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 likely 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 and have run many times.
All plunked down $1,740 to be on the ballot. They may campaign a little or a lot. Some hope lightning will strike and the vagaries of Washington’s primary – theoretically, party doesn’t matter and you just need to finish in the top two – will push them into the general election.
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. 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.”
At 29 – he turns the constitutionally required 30 four days after the general election – Allen said running for office has always been a dream. “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 she finally did. Then her husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and she suspended her campaign.
Democrat Bob Burr, of Bellingham, filed against 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 – might dispute that. Leonard’s unlikely to get into a face-off with Didier, who is more intent on passing Dino Rossi.
No matter, says Leonard. “If I get a surprising number of votes, maybe it’s going to tell the American people something.”
There are two other Democrats: Goodspaceguy, who wants to colonize space, and Mike the Mover, whose name describes the company he owns in Seattle.
Mover, born Mike Shanks in Spokane in 1953, has run most years since 1988 and is unfazed by a 0-17 record: “I have something to say, and that’s more than 97 percent of the people can say.” This year, that includes statehood for Eastern Washington and bringing the troops home from the Middle East and stationing them on the Mexican border.
Republican Mike Latimer said he entered his first political race because God told him to. God speaks to him often and is angry with the nation, the retired iron worker said. Sept. 11, 2001, was “one of our spankings from the Lord,” and the nation is in for more.
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 advocates 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.
Said currently travels the state seeing patients seeking prescription pot and believes the feds should back off on the drug for medicinal purposes but not legalize it for general use. 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.