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Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

November 6, 2012 at 6:50 PM

Snohomish County has been bellwether in governor races for 32 years

Perhaps the best predictor of who will win the race for governor has been the vote in the state’s largest county.

In every governor’s race since then-state Sen. Jim McDermott lost to John Spellman in 1980, the King County winner also ended up winning the office.

But that’s hardly a surprise given the overwhelming size of Seattle and its neighboring communities.

More interesting, however, is that Snohomish County is a really good bellwether for predicting how well gubernatorial candidates will do statewide, according to an analysis by Seattle Times database reporter Justin Mayo.

Going back to 1980, it has had the best record for predicting the statewide vote totals for the winner in governor’s race, often nearly mirroring the eventual outcome.

Starting with the McDermott-Spellman race, which Spellman won with 56.7 percent of the vote to McDermott’s 43.3 percent, the vote tallies by the winning candidate for governor in Snohomish County were never more than 1.2 percent off from the statewide total of the eventual winner.

That year, for example, Spellman won 55.4 percent of the vote in Snohomish County.

In fact, on average, the Snohomish County’s winner’s vote only differed from the statewide winner’s total by 0.7 percent.

That doesn’t mean that Snohomish has always predicted the actual winner. Voters in Snohomish voted for the eventual winner in seven of those eight gubernatorial races.

The one outlier: 2004, when Christine Gregoire beat Dino Rossi statewide by less than 200 votes.

That year, Rossi defeated Gregoire in Snohomish County. But even then, Gregoire’s Snohomish County vote total was still within 1.2 percent of the statewide total, which is far closer to the eventual outcome than the results in King County.
1980                               SnoCo        Statewide
D    McDermott          44.6%         43.3%
R    Spellman               55.4%         56.7%

D     Gardner               52.7%         53.3%
R     Spellman             47.3%         46.7%

D     Gardner               62.5%         62.2%
R     Williams              37.5%         37.8%

D     Lowry                  52.4%         52.2%
R     Eikenberry        47.6%         47.8%

D    Locke                    57.4%        58.0%
R    Craswell               42.6%         42.0%

D    Locke                    56.9%        57.9%
R    Carlson                 41.3%        40.2%

D    Gregoire             47.7%        48.9%
R    Rossi                    49.9%         48.9%

D    Gregoire             52.7%       53.2%
R    Rossi                   47.3%        46.8%

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