Control of state Senate shifting with Angel's early lead

Control of state Senate shifting with Angel's early lead
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Republican Jan Angel jumped to an early lead Tuesday night in the race for the Senate's 26th District.

Angel had 51 percent of the vote compared to Democrat Nathan Schlicher's 49 percent in preliminary returns from Kitsap and Pierce counties. Because Washington state votes by mail, counting will continue throughout the week as ballots continue to arrive. The next update will be posted late Wednesday afternoon.

"I'm just elated that our first returns were as strong as they were," Angel said. "I have a lot of faith in grassroots politics."

Schlicher noted that only 770 votes separated the two, and he said he remained optimistic.

"We knew it was going to be a nail biter," he said. "We're thrilled to have it be this close of a race and we're excited to see where it goes the next couple of days."

A predominantly Republican Majority Coalition Caucus currently controls the Senate with the help of two Democrats, giving the majority caucus a one-vote advantage in the chamber. Republicans hope to gain another seat to give their caucus more of a cushion heading into the 2014 election, when about half of the Senate will be up for re-election.

The race has been the most expensive legislative contest in state history, with combined spending of $2.9 million. More than half of that money has been spent by third-party groups. The influx of independent expenditures on both sides has led to negative campaigning in the form of TV ads and mailers.

Schlicher, an emergency room doctor from Gig Harbor, was appointed to the Senate seat in January to replace Democrat Derek Kilmer, who was elected to Congress. Angel, of Port Orchard, has served in the House since 2009.

Both currently represent the district they are vying for, a swing district that includes the southeastern Kitsap peninsula from Bremerton and Port Orchard to Gig Harbor in Pierce County.

Angel, 66, previously worked in business and real estate and served as a Kitsap County Commissioner for eight years. Schlicher, 30, graduated from high school at 14, has both law and medical degrees and works six days a month in the emergency room at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma.

Voters also weighed in on two other Senate races Tuesday night. In the 7th District, Republican Sen. John Smith of Colville, who was appointed in January to succeed retiring state Sen. Bob Morton, was losing to fellow Republican Brian Dansel, where the vote was 52 percent to 48 percent. In the 8th District, Republican Sen. Sharon Brown of Kennewick, who was appointed in January to replace Sen. Jerome Delvin, was beating Republican Phillip R. Lemley, 75 percent to 25 percent.