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Washington voters support Republican Ronald Reagan for president, but reject Republican incumbent Governor John Spellman on November 6, 1984.

HistoryLink.org Essay 5595 : Printer-Friendly Format

On November 6, 1984, Washington voters support Republican Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) for president. They reject incumbent Republican Governor John Spellman (b. 1926) in favor of Democrat Booth Gardner (1936-2013). Democrats retain control of the state legislature, and an initiative to limit the state funding of abortions fails. The King County voter turnout is 80 percent; state turnout is 79 percent.

Reagan Landslide

Reagan's landslide over Democrat Walter Mondale (b. 1928) was reflected in the popular vote through the state of Washington. In the Electoral College, Reagan's victory was the largest in U.S. history. Republican control of the U.S. Senate slipped by two votes and Democrats held onto the House of Representatives. Republican Seattle City Council Member John Miller won the open seat in Congress in the 1st District (Seattle).

As happened in the presidential election in 1980, television networks declared Reagan the winner three hours before polls in 26 states had closed. Chairmen of both the Republican and Democratic parties criticized the networks' action, believing that the news reports kept many voters home. In King County, a usual surge of voting between 5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. did not occur.

A survey by The Seattle Times indicated that voters went for Gardner as an expression of dissatisfaction with Spellman's four years as governor.

Initiative 471, limiting state-funded abortions except to save the life of the mother, failed. Initiative 456, asking Congress to declare Steelhead a game fish and limiting the effect of the Boldt Decision (which affirmed Native American treaty fishing rights), passed.

Statewide totals were as follows:

  • Ronald Reagan (R) - 1,051,670
  • Walter Mondale (D) - 807,352

  • Booth Gardner (D) - 1,006,993
  • John Spellman (R) - 881,994

    Attorney General
  • Ken Eikenberry (R) - 1,019495
  • Phil Talmadge (D) - 777,175

  • Initiative 471 banning state funding of certain abortions:
    Yes - 838,083 
     No - 949,921

  • Initiative 456 limiting treaty fishing rights:
    Yes - 916,855
      No - 807,825

Washington Secretary of State, "Abstract of Votes: 1984 General Election," Mimeograph (Olympia: State of Washington, 1984); "Another Landslide, Another Four Years," The Seattle Times, November 7, 1984, p. A-1; "State Voters Love One Republican, Dump Another," Ibid., p. A-1; Jack Broom, "Here's Why Gardner Won," Ibid., p. A-1; Elouise Schumacher, "Miller Easily Defeats Evans in 1st District," Ibid., p. B-1; "Network Exit Polls Blasted in State," Ibid., p. B-1; Susan Gilmore, "Despite Defeat, Abortion Foes Have Not Lost Their Initiative," Ibid., p. B-6; Susan Gilmore, "Voters Approve Steelhead Initiative," Ibid., p. B-6; Doug Underwood, "Democrats Elude 'Coattails,' Keep Control of Legislature," Ibid., p. B-8; "TV Blasted for Early Projection of Voting Results," Ibid., November 8, 1984, p. A-1.

Travel through time (chronological order):
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President Ronald Reagan (1911-2004)
Courtesy National Archives

Booth Gardner (b. 1936), 1985
Courtesy Washington State Archives

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