Chris Vance will face incumbent Phil Fortunato, and Holly Stanton will very likely challenge incumbent Drew Stokesbary in the November general election, in a pair of races that spell good odds for both Republican incumbents in office.
Vance, an independent with decades of history in the Republican party, had earned 39% (about 13,600 votes) of the vote Thursday to his hardline Republican opponent Fortunato’s 55% (about 19,100 votes). COVID-19 data skeptic Clifford Knopik, the other candidate in the race, trailed with about 5% (about 1,600 votes).
The results forecast an uphill, though not completely insurmountable battle ahead for Vance, who will have to convince more donors and voters to throw their resources behind him if he hopes to defeat Fortunato in November.
Fortunato, confident about his odds in the general election, estimated in a Wednesday interview that Knopik’s supporters would go his way in November. That would turn his 55% into something more like 58% or 59%.
“I think Vance is pretty much done,” Fortunato said Wednesday morning. (The gap between him and Vance had grown by about three points between that interview and Thursday.) “40 percent is the base Democrat vote. … Ten points is pretty tough to make up. It would be an upset to make up four points. Three is a long shot. Two is doable. But ten is kind of outside the box.”
In an interview Wednesday, Vance acknowledged that the results aren’t “a slam dunk” but said they show Fortunato is vulnerable in the general election. There will be roughly twice as many voters in that election than in this one, he pointed out, and “a lot is going to happen between now and election day.”
“There’s a lot of cases of people getting under 50, 55 percent and losing in November,” Vance said. “If the numbers (in the Primary results) continue to improve, that makes us even better. … We have to continue to convince donors that this race is viable.”
Meanwhile, incumbent Republican state representative Drew Stokesbary is set to face Tacoma attorney and Democrat Holly Stanton for the contested state representative position. Stanton was in the lead for that race with 38% of the vote against incumbent Stokesbary, who took 35% as of Thursday evening. Stanton’s position had declined by about two percentage points from initial Tuesday returns.
Brandon Beynon, a conservative running against Stokesbary on the slogan “Let’s Vote Brandon” has finished third with about 27% of the vote as of Thursday. That’s a three percent increase from his position in Tuesday night returns, but at that rate, he will likely not be able to gain enough ground to catch up to Stokesbary. Stanton, meanwhile, will face a hard road in the general election, since many Beynon voters will likely rally behind Stokesbary.
Election officials will continue tabulating ballots throughout the week, and the election won’t be fully certified until August 16. This article was last updated the evening of Thursday, August 4, and more up-to-date election results may be available at results.vote.wa.gov/results/20220802.
All three seats in the district — both representatives and the senator positions — are up for election this year. Eric Robertson, the Republican incumbent for state representative position 2, is running unopposed and has earned about 91% of the primary vote. (The rest voted for write-in candidates.)
The results gear the region up for a general election that will test the ability of independent and Democrat voices to prove their appeal with voters here.
Vance, a former Republican legislator and GOP nominee for U.S. Senate in 2016, hit the eject button on the Republican Party in 2017 and decided to run as an independent in this race, surmising that while a Democrat would have a vanishing chance of winning in the 31st, an independent with conservative bonafides could mount a real challenge to a Republican as staunchly right-wing as Fortunato.
Vance argued that Fortunato is a radical right-wing culture warrior, out of step with the district and more interested in political stunts than legislating. Fortunato, meanwhile, has maintained that Vance is the one out of step with 31st District, and might have more luck running in “downtown Seattle.”
Both of them now have three months to convince voters who’s really in touch with the people of District 31.
The 31st legislative district covers most of southeastern King County, including Enumclaw and Auburn, as well as much of east Pierce County, including Buckley, Sumner, Wilkeson and Carbonado. It has historically been a safe district for Republicans and a red holdout in the blue sea west of the Puget Sound region, where urban-rural sorting over the last few decades has left rural places more conservative and urban places more liberal.
In 2020, 58% of Washington voters preferred Biden, while only 39% voted for Trump. Similarly, 56% voted for Democrat Governor Jay Inslee, while only 43% preferred his Republican challenger Loren Culp.
Republicans see consistent wins in the 31st. Here, 51% of voters selected Trump, and 45% picked Biden in the 2020 election. Culp took 57% of the vote to Inslee’s 42%.
A previous version of this story Tuesday night erroneously included results from only Pierce County. It was updated Wednesday morning with more recent numbers and results from both King and Pierce Counties. That new information did not change the relative ranking of any of the candidates in their races.