The first count of 2020 general election ballots Tuesday showed, at the federal, state and local levels, voters in Grays Harbor County continue to lean toward Republican candidates.
As it stood Tuesday night, Republicans are looking to sweep both Grays Harbor County Board of Commissioners races on the ballot and all three 19th Legislative District offices. One of the 19th District races is too close to call.
Why has the traditionally Democratic-leaning county been moving toward Republicans in recent elections?
“The Democrat Party is moving too far to the left,” said Grays Harbor Republican Party Chair Lisa Zaborac. “I hear it all the time from people who have always been Democrat, their parents were Democrat, and now the party does not represent their values anymore and they have come to the Republican candidates.”
The county’s residents, figures Zaborac, want to live their lives free of too much government interference.
“People in Grays Harbor just want to live their lives and be happy,” she said. “They want to benefit from the fruits of their labor and not have the government constantly trying to control all aspects of their lives.”
Sen. Dean Takko, D-Longview, felt the shift first hand Tuesday night, when Republican challenger Jeff Wilson bested him by about 4,000 votes district-wide in the 19th District State Senate race. Takko said the shift toward Republican candidates in Grays Harbor County in particular has several roots, including the loss of labor union jobs. Labor unions tend to favor Democratic candidates.
Takko also wonders how the Republicans in the 19th will fare with what is looking to be an even larger Democrat majority in the Legislature.
“The thing that’s kind of interesting, it appears there’s going to be an even bigger Democratic majority, so it will be interesting to see what kind of influence the Republicans can have in a more Democratic body,” said Takko. “All I can say is, ‘good luck.’”
There are 48,859 registered voters in the county, according to the County Auditor’s site. Voter turnout was just under 60% as of Tuesday night, with 29,175 ballots counted. There are an estimated 2,000 ballots left to count.
Interestingly, Takko is the one candidate in the 19th that got the majority of Grays Harbor County votes Tuesday night, by less than a percentage point, but the district-wide vote from outside the area heavily favored Wilson. And incumbent Position 2 State Rep. Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen, bested his Republican challenger 6,683-5,801 within the county, but trailed in the district-wide vote. Incumbent Position 1 State Rep. Republican Jim Walsh defeated challenger Democrat Marianna Everson by nearly 10% in the county, and an even wider margin of about 15% across the district.
In Pacific County, Takko bested Wilson in the first round of ballots 6,536-5,870. In Cowlitz County, Wilson held a 10% advantage over Takko. In Lewis County, Wilson crushed Takko by a better than 70%-30% split. In fact, in Lewis County, voters overwhelmingly supported the Republican candidates in both State Representative races with more than 70% of the vote.
In all three races in the 24th, Grays Harbor voters favored the Republican challengers as of Tuesday: Connie Beauvais over incumbent Sen. Kevin Van De Wege by about 3.5%, Sue Forde over incumbent Position 1 State Rep. Mike Chapman by nearly 6%, and Brian Pruiett over Position 2 State Rep. Steve Tharinger by about 5.5%.
However, the more strongly Democratic counties in the 24th, including Jefferson and Clallam counties, heavily favored the incumbent Democrats: Van De Wege defeated Beauvais 70%-30% in Jefferson County and 53%-47% in Clallam County, Chapman defeated Forde 72%-28% in Jefferson County and 53%-47% in Clallam County, and Tharinger defeated Pruiett 72%-48% in Jefferson County and 53%-47% in Clallam County.
And in the district-wide races, all three Democratic incumbents defeated their Republican challengers.
In the presidential race, however, the county count was split almost down the middle, with 14,174 votes for incumbent Donald Trump and 14,043 for challenger Democrat Joe Biden, 49%-48.55%.
By comparison, a nearly even split favored Biden in Pacific County. In Cowlitz County, which has 72,656 registered voters and had a turnout of just under 68%, Trump had a 12% advantage over Biden, 27,205-20,621. Lewis County voters were overwhelmingly in favor of the Trump ticket, 27,625 votes to Biden’s 13,699, about 65% for Trump and 32% for Biden.
North in the state’s 24th Legislative District, Clallam and Jefferson counties continue to heavily favor Democratic candidates: Biden had about a 10% lead over Trump in Clallam, and Biden votes almost tripled those cast for Trump in Jefferson County.
A Democrat who did well in Grays Harbor County was District 6 U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer. The incumbent led Republican challenger Elizabeth Kreiselmaier 14,649-13,647 Tuesday night. Across the district, Kilmer easily defeated his challenger 217,737-135,528, about a 60-40 split. Kilmer trailed Kreiselmaier by about 1.5% in Mason County after the first round of ballots were counted, but was the heavy favorite in Jefferson and Clallam counties.
In the race for Governor, Republican challenger Loren Culp was left in the dust by incumbent Democrat Jay Inslee in the statewide vote, 60%-40%. Voters in Southwest Washington, however, favored Culp. In Grays Harbor County, Culp led Inslee 15,346-13,380; in Cowlitz County, Culp led Inslee with a 60-40 split of the more than 48,000 votes tallied so far; Pacific County favored Culp 52%-48%, with a similar split counted in Pacific County; and Culp tallied nearly 70% of the first count in Lewis County.
In other statewide offices, Grays Harbor voters leaned toward the Republican candidates for Secretary of State (already held by a Republican, Kim Wyman), Treasurer, Attorney General, and Commissioner of Public Lands. However, in all but Wyman’s case, the Democratic candidate defeated their opponents statewide by wide margins.