Washington voters can hardly complain about having too few choices in their candidates for federal and state offices.
The primary ballots sitting somewhere in most voters’ homes – and state elections officials say only about one in eight had been turned in as of Friday – have 17 choices for U.S. senator, 11 for governor, 11 for lieutenant governor and five for the U.S. representative in Eastern Washington’s 5th District.
Many are unfamiliar names. Some represent unknown parties. Most will be eliminated after the ballots are counted Tuesday in a state primary that sends the top two finishers, regardless of their listed party, to the November general election.
The offices are important. Here’s a rundown:
U.S. Senate: Democrat Patty Murray, a 24-year veteran of the chamber, faces 16 challengers – three from her own party, four Republicans, three independents and the rest from a potpourri of minor parties sometimes so small they are the creation of the candidate. Murray’s prime opponent is Republican Chris Vance, a former legislator, King County councilman and state GOP chairman, who accuses her of being too partisan and part of congressional gridlock. She counters by pointing out she worked with House GOP leader Paul Ryan on a budget deal and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., on major education reforms.
Earlier this year, Vance angered some Republicans by refusing to support Donald Trump, and stuck to his position after the billionaire businessman became the party’s nominee. Other Republicans in the race have tried to court Trump voters, hoping a boost from that group and a split among the many candidates in a low-turnout election could help them finish second.
U.S. House, Washington’s 5th District: Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a 12-year incumbent, faces three repeat challengers plus a new foe. Democrat Joe Pakootas, Republican Tom Horne and independent Dave Wilson all ran in 2014, with Pakootas moving to the general election that year. This year Libertarian Krystol McGee also is in the mix.
McMorris Rodgers is the fourth-ranking Republican in the House, which helps with a campaign fund that was nearly $2.5 million by mid-July. Wilson and Pakootas, who argue that Congress isn’t working, each have about one-twentieth of that amount but are ahead of where they were in 2014.
Washington governor: Seeking a second term, Democrat Jay Inslee faces businessman and Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant and nine others. Some are perennial candidates with an issue to grind, like Goodspaceguy, who occupies the top spot on the ballot for this race; others are mainly making a statement, like Mary Martin, the Socialist Workers Party candidate trying to spread the message of workers over capitalists. Voters will have to wade through the full list to get to the major parties’ top choices. By the luck of the draw, Inslee and Bryant, their state parties’ picks, are at the end of the line.
Lieutenant governor: The race for the open seat generated unusually high interest in the state’s No. 2 executive job. One of the tasks of the lieutenant governor is presiding over the state Senate, and three Democratic state senators from Western Washington – Karen Fraser, Cyrus Habib and Steve Hobbs – jumped into the race to replace fellow Democrat Brad Owen, who made it official at the end of this year’s session that he was retiring after 20 years. Republicans include businessman and former journalist Phillip Yin of Bellevue, University Place Mayor Javier Figueroa and Seattle Christian radio talk show host Marty McClendon.
Public Lands commissioner: Incumbent Peter Goldmark is stepping down, which led to a seven-candidate scramble to replace him. Former Spokane Mayor Mary Verner, who now serves as a top official in the Department of Natural Resources, is one of five Democrats on a ballot with a mixture of those stressing environmental concerns and those who want the office to take a more businesslike approach.
The incumbent state auditor, treasurer and superintendent of public instruction also are leaving at the end of the year, generating larger competition for those posts.
State Supreme Court: Three incumbents are seeking re-election, but only Chief Justice Barbara Madsen has more than one challenger and is on the primary ballot. A member of the high court since 1992, Madsen has been chief justice since 2009. She faces a challenge from Kittitas County Prosecutor Greg Zempel, one of a slate of challengers who say the court has become too political and is backed by critics of the McCleary public education decisions. Also on the ballot is “Zamboni” John Scannell, who was disbarred in 2010 but was reinstated for some federal courts in 2012; he gets his nickname from driving the ice-smoothing machine for the Seattle hockey team. The top two finishers for this seat join the two-person contests for the other seats in November.
All local partisan elections are on the primary ballot, but only those with at least three candidates will change for the general election. They include:
3rd District State House: Timm Ormsby, a labor council business representative and 14-year veteran who is expected to be House Appropriations Committee chairman if Democrats keep control of the House, faces Republican Laura Carder, a symphony violinist who volunteers for Meals on Wheels, and Libertarian Paul Delaney, a real estate salesman.
6th District State House: An open seat in this traditionally Republican district has three from the GOP – Samuel Canty, who owns Nothing Bundt Cakes in Spokane, Ian Field, a former aide to congresswoman McMorris Rodgers, and Mike Volz, the chief deputy Spokane County treasurer – plus Democrat Lynnette Vehrs, a retired nurse and nursing instructor, and Barry Pfundt, an attorney with the Center for Justice and adjunct law school faculty, who lists no political preference.
9th District State House: Republican Mary Dye, a Pomeroy farmer appointed and then elected to the seat last year, seeks a full term, challenged by Republican Hailey Roemer, a recent WSU graduate with a degree in political science and international business, and Democrat Jennifer Goulet, who works at the federal training center in Pasco.
Spokane County commissioner District 1: Republican Nancy McLaughlin, a former Spokane city councilwoman appointed to an open seat earlier this year, faces fellow Republican Josh Kerns, a legislative aide, and Spokane City Councilwoman Candace Mumm, a Democrat.
Mailed ballots must be postmarked by Tuesday or, for those wanting to save a stamp, deposited in drop boxes before 8 p.m. that evening.
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