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Area legislative races heating up, a year early

OLYMPIA – As early bird candidates start to file their bids for a legislative seat in 2008, the region’s most powerful lawmaker says she’s resisting suggestions that she consider leaving the statehouse to run for state treasurer.

“I think it’s an intriguing idea – except that I think I have the best job already: Senate majority leader,” said Lisa Brown, D-Spokane. Despite feelers from Democrats who think the economist would be a good fit when incumbent Democrat Mike Murphy steps down next year, she said, “I am almost certain to run for my seat again next year.”

After 15 years in the Legislature, she doesn’t intend to be there for another 15, she said, but she wants to remain involved in public policy in some capacity. She confirmed she’s thought about a run for governor in 2012.

“Yes I have,” Brown said, “especially since I’ve been working with this governor and very much admire and respect the job she’s doing.”

Brown’s name has frequently been floated in recent years as a potential Democratic candidate for the 5th Congressional District seat held by U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. And some Democrats had speculated that she might run for mayor of Spokane.

“I think state issues are really where my heart is,” Brown said, citing health care and education. “I feel like I can be of service to the Spokane community and to Eastern Washington in general.”

One area lawmaker has already decided not to run again when his term ends next year.

“I think it’s time to turn the page and start a new chapter,” said Rep. Bob Sump, 67, who’s finishing up his bachelor’s degree in theology. “There are other things that I want to do, and I think it’s really neat to go out on your own terms.”

Sump, R-Republic, predicts several people will file for his seat and said he doesn’t plan to endorse anyone. That’s up to voters.

Sump said his wife’s fall and a resulting scare last year over life-threatening blood clots led him to reconsider moving their household back and forth across the state every year. Sump’s legislative district, No. 7, is the largest in the state, stretching from roughly Omak to Metaline Falls, and includes Newport, Deer Park and Airway Heights, and runs south as far as Sprague and Odessa.

Normally, candidates don’t announce they’re stepping down until the last moment, but with a 12,000-square-mile district, Sump said candidates need time to meet people and raise money.

That, Sue Lani Madsen said, is exactly why she’s filing for his seat now.

“True, it is mighty early,” said Madsen, a Republican architect and goat-rancher in Edwall. But she expects a lot of interest in the job and wanted to get a jump-start. It’s her second run for a House seat representing the sprawling district. In 2004, she came in third in a three-way GOP primary against Mike Hanson and winner Joel Kretz, of Wauconda, who eventually won the House seat.

“I have a lot more political experience now than I did the first time,” Madsen said. She described herself as a conservative small-business woman who realizes firsthand the economic impediments from overregulation. And she said an architect – a big-picture person used to matching resources to goals – is well-suited to government.

“I’m committed to us not getting forgotten by the rest of the state,” she said.

In Spokane, Army veteran and sales manager Michael A. Novak, also a Republican, has filed candidacy paperwork for a 2008 challenge to two-term state Rep. Timm Ormsby, a labor-oriented Democrat.

Although neither can officially file for office until June 2008, both have submitted campaign paperwork with the state Public Disclosure Commission to allow them to start fundraising.

In Spokane, Novak appears to face an uphill battle against Ormsby. District 3 is the most liberal in Eastern Washington, and hasn’t sent a Republican lawmaker to Olympia in 26 years. Novak couldn’t be reached for comment earlier this week. But in an election announcement posted on his myspace.com page, he describes himself as a conservative worried about taxes, school funding and Spokane’s economic opportunities.

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