WASHINGTON ― Democrat Manka Dhingra won Tuesday’s special election to a Washington state Senate seat ― a race that most people wouldn’t be paying attention to except that Dhingra just cemented her party’s full control of the state government.
While votes are still trickling in since the state conducts elections by mail, it appears Dhingra has resoundingly defeated Republican Jinyoung Lee Englund.
National parties and wealthy donors poured millions of dollars into this otherwise obscure race because of the significance of the seat. Democrats control the governorship and the state House in Washington, but until Tuesday, they’ve been one seat short of a majority in the Senate.
That one-seat differential has mattered. Republicans in the Senate have prevented Gov. Jay Inslee from enacting some of his top legislative priorities relating to climate change, voting rights and birth control. They also forced Democrats to compromise on a smaller state budget.
Inslee told The New York Times earlier this week that if Democrats win control of the Senate, he has ambitious plans for new policies like a carbon tax.
“We intend to make a full-scale effort in the next session of the Legislature if we win,” Inslee said. “It will be a bell in the night, showing hope for the country, rejecting the Trump agenda of denying climate science.”
A Republican previously held the Senate seat, which is based in the Seattle suburbs. But the district leans Democratic. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both carried the district in the 2016 and 2012 elections, respectively.
This article has been updated to note that votes are still being counted for the race.