Democrats have a single-vote majority in both the state House and Senate, and Republicans are making a big play for the independent-minded districts that surround heavily Democratic Seattle.
A key exception to the incumbents' string of first place finishes in districts across the state was state Sen. Georgia Gardner, a Democrat who trailed Republican nominee Dale Brandland, the Whatcom County sheriff, 53 percent to 42 percent, in the 42nd District.
Conversely, Republican Dave Schmidt had only a modest lead over Democrat Phil Doerflein in the 44th District Senate race in Snohomish County. The seat is being vacated by a Republican.
Sen. Bob Oke, R-Port Orchard, was polling under 48 percent in the 26th District, with two Democrats collecting 52 percent between them. Betty Ringlee led for the Democratic nomination.
Sen. Jim West, R-Spokane, who would become Senate majority leader if his party picks up one more seat in November, had a comfortable lead in a trial run for the 6th District. Neither he nor Democrat Laurie Dolan had primary opposition and will face each other in the general election.
Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, defeated former Democratic Rep. Dawn Mason, in a rematch for the 36th District Senate seat. Sen. Darlene Fairley, D-Lake Forest Park, held a commanding lead over her November challenger, Republican Michael Plunkett, in the 32nd District in the north Seattle suburbs.
Two GOP House members trying to step up to an open 48th District Senate seat in Bellevue, Luke Esser led Steve Van Luven.
Democrats Rebecca Clark and Debbie Jacobson were close in the 47th District primary to take on Republican Sen. Steve Johnson of Kent. Johnson, unopposed for the GOP nod, was taking 53 percent of the total vote.
Rep. Joyce Mulliken, R-Ephrata, was chosen as the Senate successor to 13th District Republican Harold Hochstatter. She won the winner-take-all primary over LeRoy Allison.
House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, defeated a token primary challenger and is home-free in November. His top lieutenant, Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam, drew no challenger. Senate Majority Leader Sid Snyder, D-Long Beach, isn't up for election this year.
House incumbents generally had strong leads in party primaries or in dry runs against their November opponents. However, Rep. Dave Morell, R-Puyallup, trailed his November challenger, Democrat Dawn Morrell, in the 25th District.
Another close race was shaping up in the 17th District in Clark County, where Rep. Jim Dunn had only a slim lead over his general election foe, Democrat Deb Wallace.
In south King County, Rep. Jack Cairnes, R-Renton, barely led Democrat Pat Sullivan in the 47th District. In the district's other House seat, Democratic Rep. Geoff Simpson was held to 45 percent of the total vote. Former Rep. Phil Fortunato was the apparent GOP primary victor.
Appointed Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Carrolls, was being held to under 50 percent of the total vote in the 18th District. Dave Seabrook of Battle Ground won the Democratic nod.
Rep. Tom Campbell, R-Spanaway, won a new term by defeating Republican Stephen Budd in a GOP primary in the 2nd District. He has no November challenger.
Appointed Rep. Janea Holmquist, R-Moses Lake, won the winner-take-all primary in the 13th District. Cary Condotta, an Eastern Washington organizer for initiative sponsor Tim Eyman, won the Republican nomination for the 12th seat held for 20 years by former Speaker Clyde Ballard.
Dan Newhouse, the son of the late Sen. Irv Newhouse, won the GOP nomination for an open seat in the 15th District. Rep. Mary Skinner, R-Yakima, won her 14th District primary and will be returned to office. Her colleague Marc Boldt, R-Vancouver, won a GOP primary in the 17th and has no November challenger.
Democrat Dennis Flannigan won the primary and an open House seat in the 27th District in Tacoma; no Republican filed.
Appointed Rep. Maralyn Chase, D-Edmonds, led Kevin Grossman in the Democratic primary in the 32nd District. Chase had gotten into a spat with her district's senator, Darlene Fairley, who endorsed Grossman and criticized Chase's ethics. District Democrats then yanked Fairley's endorsement.
In a battle for an open seat in the 38th District in Snohomish County, Erv Hoglund won the Republican nomination without opposition and John McCoy won the Democratic nod.
Both parties have yielded an unusually large number of districts to the opposition, choosing to duel in the independent-minded suburbs, which have shown little party loyalty, voting Republican some years and for Democrats like Al Gore and Gary Locke the next election cycle.
Even after the once-a-decade redrawing of legislative district boundaries, dumping an estimated 25 percent of the voters into new districts, Democrats and Republicans conceded from the start that few seats would change hands this year.
Indeed, 20 House candidates and eight senators drew no opposition at all. Four other Senate seats were all but decided in Tuesday's primary, although the winners may have minor challenges in November.
Nine House seats had winner-take-all primaries or only minor challenges in November.
All 98 House seats and 24 of the 49 Senate districts are on the ballot this year. Candidates have raised $8.4 million and spent $5.4 million so far, the Public Disclosure Commission reports.
Democrats control both chambers - but by the narrowest margins, 25-24 in the Senate, with one maverick conservative Democrat sometimes voting with the Republicans, and 50-48 in the House.
Until winning a special election last November, the Democrats had to share power in the evenly divided 49-49 House for three years.
Both parties say they expect to take both houses, but concede that the battle will come down to just a handful of competitive races, mostly in the suburban crescent.
State GOP Chairman Chris Vance held a "crescent" conference earlier this year to kick off his party's effort to make its comeback bid in the politically volatile region. He said GOP candidates need to "speak cul de sac," addressing quality-of-life issues that motivate voters, including education and transportation.
"They are not interested in people who tilt at windmills or those who pursue ideological extremes," Vance said in a recent interview.
Democratic Chairman Paul Berendt concedes that the suburbs are the main battleground, but said Democrats have made major inroads in recent elections. Mainstream Democrats are inherently more believable on suburban issues than Republicans who undergo an image makeover, he said in an interview.
Local Ballot Measures
Most of the tax measures on the ballot Tuesday appeared to be passing.
Seattle approved an $86 million property tax levy for low-income housing, Bellevue approved a park maintenance levy, Tacoma and Thurston County sided with emergency medical service levies, and Thurston supported a transit tax increase.
Spokane, Clallam, Jefferson and Snohomish counties were rejecting tax increases.
Statewide Results -- vote.wa.gov
King County -- www.metrokc.gov
Snohomish County -- www.co.snohomish.wa.us
Pierce County -- auditor.co.pierce.wa.us
Kitsap County -- www.kitsapgov.com
All other counties -- try www.votewashington.org, but some links are broken. So, also try: www.secstate.wa.gov