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Field in Key Washington State Races Is Set

The high-profile Senate race in Washington state is official: Sen. Patty Murray (D) will face Dino Rossi (R) in her bid for a fourth term.

With more than half of the expected mail-in votes counted in the primary Tuesday night, Murray advanced to the general election with 46 percent of the vote and Rossi with 34 percent.

The race will remain among the most closely watched in the country, as control of the Senate could hinge on the outcome. Murray, the fourth-ranking Democrat in the Senate, is one of four Democratic incumbents in the West alone who are in danger of being unseated in November.

In the state’s second-ever “top two” federal election primary, 15 candidates were on the nonpartisan Senate primary ballot in which only the two best-performing candidates advance to the general election.

Finishing closest to Murray and Rossi were Republicans Clint Didier, a former professional football player who was endorsed by Sarah Palin, and inventor Paul Akers. Didier took 12 percent and Akers 2 percent.

Washington’s nonpartisan primary format was instituted in 2008 following a Supreme Court decision to uphold the state’s newly designed process. As a gubernatorial candidate that year, Rossi was one of the first to test it. He trailed Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) in the primary by 2 points and went on to lose the general election by 6 points.

That was his second straight loss to Gregoire in a gubernatorial election, although their 2004 battle was decided by just 129 votes. With his high name recognition from those two races, Rossi instantly boosted the GOP’s prospects of defeating Murray when he entered the Senate race less than three months ago.

President Barack Obama was in Washington stumping for Murray on Tuesday and called out Rossi for his criticism of the banking reform bill that Congress passed earlier this year.

“He wants to go back to the old rules and the lack of oversight that caused the first crash since the Great Depression,” Obama said during an appearance at the Westin Hotel in Seattle, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “Don’t you think that’s strange?”

Another top race in the state receiving national attention heading into November is in the open 3rd district. Advancing to the general election are Democrat Denny Heck, who took 32 percent, and Republican Jaime Herrera, who took 27 percent. The two are battling to replace retiring Rep. Brian Baird (D).

Three other candidates, Republicans David Hedrick and David Castillo and Democrat Cheryl Crist, won at least 10 percent each.

Democrats are high on Heck, a businessman and former state House Majority Leader who is fighting to hold one of more than a dozen open and competitive Democratic seats. Republicans are equally enthused with Herrera, a state Representative and former aide to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.).

A “classic American swing district,” as state Democratic Chairman Dwight Pelz recently called it, the coastal district gave George W. Bush a 2-point winning margin in 2000 and 2004 before switching to Obama in 2008.

The 8th district, located in the eastern exurbs of Seattle, is home to one of the more competitive races involving a Republican incumbent. Rep. Dave Reichert is once again facing a wealthy former Microsoft executive. After dispatching Darcy Burner (D) in the past two elections, Reichert is up against Suzan DelBene.

With nine candidates on the ballot Tuesday, Reichert led with 48 percent, followed by DelBene with 27 percent.

Obama won the 8th district by 15 points, and this year’s result may indicate whether the voters’ good will for Reichert dating from his role in catching the “Green River Killer” as King County sheriff has dissipated.

The state votes primarily by mail. Because the deadline to vote is simply that the envelope must be postmarked by Tuesday, the secretary of state’s office expects to receive new vote totals from the 39 counties for the next couple of weeks.

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