A fortune in campaign contributions, heavy spending on TV ads and intimate connections to the state’s top lobbyists and power brokers weren’t enough to save Dale Foreman’s campaign for governor.
Foreman, a Wenatchee Republican and the state House majority leader, watched his dead heat with Ellen Craswell cool to all but certain defeat by Wednesday afternoon.
With preliminary results showing Foreman losing by at least 11,000 votes, Craswell claimed a grass-roots victory.
The soft-spoken 64-year-old religious conservative rejected many of the typical tools of statewide campaigns. She spent no money on TV, hired no pollsters and instead ran a campaign that created an ant hill of dedicated volunteers.
Craswell ran on a simple message of lopping back government, starting with a 30 percent cut in state spending over four years. She also promised to be a voice for moral values, saying God has a plan not only for her but also for government that’s spelled out in the Bible.
Paul Berendt, chairman of the state Democratic Party, said Democrats look forward to Nov. 5 general election showdown between Craswell and Gary Locke, the Democratic nominee.
Locke, 46, was elected King County executive in November 1993. Before that, he served 11 years in the state House, including five as chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee.
The contrast between Locke and Craswell could not be starker.
She is a grandmother, lives on a family farm in Poulsbo and opposes gay rights, abortion and most state spending and regulations.
Locke is a Seattle resident and social liberal who backs gay rights and abortion rights.
He helped write the 1993 state budget that raised taxes, tuition and fees by more than $1 billion, and he voted for a health care reform bill that later was repealed at the urging of business and insurance interests.
Locke handily beat Seattle Mayor Norm Rice, passing him at the polls early in the evening and maintaining a comfortable lead that absentee ballots aren’t expected to change.
All the moderate and Democratic votes cast for other candidates in the primary will go to Gary Locke in the general election, Berendt predicted.
“I take nothing for granted here. We all need to work diligently for the next six weeks, but I fervently believe Gary will not just win, but carry many, many Democrats along with him.”
Asked if Craswell is too conservative for Washington, Berendt burst out laughing. “She is a nice person,” he said. “She is someone who has a strong base and a strong following. But she has a very, very narrow agenda. She is too conservative to lead this state government.”
Todd Myers, spokesman for the state GOP, said Locke presents a perfect target for a conservative like Craswell because of his voting record in Olympia, including the 1993 tax hike.
Craswell’s supporters can be expected to work tirelessly for her, Myers said, and the state party can pour up to $1.5 million into her race. Both state parties are expected to give heavily to their candidates.
Nobody should count Craswell out, Myers said. “A year ago, people were saying there was no way Ellen could put this together. But she did.
“She has built the biggest grasroots network this state has ever seen.”
Myers said Foreman was hurt by an unenthusiastic GOP turnout. “There was less passion on our side. People didn’t turn out.”
Foreman lost his House seat along with the election. But no one expects the Harvard attorney and orchardist to stay on the sidelines long.
“Being in the Legislature only three years, we are happy he did as well as he did,” said Frank Bickford, Foreman’s campaign spokesman.
Foreman sunk hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money into the race, and the state builder’s lobby dumped $125,000 into last-ditch advertising.
“It was too little, too late,” Bickford said.