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Government and Politics
Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Special Legislative Election Key To Future Control Of Washington House

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Campaign photos
Democrat Carol Gregory faces a tough challenge from Republican Teri Hickel for Washington's 30th legislative district House seat.

This is an off election year, but there is one hot legislative race that has implications for future control of the Washington state House.

There is a special election in Washington’s 30th legislative district straddling the King/Pierce County line. The seat is open because of the death last year of incumbent Democrat Roger Freeman.

Fellow Democrat Carol Gregory was appointed to the seat and is now running to keep it. But Gregory faces a tough challenge from Republican Teri Hickel. The race has drawn hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign cash on both sides, mostly from labor and business interests.

So what’s at stake?

Washington House Democrats have been losing seats steadily in recent years and currently hold just a two-seat majority. Losing this race would bring them to the brink of losing control.

Meanwhile Republicans see this election as a pivotal opportunity to pick up a seat as they endeavor to gain the majority -- something they haven’t held since 1998.

Most voters in Washington should have their November ballots in hand by the end of this week.