SEATTLE (AP) — Democrats are likely to retain their majority in the state Senate, but three undecided races will determine their margin over Republicans.
The closest race is in the Vancouver area, where Democratic Rep. Tim Probst led incumbent Republican Sen. Don Benton by just 102 votes as of Wednesday.
Benton, an outspoken senator who has had his share of run-ins with his own party, was first elected to the senate in 1996. In 2000, he left his post as chair of the state Republican party after just eight months.
Democrats currently have a 27-22 majority, and should current trends hold, the Senate will have the same seat distribution between the two parties.
Democrats are likely to lose a seat in the 10th District, where incumbent Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen was trailing Rep. Barbara Bailey by 5 percentage points. The district covers Island County, and sections of Snohomish and Skagit counties.
If Bailey wins, she will unseat a veteran lawmaker and shift the mixed district into an all-Republican one. Haugen chairs the Senate’s transportation committee and has been deeply involved in legislation surrounding the ferry system.
Michael King, executive director of Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, said the results in Haugen’s district are “a tough one to swallow.”
Republicans are also likely to lose a seat in eastern King County. Democrat Mark Mullet was leading Republican Brad Toft in the 5th District race by 8 points. The seat was vacated by a Republican Cheryl Pflug, who had a public fallout with her party after she accepted a state job offered by Gov. Chris Gregoire.
Pflug withdrew her name from the race just a few days after the candidate filing period came to a close. That did not allow the GOP to recruit a candidate. Toft had filed to run in the district, but he wasn’t the party’s initial choice.
Pflug took her Senate seat in 2004 after Republican stalwart Dino Rossi unsuccessfully ran for governor twice.
Elsewhere, the Democratic Latino candidate running in the state’s first Latino-majority district was decisively defeated. The incumbent in Yakima County’s 15th District, Republican Rep. David Taylor, had 63 percent of the vote to Pablo Gonzalez’s 37 percent. Gonzalez is a college student from Central Washington University.
The district was created during the redrawing of the state’s political map last year. Backers of the minority-majority district have said it will take time for district to show results.
Manuel Valdes can be reached at http://twitter.com/ByManuelValdes .
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.