Sep 29, 2022 - News

Seattle area's high inflation rate will be an election issue

Change in Consumer Price Index for select metro areas

Inflation in the Seattle area has been higher than the U.S. average — and the issue could play a big role in the upcoming election.

Driving the news: Newly released data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that consumer prices rose 9% in the Seattle area year-over-year, outpacing the national increase of 8.3%.

Why it matters: Local Republicans are focusing on inflation and high gas prices as a tactic to improve their results from the Aug. 2 primary election, in which many GOP candidates performed worse than expected.

The latest: In races for the state Legislature, the economy was a top issue for Republicans and independents, but a lower priority for Democrats, per a Crosscut/Elway poll released last week.

  • About 34% of Republicans and 23% of independents named the economy, gas prices and inflation as key issues when choosing candidates, compared to 11% of Democrats.

What they're saying: J.T. Wilcox, a Republican leader in the Washington state House, said GOP candidates are capitalizing on those trends on the campaign trail, mainly by emphasizing how recent, Democrat-backed policies could raise gas prices further.

  • He said those policies include Washington's new clean fuel standard, as well as a cap-and-trade program that will put a price on carbon emissions.
  • "I think it's just so ingrained in people's minds that when it comes to spending and inflation, Democrats want to spend more money; Republicans don't," Wilcox told Axios Seattle this week. "It just sort of works for us without even trying."

Yes, but: Democrats have benefited from voters' outrage over the Supreme Court's June decision rolling back abortion rights, pollster Stuart Elway told Axios.

  • The party has continued to hammer Republican candidates on that issue, not just at the national level, but in local legislative races.
  • "In any of the swing district areas, it's the question of, 'Well, do you want a Republican who might take away your right to choose?'" Democratic political consultant Michael Charles told Axios.

What's next: Elway said Democrats in Washington state still have the edge going into November — and it's unclear whether the inflation rate will be enough to propel Republicans to victory in close races.

  • Ballots for the Nov. 8 general election go out in mid-October.

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