewer people voted in this election than any similar primary. Just take a look at the turnout percentage in Whatcom County over the last several years – it is pretty clear that this is an outlier.

2014 2012 2010 2008 2006 2004
33.5% 39.8% 43.7% 46.6% 40.5% 44.7%

Traditionally, the lower the turnout, the worse Democrats do. Why the poor turnout? This is one of the earliest primaries Washington State has ever seen, meaning many people are clued out of the electoral process, instead waiting till fall before becoming involved.

42nd is brutal ground for Democrats

42nd is brutal ground for Democrats

Only half the voters that will turn in a ballot in November voted in the primary. Around 30,000 people voted in the primary and current predictions are saying somewhere between 60,000-65,000 people will vote in this race in November. The group of people that vote in the primary tend to be older, more conservative and more likely to support incumbents, while the general election crowd is younger, more environmental and more likely to “throw the bums out”.

Beyond that, of all the competitive senate races, Seth pulled even with the other Democratic challengers. With the exception of Matt Isenhower, the Democrat challenging Republican Sen. Andy Hill in the Democratic leaning 45th LD (Kirkland), the rest of the Democratic challengers this cycle only received around 43% of the vote. Shari Song, who we covered here, received 43%, Judy Arbogast running against ALEC member Sen. Jan Angel in Kitsap County received 43%, Tami Green out of Tacoma received 43%. The point is that it was a rough night for all the Democrats running and Fleetwood is still one of the top pickup opportunities in the state.

Finally, the state Republicans bombarded Fleetwood with negative mailers during the run up to the primary. The Fleetwood campaign responded with a few mailers over Ericksen’s ethical troubles but on a much smaller scale. As the Democratic candidates for County Council proved last year, negative campaigning works and it may have depressed votes in this race.

So what does this mean? For partisans on both sides, they will find all the justification they need to keep fighting hard. My take is that the 42nd is a difficult district for Democrats and it has grown harder since Linville was ousted in 2010. I can count on my hand the number of Democrats who have a fighting chance to beat Doug Ericksen. Seth Fleetwood is one of those people. I think this race is still very winnable. But only if people turn up and vote.




  1. HAH! KEEP DREAMING! Even Walter Haugen can’t save Seth.

    Would you rather have another lawyer in government or someone properly educated in environmental policy like Doug?

    PS-What’s with the political profiling (“ALEC member Jan Angel”)?

  2. You mean something like that well known conservative, Bob Burr, beating out the liberal Allen Brown in the last primary?

  3. Jack? What does that have to do with the 42nd LD?

    Riley… edit the second to last paragraph.

  4. If you compare the primary turnout for the last six off-year elections the turnout this year was not unusual.

    The mean turnout for the last six off-year elections–35.4%.

    The mean turnout for the last eight off-year elections–33.7%.

    The mean turnout for the last 10 off-year elections–35.7%.

    2014–33.5% 2010–43.6% 2006–40.4% 2002–32.6% 1998-34.5%

    1994–27.9% 1990–30.0% 1986–27.2% 1982–46.6% 1978–41.1%

    • Maybe you should use the MEDIAN instead of the MEAN.

      • Don’t pop their bubble Wayne. They probably don’t even know what nonparametric statistics are or why they apply in this case.

      • I am sure they have never heard of Wilcoxon Mann-Whitney, Kruskal-Wallis or Kolmogorov-Smirnov.

  5. As I’ve said before, the overall attitude of Democrats in the 42nd has always been “I would like to win, but, gee, we don’t want to offend anybody,” as opposed to the Republicans “We’ve got the support and the money and we don’t care if we offend you or not.” I don’t like negative campaigning any more than the next independent, but the only way to win is going to be to hit back and hit harder. You can’t fight them at the bank, so you have to get people to help fight them at the ballot box, and you can’t do that by rolling over and sticking your legs in the air.


    • “we don’t care if we offend you or not.”-that is called STANDING UP FOR YOUR VALUES.

  6. And as Publicola noted in their post today, the Progressive IE did not play in any of the primary beauty contests because were waiting for the general

    Sara Kiesler 206.650.8590


  7. The guy running in the 45th district is matt not mike. Otherwise interesting read, good take on the races overall. The one primary elelection analysis issue have is comparing the results in these key races against the partisan composition of each district. Does our political junkie have the time or interest to crunch those numbers?

    • Thank you for the catch – also, we are trying to get all the commenters to use full names here so if you could do that in the future, we would all appreciate it.

      I’ll see what can be done about the number crunching.

  8. Greetings Whatcom Pols,

    Seth will make a very good State Senator, but the folks in the the north County don’t seem to realize it. Sadly, unless something changes, the results in the General will be slightly better than typical for the 42nd. Maybe 55/45 for the Rs. Whatcom Dems tend to think that the people in the county are either on the verge of becoming progressives, or dumb as a brick. They are neither. They are moderate conservatives and they are in the majority. No turnout push or pile of money is likely to alter this dynamic.
    The argument needs to be that Doug has become a politician of the worst sort. Slippery, two-faced and beholden to money. Fleetwood needs to be shown as plausible alternative for a moderate voter, without them having to change their views to do so. He has the experience and public record to make this case. He understands the issues that effect people in Whatcom County, and he is the opposite of his opponent; straight-forward and hard working. These are the values that count, and Seth has them. I hope the Fleetwood campaign gets out there and makes this case.

    all the best,

    Mark Flanders

    • Mark, your insights here are valid and accurate.

      • Seth ONLY major accomplishment in the State Senate would probably be a statewide ban on plastic bags [sarc]. 🙂

  9. Rereading my post, I seem a bit over-clever and full of it.. Oh well. Bottom line, (Politics aside) Seth Fleetwood is the better man for the job. Or woman as the case may be. I think that should be the focus. Regards, mf.

    • Mark, those qualities are requisites for participating in the conversation here. I, for one, didn’t even notice.

  10. […] at the primary results, you may think that Sen. Doug Ericksen could comfortably walk to election day. His fundraising record, however, shows that he is in for the fight of his political life. Ericksen […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: