For Washington state candidates, it’s put up or shut up time.
Starting Monday morning, they have five days to file paperwork and pay the fee necessary to run for one of the many elective offices on this year’s ballot.
It may seem that some have been running for months, or even years, and in a sense that’s true. Candidates have been jumping into the U.S. Senate race since early 2009, and jumping out as recently as last Thursday.
Candidates in Washington can announce their campaigns whenever they want. They can even say they’re running for one office in January and switch to another in May. But by the first full week of June, they have to file a form and pay 1 percent of the annual salary of the office they seek to be on the Aug. 17 primary ballot.
By Friday, Washington voters will know how many Republicans, independents and third-party candidates really want to take on U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, a three-term incumbent Democrat. More than a dozen announced, the most recent being former state Sen. Dino Rossi, a two-time candidate for governor, just 12 days ago. After Rossi got in, two others who had been campaigning actively, state Sen. Don Benton and physician Art Coday, got out.
Others, including Clint Didier, a former pro football star who farms near Connell, say they are staying in.
This year’s primary ballot is a mix of federal, state and local races, most of them partisan. All seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are up for election. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican representing Eastern Washington’s 5th Congressional District for a third term, is seeking re-election, and as of last week had no Democratic opponent. Randall Yearout from the Constitution Party, a crane operator and former saddle shop owner, plans to run.
Although the primary sends the two top vote-getters to the general election ballot regardless of party, that usually means one Democrat and one Republican face off in November.
Some of the more crowded races for state and local offices could reveal splits within the parties. For Democrats, that could result in challenges from activists who call themselves progressives, incumbents who didn’t support more taxes and fewer service cuts to balance the state’s budget, or unions unhappy with a lack of support for organized labor’s key issues. For Republicans, that may mean contests between a candidate with the backing of tea party activists or more libertarian members and one with more traditional or “mainstream” supporters.
The Spokane area currently has two active Republican groups endorsing candidates for local office: the official Spokane County Republican Party, which has leaders chosen by precinct committee officers elected in 2008 or appointed since then, and the separate Republicans of Spokane County. The county party has taken the unusual stance of backing a Republican challenger, Dave Stevens, against GOP incumbent Prosecutor Steve Tucker, and the two organizations are backing different challengers for county commission and at least one legislative race.
The legislative race is in Spokane’s 6th District, a traditional Republican stronghold that hadn’t elected a Democrat for about 70 years – when it elected two. Rep. John Driscoll faces a challenge from John Ahern, a longtime legislator who lost to Driscoll in 2008, and Shelly O’Quinn, a manager for Greater Spokane Inc. Ahern has the official party endorsement, O’Quinn the backing from the separate GOP group. Also in the 6th District, first-term Democratic Sen. Chris Marr faces Republican Mike Baumgartner, a local businessman.
Races for some open seats are already crowded. State Rep. Alex Wood, a Democrat in central Spokane’s 3rd District, is retiring, and at least three Democrats are looking to take the job: Bob Apple, Louise Chadez and Andy Billig, who has the local party’s endorsement. Other races with established incumbents in strongly partisan districts may have trouble drawing challengers: Wood’s Democratic seatmate, Timm Ormsby, has yet to draw a challenger; neither have Republican Reps. Matt Shea or Larry Crouse in the Valley’s strongly GOP 4th District, or Rep. Kevin Parker, the lone Republican in the 6th.
County Commissioner Bonnie Mager, a Democrat, has three announced Republican challengers, Al French, Jeff Holy and Steve Salvatori. Tucker has two other challengers, Republican Chris Bugby and Democrat Frank Malone. County Assessor Ralph Baker, a Republican, faces challenges from Republicans Terry Cook and Vicki Horton, Democrat Andy Jackson and independent Lori Wick.
Some county offices have only the incumbents as announced candidates – Auditor Vicky Dalton, Clerk Tom Fallquist, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich and Treasurer Skip Chilberg.
That’s all subject to change, however, until 5 p.m. Friday when filing week closes.
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