Patty Murray wins re-election to U.S. Senate and voters approve medical marijuana and abortion rights, and Seattle's Libraries for All bond on November 3, 1998.

  • By David Wilma and Kit Oldham
  • Posted 3/22/2006
  • Essay 7708
See Additional Media
On November 3, 1998, Democratic Senator Patty Murray (b. 1950) wins re-election to the U.S. Senate and state voters approve a ballot measure permitting the use of marijuana for medical purposes. An initiative banning late-term abortions is defeated, and another banning affirmative action programs passes. Seattle voters approve $196 million in "Libraries for All" bonds and Sammamish Plateau residents vote to incorporate the City of Sammamish.

The Democrats Win

Incumbent Murray defeated her Republican challenger, U.S. Representative Linda Smith (b. 1950) of Clark County. Democrats took control of the state's Congressional delegation, 5 to 4. Brian Baird (b. 1956) won the Third District House of Representatives seat from southwest Washington that Smith, who narrowly beat Baird in 1996, gave up to challenge Murray. Democrat Jay Inslee (b. 1951) defeated Republican incumbent Rick White (b. 1953) in the First District, representing North Seattle and areas north of the city.

In the other seven House races, incumbents were re-elected -- Democrats Norm Dicks (b. 1940) in the Sixth District, Jim McDermott (b. 1936) in the Seventh, and Adam Smith (b. 1965) in the Ninth, and Republicans Jack Metcalf (1927-2007) in the Second, Doc Hastings (b. 1941) in the Fourth, George Nethercutt (b. 1944) in the Fifth, and Jennifer Dunn (1941-2007) in the Eighth.

Democrats retained control of the state Senate and forged a 49-49 tie in the state House of Representatives, which the Republicans had controlled.

Statewide Initiatives

Washington voters generally took a stance against governmental control. Initiative 200 ended affirmative action programs in state and local governments and in colleges and universities. Officials could no longer take race and gender into consideration in hiring and placement decisions. Affirmative action had been used to correct imbalances in employment and education caused by historic discrimination.

Initiative 692 permitted the use of marijuana to ease the suffering from AIDS, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, and the side effects of cancer chemotherapy. A broader version of the initiative had failed in 1997. The measure pitted state law against federal law, which classifies marijuana as having no accepted medical use.

Initiative 694 would have banned late-term abortions, but voters rejected it.

Libraries for All

Seattle voters approved $196.4 million in "Libraries for All" bonds. The Libraries for All plan included $119 million for a new central library on the existing downtown site. The plan also included improving, expanding, or replacing 22 existing neighborhood libraries and constructing three new branches.

The central library had surpassed its available space by the early 1990s. In 1994, voters rejected bonds for a new library, but in 1997 new City Librarian Deborah Jacobs launched a comprehensive community review that led to the successful 1998 vote. The Library Foundation pledged to raise another $60 million. Bill and Melinda Gates donated one third of this sum in the largest gift to a public library in American history. In July 1999, the Library Board selected Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas to design the new 355,000 square foot central library, which opened on May 23, 2004.

Sammamish Incorporates

On King County's Sammamish Plateau, located between Redmond and Issaquah, residents overwhelmingly approved incorporation of the City of Sammamish, which became King County's 11th largest city when the incorporation took effect in 1999. The incorporation movement, which lost a 1992 vote, was triggered by concerns that County government was channeling growth to the plateau and not providing sufficient services.

November 1998 Election Summary

Statewide and in King County, the voter turnout was 62 percent. The counts for the major statewide races are as follows:

U.S. Senate
Patty Murray (D) - 1,103,184
Linda Smith (R) - 785,377

Initiative 200, Anti-affirmative action:
Yes - 1,099,410 No - 788,930

Initiative 692, Medical marijuana:
Yes - 1,121,851 No - 780,631

Initiative 694, Late-term abortions banned:
Yes - 802,376 No - 1,070,360

Sources: Robert T. Nelson, "Voters send a message to the GOP," The Seattle Times, November 4, 1998, p. B-1; Barbara A. Serrano, "U.S. Senate: Murray wins battle of opposites," Ibid., p. B-1; David Schaefer, "Initiative 692: State Backs Medical Marijuana," Ibid., p. B-2; Lynne K. Varner, "Initiative 694: Ban on Abortions Defeated," Ibid., p. B-2; Susan Byrnes, "Proposition 1: Neighborhood Involvement Credited for Easy Library Win," Ibid., p. B-3; Joe Heim, "Initiative 200: New Battle Begins, Interpreting the Law," Ibid., p B-1; "Wednesday Morning Quarterbacks Simplify Election Results," Ibid., November 12, 1998 (; Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Seattle Public Library -- A Pictorial History of Times and Tomes Past -- Slide Show" (by Paul Dorpat), and "Sammamish incorporates on August 31, 1999" (by Phil Dougherty) (accessed March 17, 2006).
Note: On March 22, 2006, this essay was expanded to incorporate two smaller timelines, no longer extant, treating aspects of the election. The essay was updated on March 16, 2007, and again on September 5, 2007.

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
Major Support for Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You