11/12/2010 Updates (also integrated below): The Oregon Senate will stay in Democrats’ hands, by a slim margin. Democrat Rick Larsen has defeated challenger John Koster for the US House seat from northwest Washington. Tom Hughes now appears to be the winner over Bob Stacey in the race for president of the Metro Council. The Montana legislature moved far to the right.

11/5/2010 Updates (also integrated into the text, with links, below): Democrat Patty Murray has won her race for reelection as US Senator from Washington. Democrats appear to have locked up slim majorities in both the Washington State House and Senate.

11/4/2010 Updates (also integrated into the text, with links, below): Former Governor John Kitzhaber will return as Oregon’s governor, as late returns from heavily Democratic counties break strongly his way. The Oregon State house will be evenly divided between the parties, and the state senate’s party control remains uncertain. Democrat Patty Murray appears more likely to be the victor in Washington’s close US Senate race. Democrat Rick Larsen is now pulling ahead in the race for US Representative from northwest Washington. The Washington State House and Senate appear more likely to remain under Democratic majorities, though narrower ones. 

A national right-ward wave swept onto Cascadian shores in general elections on November 2. Implications, observations, and commentary I’ll save for later. For now, I just want to summarize the preliminary results that Sightline staff have been monitoring.

As expected, the US House of Representatives has swung from a Democratic to a Republican majority, and the US Senate’s Democratic majority has slimmed down dramatically. (Huge implications for national lawmaking!)

The same trend was evident across the Pacific Northwest in Congressional and legislative races, although not as much in gubernatorial races. Vote-by-mail elections in Oregon and Washington make ballot counting slow, which has left many races undecided. On ballot measures, voters said “no” to most everything, except when “yes” meant lower taxes.


Democrats took the California governorship from Republicans, as long-ago-governor Jerry Brown—as strong a sustainability advocate as has ever been elected governor anywhere—returned to Sacramento. Former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, another sustainability champion, reclaimed his old elected post, eight years after leaving the office. Republicans retained the governorships of Idaho and Alaska.

US Senate

The region’s US Senators appear likely to be unchanged. Incumbent Democrats won Senate races in California (Senator Barbara Boxer), Oregon (Senator Ron Wyden), and Washington (Senator Patty Murray) as did the incumbent Republican in Idaho (Senator Mike Crapo). In Alaska, Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski appears headed for an unusual victory, through a write-in campaign.

US House of Representatives

Cascadia’s House delegation went from a 13-7 Democratic majority to what looks likely to be an 11-9 division favoring D’s. (We define Cascadia’s House delegation as including all representatives from Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, plus the at-large members from Alaska and Montana, and California districts 1 and 6, which are on the Redwood Coast.) Before the election, only one seat on the heavily populated west side of the Cascades was held by a Republican (Dave Reichert, in Washington), and only one seat on the sparsely populated east side held by a Democrat (Walt Minnick, in Idaho). The election changed two seats, with a third still undecided but leaning Democratic: the Clark County, Washington district formerly held by Brian Baird, who did not seek reelection, went to the Republican candidate Jaime Herrera. Walt Minnick’s Idaho seat went to Republican Raul Labrador. Incumbent Democrat Rick Larsen of northwest Washington defeated challenger John Koster.

State Legislatures

State legislatures in every Northwest state but California shifted rightward.

Alaska: The state Senate appears destined to remain split evenly between the parties, but Republicans picked up three House seats, expanding their majority there to 25 to 15.

California: Democrats remain in control of both houses and, bucking the national trend, appear to have gained two seats in the state assembly and held steady in the state Senate. (They also may have swept all statewide elective offices—a first for either party since the early 1930s.)

Idaho: The Idaho Statesman reports, “Overall, the Republicans netted five more House seats and things remained static in the Senate. The GOP holds a 57-13 edge in the House and a 28-7 lead in the Senate.”

Washington: large Democratic majorities in both houses diminished, but Democrats appear to have retained majorities in both houses.

Oregon: Democratic majorities in both houses of the legislature dwindled. When all the votes are counted, the Oregonian reports, the state house appears likely to be perfectly divided between the parties. The Senate will probably have a small Democratic majority. The Oregonian says, “Republicans have snatched six state House seats and at least one Senate seat from Democrats’ hands. The most likely result of the 2010 legislative elections: An even 30-30 split in the House and 16-14 division of the Senate.”(Update: This outcome is now confirmed.)

Montana: Republicans took over the state house and expanded their control of the state senate.

Local Races

Former suburban mayor Tom Hugh
es appears to have defeated smart-growth champion Bob Stacey in a close race for Metro President in the greater Portland area.

Ballot Measures

The Northwest is a national center of direct democracy, and the region had several consequential ballot measures to decide. Not unusually, across the region, majorities of voters took the “no” side on most ballot measures.

Arguably the most important from the view of sustainability was California Proposition 23, which would have suspended the state’s pioneering climate law. Voters in the Golden State rejected this backward-looking measure sponsored by Texas oil companies, defeating it by more than 60 percent. Disappointingly, Washington voters rejected a measure that we at Sightline championed: Referendum 52, which would have funded energy upgrades in schools (and also extended a bottled water tax and raised the state debt limit to support the energy upgrades).

They voted “no” to privatizing liquor sales in Washington, “no” to legalizing marijuana in California and Oregon, and “no” to privatizing worker’s compensation insurance in Washington.

Exceptions to the “Just Vote No” rule were those measures that promised to reduce taxes or forestall tax and fee increases. Washington voters repealed small, temporary taxes on soda pop, candy, and gum, after the national soda lobby spent $17 million in the state. Anti-tax sentiment was so great that even liberal King County, Washington’s sales tax increase proposition was going down hard.

In one victory for democratic procedure, California’s Proposition 25 passed handily (55 to 45), returning the state legislature to a simple majority requirement to approve the state budget, rather than the gridlock-inducing two-thirds requirement that state lawmakers have struggled with in recent years.

Unfortunately, at the same time, California voters also approved Proposition 26 (53 to 47), which expands the state’s two-thirds requirement (aka minority-rule) from its tax increases, where it already applies, to increases in other kinds of fees and charges, including fees “that address adverse impacts on society or the environment.” Sticking to their long-standing tradition, two-out-of-three of Washington voters still don’t want an income tax, even when it’s limited to the richest 1 percent of households (despite all Sightline’s arguments over recent months).

By the same margin (and much to my chagrin), Washington voters endorsed the undemocratic principle of minority rule for closing tax loopholes and raising revenue.

We will update this as new results come in and, as I said, commentary and interpretation will follow. For now, I just wanted to summarize the results from across the Pacific Northwest.

Photo purchased from iStock.