At a glance

Electoral votes: 11  |  Solid Obama

D Gregoire

U.S. Senators:
D Cantwell  D Murray

U.S. Representatives:

Washington State House:

Washington State Senate: 

Population 6,395,798
76.5% White
9.1% Hispanic/Latino
6.6% Asian
1.6% Native American
3.6% Black
Population 4,866,692
86.7% White
4.4% Hispanic/Latino
4.3% Asian
1.7% Native American
3% Black

Presidential election history:
  • 1972R
  • 1976R
  • 1980R
  • 1984R
  • 1988D
  • 1992D
  • 1996D
  • 2000D
  • 2004D
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The big race in Washington is between incumbent Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire and Republican Dino Rossi, whom she beat by a mere 133 votes in the 2004 gubernatorial election. Rossi is trying to reach out to Barack Obama voters – he bookended Obama’s convention speech with ads promising change and bipartisan cooperation – and to focus attention on the state’s budget deficit, which is projected to reach $3.2 billion for the 2009-2011 budget period. But he faces an uphill battle in an increasingly Democratic state. He and Gregoire have already faced off this year thanks to the debut of Washington’s  “top two” primary system, in which voters pick their favorite candidates, regardless of party, and the top two vote-getters progress to the general election. Gregoire got 48 percent of the vote, Rossi 46 percent.   

Neither of Washington’s two U.S. senators is up for re-election, but there’s a hard-fought House race going on in the state’s 8th District, which includes Seattle’s eastern suburbs. Like the gubernatorial race, it’s a rematch. Darcy Burner, the Harvard graduate and former Microsoft programmer who in 2006 came within 7,341 votes of beating Republican incumbent Dave Reichert, is trying again. As of the end of July, she had out-fundraised Reichert $2.3 million to $1.8 million, helped a bit by an outpouring of support after her house burned down on July 1. The pajama T-shirt she was wearing as she ran out of her burning house read “/war,” which means “stop war” in computerese.

The least-exciting race in Washington is the presidential contest. The state has gone Democratic in every presidential election since 1988, and it’s unlikely to change this year. It’s also a relatively quiet year on the ballot-initiative front. There are only three measures, one that would require background checks for long-term care providers, one that would ensure access to drugs for physician-assisted suicide, and one – proposed by a serial initiative backer who is apparently angry about the state’s horrific traffic – that would open HOV lanes to everyone and require traffic lights to be synchronized. 

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