- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 4, 2014

SEATTLE (AP) - Washington voters won’t be electing a governor or U.S. senator this election, but they will weigh in on issues like gun background checks and class sizes. And voters in central Washington will see a first for the state - two members of the same party on the fall ballot in a congressional race.

Here’s a look at 5 things to know about the general election:

GUN MEASURES: Voters will decide the fate of two competing gun background check initiatives. One, Initiative 594, seeks universal background checks on all sales and transfers, including private transactions and many loans and gifts. The other, Initiative 591, would prevent the state from expanding checks beyond the national standard. Like federal law, Washington law currently requires checks for sales or transfers by licensed dealers but not for purchases from private sellers, like those who sell at gun shows or to friends. No other state has a gun-related measure on the ballot this year, and millions of dollars have been pouring into the state, mostly in support of expanding background checks. I-591 also would prohibit the confiscation of firearms without due process.

REPUBLICAN VERSUS REPUBLICAN: The most interesting congressional race in the state is also the one where one party is guaranteed to have the winner. Washington’s 4th Congressional District features two Republicans on the fall ballot - the first time that’s happened in a federal race under the state’s ‘Top 2’ primary system. Tea party favorite Clint Didier is in a tight contest against Dan Newhouse, backed by the Republican mainstream. Newhouse has said he would focus on central Washington priorities such as water conservation and cleaning up the giant Hanford Nuclear Reservation, while Didier ran largely against the political establishment in the nation’s capital, including some fellow Republicans, who he terms “RINOs,” Republicans in name only.

SENATE CONTROL: For the last two legislative sessions, Republicans have controlled state Senate with the help of two Democrats who left their party to caucus with the GOP. Republicans hope to gain outright control of the upper chamber following Tuesday’s election. Currently, the state Senate is split 26-23, technically with the majority lying with Democrats. But in 2012, two Democrats joined the Republicans to form a mostly GOP-controlled coalition, sending Democrats to the minority. The Democrats need to win two or more seats to regain control of the Senate, but Republicans had strong showings in the primary. Unlike the Senate, the House has not changed majority in more than a decade. This election is not expected to be different. The Democrats in that chamber currently hold a 55-43 majority.



CLASS SIZE: Voters in Washington state will vote yet again on class sizes. Education advocates are pushing a measure limiting class sizes, but opponents say Initiative 1351 could make a bad budget situation worse as lawmakers scramble to pay for court-ordered reforms. State financial experts believe the initiative would eventually cost the state about $2 billion a year to pay for thousands more teachers and other school staff. Washington voters overwhelmingly approved another class size reduction initiative in 2000, and 14 years later, lawmakers are just starting to pay that bill. This initiative is different, in both its scope and the way it was written. Initiative 1351 would set lower class sizes at every grade level. The previous initiative focused on the youngest grades.

VOTE BY MAIL: Washington, like Oregon, is an all vote-by-mail state. But unlike Oregon - where ballots have to be received by Election Day - in Washington, ballots just have to be postmarked no later than Election Day or placed in an official ballot drop box by 8 p.m. Tuesday. That means that in some of the more competitive races, results may not be known for days as most counties will update vote counts only once a day.

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