YAKIMA, Wash. — In an otherwise predictable year in the Republican stronghold of Yakima County, voters have pulled an election surprise.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell is almost certain to win Yakima County by a handful of votes when results are certified next week. With an estimated 28 ballots remaining to be counted, Cantwell leads Republican state Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, by 34 votes.
It would be the first time in three elections that Cantwell has won Yakima County, where Republicans got the majority of votes in every local, state and federal race.
In 2000, Cantwell lost by about 14,000 votes in Yakima County to then-U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton and by about 5,000 votes in 2006 to former Safeco CEO Michael McGavick.
Baumgartner, a freshman state senator, had little recognition statewide and was handily defeated by Cantwell in both the popular vote statewide and in a multimillion-dollar fundraising gap. But Baumgartner campaigned frequently in Yakima County, and was figured to win by some margin, given the electorate’s recent voting history favoring Republicans in statewide and federal races.
As of Monday evening in Yakima County, Cantwell had 38,114 votes (49.94 percent) to Baumgartner’s 38,080 (49.89 percent.) There were 129 write-in votes.
Cantwell was the top vote-getter in the August primary with 43 percent of the vote to 38 percent for Baumgartner, but 19 percent of voters cast their ballots for third-party candidates in that race.
President Barack Obama received 33,139 votes in Yakima County in the general election, nearly 5,000 fewer than Cantwell.
Cantwell was also winning Klickitat County by 127 votes and was losing by only 308 votes in Kittitas County.