If the Washington primary were a horse race, as politics is sometimes described, voters and candidates would be rounding the final turn and galloping into the home stretch.
For voters, it’s decision time. For scores of candidates, it’s make-or-break time.
The primary ballot, which was mailed to all registered voters in the state more than two weeks ago, must either be deposited in a drop box or postmarked by 8 p.m. Tuesday. The return envelopes don’t need a stamp; the taxpayers are covering that.
Ballot return statistics from the state elections office show that while returns are running significantly ahead of the 2016 state primary, only about one in five ballots had been returned as of Friday afternoon.
Even with the expected influx of ballots marked, signed and mailed over the weekend, the majority of ballots are probably still out.
U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is seeking her ninth term in Congress, with challenges from fellow Republican Stephen Major, Democrat Dave Wilson and independent Brendan O’Regan. Democrat Chris Armitage, the first name on the list, announced shortly after the ballots were mailed out that he was withdrawing from the race, although under state law votes cast for him will still be counted and his name would be on the November ballot if he finishes first or second.
Washington’s top two primary isn’t a partisan election, so the candidates with the most and second-most votes advance to the general, regardless of the party “preference” they state when filing for office.
The ballot has a record 36 candidates for governor, with incumbent Democrat Jay Inslee facing challenges from 15 Republicans of some stripe or another, four members of his own party and a wide spectrum of minor party candidates or those who have no party preference.
But of the 35 challengers, only five Republicans have raised a significant enough amount of money to make them viable in a statewide race: former Bothell mayor Joshua Freed, Republic Police Chief Loren Culp, perennial initiative sponsor Tim Eyman, Yakima physician Raul Garcia and state Sen. Phil Fortunato.
The race for lieutenant governor is not quite as crowded with a mere 11 candidates seeking to replace Cyrus Habib, who is leaving office after one term to study to become a Jesuit priest. The field includes U.S. Rep. Denny Heck of Olympia and state Sen. Marko Liias of Seattle, both Democrats, and Republicans Ann Davison Sattler, a Seattle attorney, former state Rep. Dick Muri of Steilacoom and radio talk show host Marty McClendon, of Gig Harbor, who was Habib’s opponent in 2016.
Incumbents are seeking re-election in the other seven statewide offices, which reduced the number of challengers significantly, but voters will still have to turn their ballots over to mark all those races.
In Spokane County, voters also have choices in their legislative districts. The 4th District races have attracted the most attention because incumbent Rep. Matt Shea did not file for re-election, fellow Republican Rep. Bob McCaslin switched seats when he filed and former County Treasurer Rob Chase filed for McCaslin’s old seat. That prompted Republicans Leonard Christian and Mike Conrad to switch seats as well, while Democrats Lori Feagan and Lance Gurel stayed put in the races they filed for. Each also race has a third Republican, Dave Whitehead for Position 1 and Nathan Sybrandy for Position 2.
The 4th District Senate race features longtime incumbent Mike Padden, a Republican, former County Commissioner John Roskelley, a Democrat, and newcomer Ann Marie Danimus, an independent.
The only other legislative primary in Spokane-area districts with more than two candidates is in the 6th District, where Democrats Tom McGarry and Christian McLachlan are challenging freshman Rep. Jenny Graham, a Republican.
Two of the three county commissioners also are seeking re-election, with only a single challenger each. Fire districts 2 and 10 are asking their voters to approve EMS levies.
Washington residents who are eligible to vote but not registered can sign up and casts a ballot at the county Elections Office, 1033 W. Gardner, before 4 p.m. Monday or before 8 p.m. Tuesday. Replacement ballots can also be issued at the Elections Office.
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