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Opinion >  Column

Spin Control: State GOP considering a write-in for lieutenant governor

Washington’s top two primary system has left state Republicans with a virtual hole in their campaign lineup which they are reportedly trying to fill.

The general election ballot for the lieutenant governor position will have two Democrats, Denny Heck and Marko Liias. But like all positions on the ballot, it will also have a space for a write-in.

Sources say the state GOP is looking to run a write-in candidate, although the challenge is apparently daunting. Just how daunting is hard to say because state party Chairman Caleb Heimlich has been unreachable by phone despite multiple messages.

Party Communications Director Kyle Fischer, however, confirmed that a write-in candidate for lieutenant governor is “definitely something we’re looking at.”

By law, it can’t be any of the candidates who ran for the post in the primary.

The state doesn’t give primary losers a do-over in the general, which is probably for the good of the body politic as well as sparing candidates a double loss to their fragile egos.

We also have backdoor confirmation of the discussions from Tim Eyman, who noted in an email fundraising pitch on Wednesday that state GOP leaders met early last week to discuss a write-in candidacy for lieutenant governor and that he decided not to put in for it.

Eyman was one of more than a dozen Republicans seeking the governor’s slot, and they aren’t banned from running for a different post.

The two offices are elected separately but to have even the thinnest ghost of a chance, a write-in for the number two slot would have to be compatible with gubernatorial candidate Loren Culp – and Culp with him or her – to draft in behind the top of the state Republican ticket like a bike racer at the Tour de France.

That could be a problem for any of Culp’s chief primary rivals, and the party is unlikely to draft someone like Goodspaceguy or Martin “the Iceman” Wheeler, who were farther down the list.

Also to have a chance, the write-in candidate can’t be a complete unknown who spends most of the next three months introducing themselves to voters. But getting an experienced candidate who is well-known statewide, someone like Dino Ross, could overshadow Culp, the police chief for the city of Republic, who has to spend some of his time and money boosting his name recognition.

It should also be someone who is willing to gamble on a long-shot proposition. Successful write-in campaigns are rare. Rob Chase mounted a successful write-in candidacy for Spokane County Treasurer in 2010. Linda Smith was a successful write-in for a 3rd Congressional District seat in 1994.

Both of those were primary campaigns, so they got enough votes – about 2,000 for Chase in an uncontested primary and about 34,000 for Smith in a crowded field – to qualify for the general election so their names didn’t have to be written in on the November ballot. A successful write-in campaign for a statewide general election in a presidential year, when more than 3 million ballots are likely to be cast, is a much bigger boulder to roll up the hill.

In other write-in news

Brendan O’Regan, the independent who finished fifth out of five in Eastern Washington’s 5th District congressional primary, was apparently so unfazed by his showing – 2% of the vote at latest tally – that he announced a write-in campaign for the general.

“The philosophy won’t change,” he wrote in an email. “No fundraising, signs, stickers etc. I will visit every community that is physically possible in the next three months.”

He hadn’t checked state law before sending the email. By the time we caught up with him, he had learned the law doesn’t allow him to file as a write-in for the seat.

But O’Regan, who had the added disadvantage of mounting his primary campaign for the Eastern Washington seat from Seattle, said he still plans “to go to every community that is physically possible” with what he calls a mock campaign.

To which we can only say that while the Eastern Washington district is larger than some states and some communities are remote, none are physically impossible to get to.

In unrelated news

To the doubtless excitement of space geeks everywhere, the Pentagon announced Friday it has established the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force “to improve its understanding of, and gain insight into, the nature and origins of UAPs.”

The military uses UAPs for what most of us know as UFOs. So anyone who doubts that UFOs are real will now have to explain why the Pentagon would set up a task force to study something that doesn’t exist.

It raises a question though. The Pentagon put the Navy in charge of the task force. Shouldn’t this be a job for the new Space Force?

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