Results are still pouring in, but voters in Washington’s 31st District have likely re-elected their three Republican legislators.
Incumbent Republican Senator Phil Fortunato had the tightest margin, earning 55.1% of the vote in his race. Independent challenger Chris Vance took 44.5% against Fortunato in the first volley of ballot returns.
In the race for the two Representative seats, incumbent Republican Drew Stokesbary had taken 59.2% against Democrat challenger Holly Stanton’s 40.7% for position 1.
Rep. Eric Robertson had taken 61.4% percent of initial returns against write-in candidate Carrie Wilbur, a Democrat, who had garnered 38.5% of the vote for position 2.
Pierce County voters leaned about 1% to 2% more toward the Republican candidates than those in King County, based on results from the Secretary of State.
These are the initial results from the initial ballot drop as of 8:21 on Tuesday night. Ballots in Washington State can be postmarked as late as election day, which means more will be pouring in for days to come.
If the results hold steady, the three incumbents will retain their seats — though Stanton and, especially, Vance both improved from their August primary performance.
We’ll follow along as county election offices update the numbers throughout the week.
Results from the primary election this summer showed both incumbent Republicans ahead by comfortable margins.
Fortunato took 55.38% of the primary vote in August against Vance’s 39.11%. (Clifford Knopik, a candidate running on COVID-19 data concerns, scooped up another 4.69%.)
Stokesbary took 35% in that primary against Stanton’s 38.26%, but another 26.57% of voters voted for fellow Republican Brandon Beynon.
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, had maintained that Vance is the one out of step with 31st District and might have more luck running in downtown Seattle.
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 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%.
This article will be updated.