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Wednesday, August 12, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Candidates get official this week

Some people who want your vote this fall have been campaigning for it for months.

You may think of them as candidates. Their donors may think of them as candidates. They may think of themselves as candidates.

But technically, they are not candidates. Not until sometime this week.

In Washington, would-be officeholders don’t file for their petitions of candidacy until the last week of July. By 5 p.m. Friday, everyone who wants to run for any non-partisan office or a major party’s slot on the November ballot has to have their papers filled out and their money turned in to the appropriate elections office.

There are plenty of positions to choose in Washington state, starting with a U.S. Senate seat and the state’s nine U.S. House seats.

There’s also the governorship and eight other statewide elected executive positions, three state Supreme Court positions, and in Spokane County, 12 Superior Court seats. There are 24 state Senate seats and 98 House of Representatives positions. Most counties, including Spokane, also have two spots on the board of county commissioners up for grabs.

With all those positions competing for the voters’ attention, it’s not surprising that some people start their campaigns early. Washington state also has one of the shortest formal campaign seasons – there’s just seven weeks until the state primary and another eight weeks after that to the general election – so conventional wisdom says a serious candidate must start months before filing week to gather enough support from voters and donors to have a chance.

So Washington voters have seen incumbent Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat, and her leading GOP challenger, Rep. George Nethercutt, making their cases since last year. Some candidates for Congress got into the race for the 5th District seat as soon as Nethercutt got into the Senate race.

Other races have been under way for so long that would-be candidates have come and gone. In the governor’s contest, for example, former Supreme Court Justice Phil Talmadge announced in late 2002 he would challenge incumbent and fellow Democrat Gary Locke, who hadn’t formally announced but seemed to be raising money like a real candidate.

When Locke announced he wasn’t running, Democrats Christine Gregoire and Ron Sims got in. Eventually, so did Republican Dino Rossi. This April, Talmadge dropped out after he was diagnosed with a tumor on his kidney.

Spokane’s County Commissioner races also went through some changes as Republican Kate McCaslin and Democrat John Roskelley announced they would not seek re-election. That prompted some scrambling within the parties, with one candidate, County Treasurer Linda Wolverton, announcing she’d seek Roskelley’s seat just last week.

The conventional wisdom about the need to start early can be wrong.

Last year, Jim West didn’t enter the Spokane mayor’s race until the second-to-last day of filing week, when the contest already had three fairly well-known aspirants, including incumbent John Powers. West went on to win.

In 1997, community activist John Talbott didn’t file for mayor until the final afternoon. He beat incumbent Jack Geraghty.

In 1964, a young Spokane attorney filled out his candidate paperwork so late that he had to race to the secretary of state’s office to file for Congress, and, because his car broke down, just barely arrived before the door was locked at 5 p.m. Tom Foley beat 11-term incumbent Rep. Walt Horan and went on to serve 15 terms in Congress.

For those still thinking about getting into one of the many races, the process is relatively straightforward.

Petitions of candidacy are filed at the county elections office for any race that is selected solely by voters within that county and at the secretary of state’s office in Olympia for everything else. That means that a legislative race for a district within Spokane County – 3rd, 4th or 6th districts – is handled at the building at Gardner and Monroe; paperwork for seats in the 7th and 9th districts, which spread over much of Eastern Washington, goes to Olympia.

Candidates must pay a filing fee which is equal to 1 percent of the annual salary. That ranges from $1,581 for the U.S. Senate or House to $335.56 for the Legislature.

Those who can’t afford to pay, or don’t want to pay, can instead file an equal number of signatures from registered voters within the district or area the office represents.

And if they haven’t been campaigning already, they’d need to start.

A complete list of candidates who have filed for election will appear in next Sunday’s Spokesman-Review.

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