She’s the state’s longest-serving state senator, and at times the most controversial.
But Auburn Republican Pam Roach has shown once again she’s a political survivor, winning a seventh term this week by beating back a challenge from a fellow Republican, two-term state Rep. Cathy Dahlquist of Enumclaw.
As of Thursday, Roach had 53 percent of the vote in the 31st Legislative District race, to Dahlquist’s 47 percent.
Roach’s win came despite a bipartisan effort to oust her by both of the district’s other state legislators. Dahlquist was on the ballot, but ran her campaign as a virtual joint effort with Rep. Chris Hurst, an Enumclaw Democrat.
“This was a two on one,” Roach said Thursday. She said her district’s voters returned her to office once again due to a record of fighting for them. “While they (Dahlquist and Hurst) were out bragging about being bipartisan it was actually Pam Roach who works for all of her constituents,” Roach said.
Hurst and Dahlquist went after Roach on ethical issues, accusing her of padding expense reimbursements and taking a foreign trip that violated legislative rules. The trip complaint was dismissed but Roach did pay the state back for $4,500 in improper mileage charges.
Roach has faced plenty of other controversy throughout her legislative career, including being kicked out of the GOP caucus at one point. But she pointed to her record of getting public-safety and other legislation passed. One analysis ranked her as the Senate’s most effective legislator.
Roach’s re-election bid this year was aided by $50,000 in independent expenditures largely funded by unions, including the Teamsters and Machinists, not usually known as Republican allies. That added to the $253,000 Roach raised for her own campaign.
Already the longest-serving among sitting state senators, Roach will surpass the late Lorraine Wojahn as the longest-serving female state senator in Washington history after she’s sworn in in January, according to Senate officials.
Dahlquist credited Roach with running “a tough race” and said she has tried to reach Roach to formally concede.
“This one came down to money,” Dahlquist said, saying her campaign could not answer a barrage of negative mailers and other ads from Roach and her allies. She raised $162,000, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission.
One Roach-allied group set up a website, www.dahlquistquits.com, that hammered Dahlquist for resigning as the top Republican on the House Education Committee after a dispute with caucus leaders. The site paired an image of Dahlquist with the words “I Don’t Care About Kids” and the infamous photo of the late pop singer Michael Jackson dangling his child over a hotel balcony.
“This was outrageous,” Dahlquist said, adding her own mailers stuck to a positive message.
Despite the tough campaign, and giving up her safe state House seat to run, Dahlquist said she had no regrets. “I feel like I gave the people of the 31st an option of someone who is experienced and qualified.”