Washington voters have plenty of choices today in the state’s first top-two primary.
There are 10 choices for governor, although most voters are probably only familiar with two. Incumbent Chris Gregoire and her 2004 opponent Dino Rossi have been moving toward a rematch since shortly after Democrat Gregoire won the final recount and defeated a Republican Party court challenge in 2005. The rest of the gubernatorial ballot is filled with a wide array of candidates: two claiming a Republican Party preference, another listing the Democratic Party, one each from the Reform, Green and Independent parties, and two with no party preference.
State voters also have six choices for superintendent of public instruction, five for lieutenant governor, four for secretary of state and three each for state treasurer, auditor, insurance commissioner and a state Supreme Court position. Eastern Washington voters have six candidates for the 5th District congressional seat – incumbent Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Democrats Mark Mays and Barbara Lampert, Republican Kurt Erickson, Libertarian John Beck and Constitutionalist Randall Yearout.
Some legislative positions in the region have as many as five candidates, others have only one.
Voters aren’t required to stick with a single party’s candidates as they make their way down the ballot, although they can’t vote for more than one candidate in any race.
Under the rules for the top-two primary, the two candidates getting the most votes move on to the general election, regardless of party preference. In most cases, that means the fall campaign will be between a Democrat and a Republican, but theoretically it’s possible that some will feature a major party candidate and a minor party candidate, or even two minor party candidates. In a few districts, two candidates from a single party will face each other in the general election.
Each candidate chose his or her party preference for the ballot, so the line on the ballot doesn’t mean that the listed party endorses, or even recognizes, that candidate as a member. Some candidates listed their preference as Republican while others like Rossi, who is a former Republican state senator, list their preference as GOP.
All Eastern Washington counties, and all but two in the state, vote exclusively by mail. Mail-in ballots must be placed in an envelope that is signed and dated by the voter. They must be postmarked today or deposited by 8 p.m. at drop-off boxes or voter service centers.