Cantwell, Hutchison to face off for Senate; 2 GOP House incumbents hold thin leads in primary

SEATTLE — Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell and Republican Susan Hutchison will face off in November for a Washington Senate seat.

Cantwell, who is seeking her fourth term, easily outpaced all other candidates in the Tuesday Democratic primary. Under Washington's primary system, the top two vote getters go on to November, regardless of party. Cantwell is Washington's junior senator and the ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Hutchison, a former GOP state party chair, was finishing second in the voting.

In a closely watched open congressional race, Republican Dino Rossi was leading a crowded ballot and easily advanced to the general election. Rossi is a former state senator who had unsuccessful runs for governor and U.S. Senate.

Incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert is retiring from the 8th Congressional District after more than a decade.

Among the dozen candidates on the ballot, one of three Democrats are expected to advance:  Issaquah pediatrician Kim Schrier at 18.87% in early returns, former King County deputy prosecutor Jason Rittereiser at 17.51%, and former federal public-health official Shannon Hader, also a physician, from Auburn, at just over 12%.

Washington is a vote-by-mail state, and voters had a deadline of 8 p.m. to have their ballot postmarked or placed in a drop box. In some of the more competitive races, results may not be known for days as most counties will update vote counts only once a day.

For all the election results >>> Washington 2018 primary results 

District 8 includes Seattle's eastern suburbs of Sammamish and Issaquah, which have seen their populations grow on the back of Microsoft, Google and other expanding technology companies. The district also includes more rural economies that are heavily dependent on agricultural exports.

The other nine U.S. House seats are also contested in the primary, with the incumbents seeking re-election.

In the 5th Congressional District in eastern Washington, Republican incumbent Cathy McMorris Rodgers advanced, along with Democrat Lisa Brown, a former chancellor of Washington State University who previously served as majority leader in the state Senate. Brown and McMorris Rodgers were nearly tied in early returns.

McMorris Rodgers -- the fourth ranking member of the GOP leadership in the U.S. House -- was only about 500 votes ahead in early returns against Brown.

In the other surprise,  in the 3rd Congresional District in Southwest Washington, incumbent GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler was only about 4 percentage points ahead of Democrat Carolyn Long, a professor at Washington State University-Vancouver.

Earlier on Tuesday, Nicholas Hentges, 27, of Spokane, dropped his ballot off in downtown. Hentges said he was motivated by dissatisfaction with the actions of President Donald Trump, and wanted to help defeat McMorris Rodgers.

The expected face-off between McMorris Rodgers and Brown in November has seen a flurry of television attack ads in the Spokane market, and may be driving interest in the election.

In Spokane County, the return rate for mail-in ballots was running at 34 percent on Tuesday afternoon, well above the state average of 26 percent.

Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman said nearly 27 percent of primary ballots had been returned as of late afternoon.

In 76 of the 123 legislative races on the ballot, there's no contest, with 15 races unopposed. In 61 seats, there's only two candidates running, all of whom will automatically advance to the November ballot.

Seventeen of the races are for open seats with no incumbent: 14 in the House and three in the Senate. Democrats currently hold a one-seat advantage in the Senate, and a two-seat advantage in the House.

A handful of races have seen significant spending by outside groups, including the 30th District, where Democrats seek to oust Republican Sen. Mark Miloscia, and the 26th District, a seat left open by Republican Sen. Jan Angel's retirement.

Three state Supreme Court races are on the ballot, though Supreme Court Justices Susan Owens and Sheryl Gordon McCloud will advance unopposed to the November ballots. Opponents for each were stripped from the ballot after judges ruled they were ineligible to hold the seats since they both had been disbarred. Only Justice Steven Gonzalez, a member of the court since 2012, has an opponent, Bellevue attorney Nathan Choi, who has not raised any money in his campaign. Both Gonzalez and Choi will automatically advance to the November ballot.

Susan Cahill, a 66-year-old retired state employee in Olympia, Washington, said she dropped her ballot off at the mailbox on Sunday. She said she's a Democrat who has also voted for Republicans. But she said that her top of the ballot vote went to Cantwell.

Cahill said people in her community seem more engaged this year in part because of their reactions to Trump.

"I'm real impressed with a lot of my neighbors and friends," she said. "They're more vocal. There are more yard signs."