Tuesday’s election: more conservatives all around

Tuesday night was gratifying for conservatives around the country. Politicos were all furiously adding their spin to the polling news in the final weeks, but now that the dust has settled it’s clear that pollsters around the country had underestimated Republican gains nearly everywhere. With an expanded House majority and now a new Senate majority, national Republicans have an exciting opportunity to govern through constructive conservatism.

Here in Washington, the good news continued. Despite a big push by California billionaire Tom Steyer to flip the state Senate, Republicans now hold an outright majority with 25 seats, plus one Democrat who caucuses with them. In the House, Republicans gained at least two seats and possibly a few more, depending on later ballots. The narrowed Democratic majority in the House means Speaker Frank Chopp will have to work with Republicans more.

The Senate staying in conservative hands is especially important. The governor and traditional Democratic allies were crossing their fingers for a Senate takeover. Some critical issues, such as a new transportation package, were essentially dropped last session because some wanted to roll the dice and hope a more liberal Senate would be in place next January. It’s not going to happen.

The Senate majority is the only brake in Olympia on large tax increases. Had the Senate flipped, it would have had profound implications for tax policy, climate legislation, school funding and reform, and transportation. The more closely-divided House also makes tax increases more difficult.

Inevitably, Tuesday’s results will mean a trimming of the sails for some agendas. Legislators next January will tackle how to meet the McCleary education funding decision in the budget, and hopefully come together to pass the transportation package that our state economy needs. Those are big lifts – it’s tough to see how the Legislature can realistically take on much more than that.

One thing the election didn’t change is the need for legislators to work together. With divided government and some truly difficult issues to be decided, no side is going to get everything it wants.

One major challenge left undetermined is the outcome of I-1351. If it passes, lawmakers will need to have some serious discussions about the affordability of that initiative. With a 2/3 vote needed in each chamber to amend it, legislators will need to work together to craft a balanced budget. Tuesday’s House results make that more likely, but it will still be difficult – and necessary.
-Rob McKenna

**I am excited for so many candidates, including many first-time candidates, who won their races this week. Special congratulations go out to my friend Tom Dent, who is the new state representative from Moses Lake. Your hard work paid off, Tom, and Marilyn and I are thrilled for you.

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Rob McKenna
Rob served two terms as Washington’s Attorney General, from 2005 to 2013. He successfully argued three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and negotiated three of the largest consumer financial protection settlements in national history, all involving mortgage lending and servicing. He is a recognized leader in the development of consumer protections on the internet, in data protection and privacy regulation.