Sep 29, 2022 - News

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

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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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