Democrat Manka Dhingra, a deputy prosecutor for Washington's King County, had a 10-point lead Tuesday night over Republican Jinyoung Lee Englund in a suburban Seattle district that will determine the balance of power in the Washington state Senate. If Dhingra wins the seat, left empty when Republican state Sen. Andy Hill died, control of the state Senate will flip to the Democrats, who already hold the governor's mansion and narrowly control the state House. In Oregon and California, as well as four other states, Democrats control both branches of the legislature and the governor's seat, and if Dhingra's lead holds, Republicans won't control a single legislative chamber on the West Coast. (The GOP controls the entire state government in 26 states, CNN notes.)
Because of the stakes, the contest became the most expensive legislative race in Washington history, with the candidates and outside groups spending more than $8.7 million; about $5.9 million of that was from the outside groups, ranging from oil companies and unions to Koch Industries and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Dhingra was born in India, while Englund is Korean-American. Washington's mail-in ballot system means the final results won't be known for days, and England has not conceded the race.