For sheer variety, it’s hard to beat this year’s U.S. Senate race. And I’m not talking about the candidates you’ve probably heard of.
There’s a doctor, a lawyer, a physicist, a retired bank worker, a retired postal worker, a retired iron worker. Some are serious people in a first try for office; others are less serious, have run many times and never won.
All plunked down $1,740 to be on the ballot, which, for most people is not chump change. They may campaign a little or a lot. Some had hope when they paid their money and took their chances that lightning would strike and the vagaries of Washington’s primary – theoretically, party doesn’t matter and you just need to finish in the Top Two – would push them into the general election.
Want to find out more about them? Go inside the blog.
Charles Allen, a former Air Force officer and health care administrator, admits he faces “a monumental task, to say the least,” as a Democrat in a race with a three-term incumbent Democrat. With no campaign cash to speak of and using a website, Facebook and other social media, he hopes the public’s desire for new leadership means they’ll give newcomers and outsiders a serious look.
“I wouldn’t have run if I thought my chances were absolutely zero.”
Just 29 – he’d be the constitutionally required 30 four days after the general election – Allen said running for office has always been a dream, and “I might as well shoot for the stars.”
Norma Gruber, a retired bank worker from Walla Walla, thought of running for 30 years, and this year finally did. She had a reasonable sounding campaign premise, that Congress needs someone who knows numbers and can say No, and drew the top spot on the ballot. Then her husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and she suspended her campaign; she didn’t even submit information for the state’s online voter pamphlet, and doesn't have a website.
Democrat Bob Burr of Bellingham challenging Murray because she wouldn’t back a bill on public financing. A self-described zealot on that score, he’s not accepting money contributions to underline the point. While that means he doesn’t have a huge presence, he did snag an endorsement from the progressive wing of the party at its state convention.
“My expectation is I will probably finish fifth,” Burr said.
Schalk Leonard listed no partisan preference, and contends the party system “does more harm than good.” A retired Navy judge advocate general, he thinks voters will be attracted to a candidate with the strict ethical requirements of a military officer. He contends he’s better versed in the Constitution than any other candidate in the field, although Republican Clint Didier – who carries a copy of the Constitution in his pocket and displays it at most events – might dispute that. Leonard’s unlikely to get into a Constitution-off with Didier, who is more intent on passing Dino Rossi.
No matter, says Leonard. He believes he’s doing something good because it’s the right thing. “If I get a surprising number of votes, maybe it’s going to tell the American people something.”
There’s a pair of eponymous Democrats, Goodspaceguy, who wants to colonize space, and Mike the Mover, whose name describes the company he owns in Seattle. Both have run many times, for a variety of offices.
Mover, born Mike Shanks in Spokane in 1953, has run most years since 1988 and is unfazed by a record of 0-17: “I have something to say, and that’s more than 97 percent of the people can say.” This year, it’s actually several things, including statehood for Eastern Washington and bringing the troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan and stationing them on the Mexican border. He campaigns whenever possible, although he doesn’t get invited to all the forums. The Tea Party “uninvited” him to a Bellingham forum, he said.
Republican Mike Latimer said he entered his first political race because God told him to. God speaks to him often, the retired iron worker said, and isn’t happy with the nation. Sept. 11, 2001 was “one of our spankings from the Lord,” and the nation is in for more, and worse unless it changes its ways.
When told that Didier sometimes mentions that he, too, believes he was called by God to run, Latimer said that may be so. God didn’t promise Latimer a win, and while the campaign is going “not as well as I thought it would,” he’s not giving up. “God may still do something yet.”
Mohammad Said, an Ephrata physician, has also run unsuccessfully multiple times as a Democrat. He’s a strong advocate for improved U.S. relations with the Palestinians, and a secular state for Muslims, Jews and Christians in the Middle East. This year he has another issue, and a new partisan affiliation.
He formed the Centrist Party for people who find themselves torn between Republicans and Democrats on different issues. He is calling for federal approval of medical marijuana.
Said currently travels the state, seeing patients seeking prescription pot, and believes the feds should back off on medicinal purposes but not legalize it for general use. He’s not predicting a win but believes he may draw more votes this year than his previous tries.
With the support of the patients he has qualifed for medical marijuana, their family and friends, he could get 30,000 votes, he estimated. If they remember to vote.
Other "dark horses" on the ballot:
James (Skip) Metzger, a physicist and UW physics professor, a first-time candidate who wants smaller government, lower taxes and a more faithful following of the Constitution, who started out in the Republican field, but is now running with no party preference.
Will Baker of Tacoma, a frequent candidate who accuses various government officials of corruption and has run under other party banners in the past, now listed for the Reform Party.
Willilam Chovil of Tacoma, another frequent candidate and retired postal worker who has no website. He describes himsefl as a "pro-life, pro-liberty, pro-gun, pro-audacity, pro-Sarah Palin and John Gault" Republican in the state voter's guide.