Tina Podlodowski, a Democratic candidate to be the state's chief elections officer as secretary of state, wants the Republican incumbent Kim Wyman to cancel the Washington presidential primary now that the GOP race is down to a single contestant and the Democrats are going to ignore the results.
"It's time to put a halt to meaningless presidential primaries in Washington state," Podlodowski said in a press release Wednesday morning. It seemed timely, considering Texas Sen. Ted Cruz had dropped out of the GOP race the night before, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich was on the verge of following suit, leaving the field to Donald Trump. "I'm calling on my opponent in the secretary of state race to cancel this taxpayer-funded empty exercise immediately."
There was just one teeny little problem with that idea: Wyman has no authority to cancel the primary, and Podlodowski wouldn't, either, if she were in the office.
State statutes require the state to hold a presidential primary in May, and only the Legislature can suspend it. That has happened in some presidential election years as a way to save money. The Legislature had the chance to do it again this year -- with several bills introduced to either cancel it or move it to an earlier date when the nominations were in doubt -- but lawmakers essentially ignored them.
The Legislature budgeted $11.5 million for the presidential primary in 2015, and Gov. Jay Inslee didn't knock that out with a line-item veto. Lawmakers didn't slice that money out in their supplemental budget.
In the face of statutory requirements to hold a presidential primary and a legislative appropriation to pay for it, a secretary of state can't just be like Emily Litella and say "Never mind."
Plus, the ballots and envelopes are already been printed, so those costs have already been incurred. The state sent out some 65,000 ballots to troops and other Washington voters living overseas several weeks ago. County elections officers started sending ballots to voters in their homes on Monday, and King and Spokane counties started their mailings on Wednesday morning. To stop the election when Podlodowski suggested would mean some voters would get ballots and others wouldn't; some would get the message that the primary was off and throw out their ballots but others wouldn't and would mail them in.
Podlodowski's campaign spokeswoman, Maddie Foutch, was unable to cite a legal authority for Wyman to halt the primary, but insisted it was "irresponsible of Kim Wyman to let this go on."
Wyman replied that Podlodowski's demands show the challenger's lack of experience and limited understanding of the job. Voters could have had the primary in March if leaders of Podlodowski's party hadn't blocked efforts to move the date up, she added.