Lakewood-area senate race neck-and-neck; slim lead could flip longtime red seat blue

VIDEO: T'wina Nobles holds lead in tightly contested state Senate race

Democratic candidate T’wina Nobles is holding a slim lead over Republican incumbent Steve O’Ban in the race for state Senate in the 28th Legislative District.

Early results for the 2020 November election dropped Tuesday night, showing a 2,177-vote lead by Nobles. Nobles has 30,985 votes (51.75 percent) and state Sen. Steve O’Ban has 28,808 (48.11 percent).

The 28th Legislative District, which represents Lakewood, University Place, DuPont and parts of Tacoma, had a 68.31 percent voter turnout as of Tuesday night’s results, which include at least 70 percent of the ballots received in Pierce County for this 2020 election, according to the Pierce County Auditor’s Office.

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Voters in the 28th Legislative District have historically elected Republicans to its Senate position, with the seats holding red even in the primaries.

With more ballots to count, if votes hold in favor of Nobles, she could flip a longtime Republican seat and also become the first Black member of the state Senate in a decade.

Reached by Zoom Tuesday night, Nobles thanked the people who supported her campaign.

“I also know it’s so early — there’s so many ballots to still be counted, so I have to be patient, and let those returns continue to come in. But I’m excited for these first numbers,” she said.

“I think tonight, I think about how long it’s been since we’ve had a Black person in our state Senate,” Nobles continued. “I’m grateful for Sen. Rosa Franklin who, 10 years ago, served in our state Senate. And I really hope that this state has an opportunity to increase diversity and representation in our state Legislature.”

Nobles is a University Place school board member and president of the Tacoma Urban League, a social services organization advocating for Black businesses and community at large.

With a background in education, Nobles ran her campaign on increasing pay for educators, reducing class size and pushing for more equity and inclusion in schools. Nobles also supports policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions by investing in low-carbon jobs in green energy, water and transportation infrastructure. Nobles has also been a vocal advocate for increased transparency in policing conduct, including racial bias and equipment training. She’s drawn endorsements from presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden and former presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren.

O’Ban works as senior counsel for behavioral health issues for Pierce County and was elected to the House of Representatives in November 2012 and appointed to the Senate in June 2013. He was elected to the Senate seat in 2014 and re-elected in 2016.

O’Ban is a vocal advocate for mental health and addiction resources and serves as the ranking member of the Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee. O’Ban also voices support for boosting jobs and strengthening the economy, resources for veterans and addressing choke points in the state transportation system.

O’Ban and Nobles have also been vocal on Initiative 976, which voters passed last year that aimed to limit car tabs to $30. The Washington State Supreme Court struck down the initiative last month. O’Ban fought to uphold the initiative approved by a majority of voters. While Nobles said she supports car-tab relief, she also has said the area is facing the loss of critical transportation funding because of it.

Together, O’Ban and Nobles have spent more than $1.67 million combined for their campaigns, putting their race on track to become the second costliest Senate race in the state, behind only a 2017 race between Manka Dhingra and Jinyoung Lee Englund for an open seat in the 45th District. Those candidates raised $3.1 million.

VIDEO: T'wina Nobles talks about the message she's hearing from supporters