OLYMPIA — Republican Jan Angel jumped to an early lead Tuesday night in the race for the Senate's 26th District.
Angel held a 51 percent to 49 percent lead over Democrat Nathan Schlicher in preliminary returns from Kitsap and Pierce counties.
A predominantly Republican Majority Coalition Caucus currently controls the Senate with the help of two Democrats, giving the majority caucus a one-vote advantage in the chamber. Republicans hope to gain another seat to give their caucus more cushion heading into the 2014 election, when about half of the Senate will be up for re-election.
The race has been the most expensive legislative contest in state history, with combined spending of $2.9 million. More than half of that money has been spent by third-party groups. The influx of independent expenditures on both sides has led to negative campaigning in the form of TV ads and mailers.
Schlicher, an emergency room doctor from Gig Harbor, was appointed to the Senate seat in January to replace Democrat Derek Kilmer, who was elected to Congress. Angel, of Port Orchard, has served in the House since 2009.
Both currently represent the district they are vying for, a swing district that includes the southeastern Kitsap peninsula from Bremerton and Port Orchard to Gig Harbor in Pierce County.
Angel, 66, previously worked in business and real estate and served as a Kitsap county commissioner for eight years. Schlicher, 30, graduated from high school at 14, has both law and medical degrees.
Voters also weighed in on two other Senate races Tuesday night. In the 7th District, Republican Sen. John Smith of Colville, who was appointed in January to succeed retiring state Sen. Bob Morton, was losing to fellow Republican Brian Dansel, where the vote was 52 to 48 percent.
In the 8th District, Republican Sen. Sharon Brown of Kennewick, who was appointed in January to replace Sen. Jerome Delvin, was beating Republican Phillip R. Lemley, 75 to 25 percent.