The probable result of a special Washington state senate race on Wednesday is bad news for supporters of the Columbia River Crossing Project.
Although there are still some votes to be counted, Republican Jan Angel leads Democratic incumbent State Sen. Nathan Schlicher 52 percent to 48 percent, in what The Seattle Times says is by far the most expensive state senate race in Washington history. The candidates and the independent expenditure groups will have spent more than $3 million on the 26th District (parts of Pierce and Kitsap counties) race, breaking the previous Washington record by $1 million.
The final result could have significant consequences for Oregon lawmakers, who are considering holding hearings on the CRC later this month.
Earlier this year, the 49-member Washington Senate, which is controlled by a coalition of 23 Republicans and two Democrats, rejected a bill that would have committed Washington to spend $450 million for its share of what was then a bi-state CRC project.
Since that rejection, Gov. John Kitzhaber and House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) have desperately sought to keep the project alive, even as a Sept. 30 deadline for either finding addition funding or modifying a funding bill the Oregon Legislature passed in February came and went.
Part of Kitzhaber's $2.8 billion Oregon-only CRC strategy, which calls for Oregon to fund the project without any contribution from Washington, seemed to be to hope that Democrats retook the Washington Senate, a result that could bring our northern neighbor's money and superior technical expertise back to the project..
With the Washington Senate currently divided 25 to 24, this week's election was a big deal for both parties—but it now looks as if the Republican-led coalition will increase its majority to 26 to 23, thereby making future funding for the CRC or cooperation with an Oregon-only project less likely.