When you think about politics in Thurston County, the 22nd legislative district is the Democratic liberal juicy middle in what is a pretty typical rural or suburban western Washington county. This is where the urban communities are, this is where the liberals are.
This is a district that hasn't elected a Republican since 1980 when W.H Garson of Tenino went to the legislative building. This is also when the 22nd LD was big enough geographically to send someone from Tenino to the legislative building.
Just a side note: since Thurston County population shot through the roof in the 1970s, I'd assume that redistricting was particularly unkind to Republicans in the 22nd in the 1980s. What probably happened was the district shrank geographically given the boost of urban population, giving it its liberal contour today.
Bud Blake was the first conservative to win a county commissioner seat in Thurston County for a long time, most likely because he ran as an independent against a Democratic. And, he won in a convincing fashion.
I was wondering if a county-wide election for a Republican in independent clothing meant the same sort of strategy could equal the same result in the smaller, liberal 22nd LD. Well, it does not.
But, man, it would be close. If you isolate the 22nd LD precincts (the way I did in that link above), you see a pretty tight race. Democrat Karen Valenzuela would have won with just over 51 percent, or 2,000 votes out of over 40,000.
But, a win is still a win.
That said, I think a legislative race would have been even harder for an independent (especially a conservative one) to win over a Democrat. I suspect that strictly partisan issues (like abortion, environmental protection, taxes) could be isolated in a way that they couldn't be on a local general government election.