by David Ammons | May 21st, 2012
Washington’s campaign season is officially underway, with hundreds of candidates signed up for 364 offices, from the U.S. Senate and statewide offices to key races that will determine control of the state Legislature and the future of 10 congressional districts.
Secretary of State Sam Reed said he was pleased with the remarkable rush of interest in state and local office, given the difficult problems facing Washington state and the sometimes harsh nature of modern campaigning and the unpredictable influence of powerful independent interest groups.
Reed said it may be a record for turnover of statewide, congressional and legislative offices. He predicted heavy voter interest in the upcoming campaigns and elections.
Last week was Filing Week at the State Elections Division and county election offices. Many candidates filed online, and others showed up in person for the time-honored ritual of rallying with supporters and using the official filing as an opportunity to try out campaign messages and fundraising. Monday was the final day for candidates to withdraw; the final list of candidates will be official on Tuesday.
Next stop is the Top 2 Primary.
Under the 2004 citizen initiative that created the new system, the two most popular candidates for each office will advance to the General Election, without regard to party label. Candidates designated their party preference last week, most selecting traditional Republican or Democratic Party as their preference. Some designated no party preference or listed a preference for a “party” that doesn’t exist at all, Independent GOP or (R) Hope&Change or Democratic-Repub Party.
The party preference doesn’t mean the party has endorsed or recognized the candidate. The Primary is a winnowing process, not a nominating process. No party is guaranteed a runoff spot; indeed some districts will have finalists from the same party preference.
Primary ballots go out by July 20, with a postmark or dropoff box return deadline of Aug. 7. The General Elections deadline is Nov. 6.
Large numbers of candidates lined up for most of the marquee races, although many races have clear frontrunners for the two runoff spots. Democrat Jay Inslee and Republican Rob McKenna have largely had the gubernatorial field to themselves for the past year. Democratic incumbent Chris Gregoire is stepping down after eight years in office. Three other statewide offices are guaranteed to turn over: Attorney General, Secretary of State, and Auditor.
Treasurer Jim McIntire, a Democrat, drew no opposition from either party, a rarity. Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell and Republican state Sen. Michael Baumgartner, were leaders among the crowd filing for the Senate seat.
Congressional races firmed up, including a sudden gusher of candidates who signed up for a one-month term remaining on Inslee’s term in the 1st District. Democratic State Chairman Dwight Pelz had hoped to clear the field for a temporary seatholder, Snohomish County Council Chairman Brian Sullivan, but Darcy Burner and other candidates jumped in on Friday. Sullivan said he’s staying in. The race will be decided by the old 1st District voters. The full two-year term will be filled by voters in the new 1st District drawn by the state Redistricting Commission.
Washington also is guaranteed two other new congressmen: in the newly awarded 10th District in central Puget Sound, and Norm Dicks’ successor in the 6th.
Legislative races also shaped up. The biggest surprise: the decision by Senate GOP budget Chairman Joe Zarelli to forgo another four-year term, and to anoint Rep. Ann Rivers as his favored successor.