Analysis: Moderate Democrats on the Rise

By: Tim Punke, Monument Advocacy Posted: 11/09/2020

In at least two major races between Democratic candidates, voters opted for the more moderate choice

One trend for this election cycle – and a change from previous cycles -- is wins by moderate Democrats over more progressive Democrats.  

Several examples from around the state show that pragmatic candidates still hold appeal for voters :

US Congress: WA-10.  Marilyn Strickland (former Mayor of Tacoma and head of the Seattle Metro Chamber) will replace Denny Heck, who retired (and was elected Lt. Gov.) Strickland will be the first Black member of the delegation and is the first Korean-American woman elected to Congress. She has worked closely with the business community, and is a New Democrat, a coalition of Democrats in Congress who are committed to pro-economic growth, pro-innovation, and fiscally responsible policies. 

She was endorsed by Representatives Derek Kilmer (current New Dem Chair), Suzan DelBene (likely upcoming New Dem Chair), Rep. Rick Larsen, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, and other members of Congress. Former Governors Gary Locke and Christine Gregoire also supported her. As of Monday, November 9, Strickland’s margin of victory over current State Representative Beth Doglio was roughly 14 points. Doglio was supported by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, and Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. 

Lt. Gov.  Rep. Denny Heck beat State Senator Marko Liias by more than 12 points (as of Monday, November 9). This was another moderate Democrat versus progressive Democrat race. Heck, a New Dem, was supported by Reps. Derek Kilmer, Kim Schrier, and Adam Smith, as well as former Governors Locke and Gregoire. Liias was endorsed by the SEIU and State Labor Council. The position of Lt. Gov. does not traditionally have much significance.  However, if President-elect Biden selects Governor Jay Inslee for a climate or environmental position (e.g., EPA, Energy, or “Climate Czar”), Heck would become governor until a special election is held in November 2021. 

Still developing: Washington State Senate. The race for state senator in WA-5 is another interesting race that moderates in Washington are following. The SEIU and teachers’ unions spent nearly $2M to unseat incumbent Senator Mark Mullet, supporting Ingrid Anderson, a nurse and union leader. Governor Inslee also endorsed Anderson. Mullet had significant bipartisan support, including from Democratic colleagues in the Senate, Democratic leaders from the 5th district, and Republicans like formerCongressman Dave Reichert, former Attorney General Rob McKenna, and former Governor Dan Evans. As of Monday, November 9, Mullet was up by 78 votes out of the more than 84,000 cast.

Implications for our region 
Here, in Seattle and King County, we saw two local measures that the Chamber endorsed passing handily. The sales tax measure to continue funding additional transit in Seattle received over 80% of the vote, and the bond measure for improvements to Harborview Medical Center is also doing well, with 76% of the vote. The clear support from voters for both measures demonstrates that our community is committed to investing in clear plans that will deliver results. As we look forward to the year ahead, we hope our leaders will continue to put forth reasonable and actionable plans that move us toward a more equitable regional economy.