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What to watch for in Washington and Wyoming primaries

By Felicia Sonmez

Voters are voting in two western states today -- Washington, where Sen. Patty Murray (D) is seeking a fourth term, and Wyoming, where Republicans face a heated four-way battle to succeed term-limited Gov. Dave Freudenthal (D).

Wyoming's races are partisan primaries, while in Washington's vote-by-mail primary -- come on quick counting! -- the top two vote-getters regardless of party will advance to the November general.

Results aren't likely to roll in until late (Wyoming polls close at 9 p.m. Eastern, and the Washington polls don't close until 11 p.m.) but the Fix (or more specifically deputy Fix Aaron aka "fixaaron" on Twitter (follow him!)-- will be monitoring the results. So, stay tuned.

In the meantime, here are a few story lines to watch:

* Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) has backed two candidates in tonight's races: former Washington Redskins tight end Clint Didier (R) in the Washington Senate race and state Auditor Rita Meyer in Wyoming's Republican gubernatorial primary. It's not likely to be a good night for Didier -- he clocked in at a distant third behind Murray and former state Sen. Dino Rossi (R) in a public poll last week. But, the prospects for a Meyer win in Wyoming are brighter with a Casper Star-Tribune poll earlier this month showing her tied with former U.S. Attorney Matt Mead.

If Meyer does win, she'd be the latest of Palin's "mama grizzlies" to prevail, a boost for Palin following the defeat last week of former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel (R) in the Peach State's gubernatorial runoff. If Meyer loses, however, expect a new round of questions over the power of the Palin nod.

* In Washington's 3rd district race for the seat of retiring Rep. Brian Baird (D), state Rep. Jaime Herrera (R) is the choice of the GOP establishment, but former Bush administration official David Castillo (R), who's been backed by popular Attorney General Rob McKenna (R), and activist David Hedrick (R) are also in the running. On the Democratic side, former state Rep. Denny Heck (D) is vying to hold the seat for his party (and already running ads promising to "give 'em Heck"!) The 3rd is a swing district that Democrats might be hard-pressed to hold in a year that favors Republicans, and observers on both sides believe that Herrera would be the stronger GOP contender in the fall.

* In the Washington Senate race, Murray and Rossi are nearly certain to be the top two vote-getters and advance to the general election. Worth watching will be not whether they win, but how big their margins are in several key counties including Clark, Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap.

In the 2008 gubernatorial open primary, Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) edged out Rossi in Pierce by little over 100 votes (72,388 to 72,258) and bested him by a wider margin in Kitsap (32,142 to 31,784) and Snohomish (71,078 to 68,470), while Rossi took Clark 35,933 to 34,938.

One other county to watch for Rossi will be Spokane, where he bested Gregoire 48 percent to 45 percent in the 2008 gubernatorial open primary. If Rossi can exceed 48 percent there tonight, he is in good shape for the fall.

Murray, meanwhile, will need to focus on turnout in King County, where Gregoire took 60 percent of the primary vote (216,185 votes) in 2008.

By Felicia Sonmez  |  August 17, 2010; 10:51 AM ET
Categories:  Governors , Senate  
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