While the returns from across the country are beginning to fill in the electoral map in the presidential race, Washington state will wait until after 8 p.m. to know the direction of elections here for statewide and legislative races, as well as a number of ballot measures. Republicans should watch carefully a number of races as counts are released.

Washington State Republican Party Chairman Kirby Wilbur has worked all corners of the state to spread his message of “12 in ‘12” – gaining 12 Republican seats in the Governor’s office and the state Legislature. A Republican majority in the State House would require a 5-seat net gain for the GOP; 3 seats are needed in the State Senate, and a win for Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna rounds out the dozen and would give the now minority party a chance to be in the driver’s seat of state government.

Republican insiders feel that last year’s redistricting may have given the party a distinct advantage in potential swing areas of Southwest Washington and the Puget Sound crescent. Aspirations for strength in Clark County now appear to have been overambitious; so, legislative races in King County are going to be the focus of tonight’s poll-watching.

Outgoing 5th Legislative District State Sen. Cheryl Pflug (R) is not on the ballot, but the outcome of the race is certain to either exacerbate or satisfy Republicans’ desire for political justice after her controversial and possibly unethical late-breaking exit from the race. Brad Toft is carrying the Republican banner in the race against Mark Mullet in a campaign that has been characterized by rumor-mongering on the part of Democrats.

In the 1st Legislative District, the legacy of State Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe (D) has faced a serious challenge from former teacher and school board member Dawn McCravey (R). Education issues have been McAuliffe’s bread and butter in previous re-election efforts and ironically it has been her position as chair of the Senate Education Committee that Republicans and the nonpartisan Stand for Children have attempted to use an Achilles’ heel.

In Pierce County, current state representative Bruce Dammeier is running unopposed for State Senator in the 25th Legislative District, and Republicans also have high hopes that Barbara Bailey will defeat incumbent State Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen (D) in Island County. The pickup of four seats would likely be enough to give Republicans a majority in one legislative body and provide support to a Republican governor, or a credible deterrent if Democrat Jay Inslee is the victor.