Most of the attention on Tuesday night went to the blowout Democratic wins in Virginia and New Jersey. But one other Democratic victory, in a seemingly small special election on the opposite side of the county, had implications almost as large.
In Washington, Democratic King County prosecutor Manka Dhingra defeated Republican businesswoman Jinyoung Lee Englund in the special election for state Senate District 45. Dhingra, who ran on a platform of women’s rights and tougher gun laws, was smeared with vicious GOP attack ads, but ultimately prevailed.
District 45, which covers relatively right-leaning suburbs outside Seattle, was the most expensive legislative race in the history of the state, with $2.4 million in direct spending and millions more from outside groups. And for good reason: Dhingra’s victory decided control of the Washington State legislature.
Although Washington is known for its liberal politics, the state legislature has been under divided control since 2012, with Democrats controlling the House and Republicans controlling the Senate. This divide has led to a number of legislative impasses, with GOP extremists holding the state budget hostage and squashing everything from campaign finance reform to consumer protections.
Technically, Republicans did not even have a Senate majority this year in the first place — they controlled the chamber by a single vote only because one turncoat senator, Tim Sheldon, runs as a Democrat but caucuses as a Republican. The GOP lavishes Sheldon with favors for defying his party and voters, this year naming him president pro tempore of the chamber. With Dhingra’s victory, this corrupt arrangement falls apart.
The Washington Senate was the last state governing body on the West Coast to be under GOP control. Now, Democrats have unified control of every state along the West Coast, united in a blue wall of resistance.
Dhingra’s triumph is yet another warning to every GOP lawmaker in the Trump era who is forcing an unbidden right-wing agenda on the American people. All around the country, Democrats have strengthened their hand — and are ready to roll in 2018.