Field is set for Washington's nine state executive blanket primaries
OLYMPIA, Washington: There are nine state executive offices up for election in Washington this year: governor, lieutenant governor, Washington, attorney general, treasurer, auditor, superintendent of public instruction, insurance commissioner and public lands commissioner.
Washington's August 7th primary election is not your typical partisan primary. Instead, they have a "Top 2" primary system, also known as a blanket primary, in which all candidates run in one race, regardless of party affiliation. Candidates may indicate which party they prefer, but their preference "does not imply that the candidate is nominated or endorsed by the party, or that the party approves of or associates with that candidate." The two candidates who receive the most votes then advance to the general election.
- Lt. Governor
- Attorney General
- Secretary of State
- Superintendent of Public Instruction
- Insurance Commissioner
- Public Lands Commissioner
Christine Gregoire, Washington's current governor, announced on June 13, 2011 she would not seek another term in office. Since Gregoire's departure, two candidates are the clear front-runners: former Congressman Jay Inslee (D) and current attorney general Rob McKenna (R). Inslee initially indicated he would hold his seat in Congress throughout the election cycle, but resigned on March 11th in order to focus on his campaign.
A general election between McKenna and Inslee is all but a foregone conclusion. The two have been within a few points of one another in nearly every major poll (all of which exclude any other candidate) and Politico has ranked this race - specifically between McKenna and Inslee - the 3rd most competitive gubernatorial contest of 2012.
Inslee, an attorney by trade, served in the Washington House of Representatives for four years before joining the U.S. Congress. He left the House and made an unsuccessful bid for governor in 1996, after which he was appointed regional director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services by President Clinton. He was re-elected to the U.S. House where he served until his resignation earlier this year. McKenna began his political career in 1995, when he won a seat on the King County Council. He was re-elected twice and in 2004 ran successfully for Attorney General of Washington.
The main priority of each candidate, not surprisingly, is job creation. McKenna touts the series of small business roundtables he held as attorney general. After hearing from small business owners from around the state, he refocused his jobs plan and believes employers need "regulatory certainty, tax and paperwork simplification, a skilled workforce, affordable workers comp and unemployment, and changed attitudes in Olympia." Inslee also wants to change the culture of Olympia and pledges his will be a "jobs-and-economy administration." He encourages growth in manufacturing, clean energy, high tech, biotech, agriculture and aerospace.
Other candidates seeking the state's top office include:
- Rob Hill (D) "said he would run on the single issue of gradually increasing Washington's tobacco tax by $10 per cigarette pack."
- Shahram Hadian (R) has worked as a Christian pastor, police officer, teacher and coach. He is currently a public speaker and runs the Truth in Love Project, dedicated to speaking the "truth in love on a variety of critical issues facing our nation, including: the threat of radical Islam and oppressive Shari'ah Law in America, the importance of civic engagement, protecting our Constitution and the rule of law from application of foreign law, national security and standing with the nation of Israel." He credits his run for governor to the "moral, economic and national security crisis" currently facing his state and nation.
- Javier Lopez (R), a gubernatorial candidate in 2008, would eliminate the state's regressive tax system.
- Max Sampson (R)
- Dale Sorgen, an independent candidate who identifies as a constitutional conservative, is neither asking for nor accepting campaign contributions. He believes "the enormous amounts of money that flow into the election process for the candidates on both of the ruling political sides has only served to corrupt and distort the needs of most of the average working people." He calls himself "just an average, hard-working, tax-paying citizen" and has never held public office.
- James White, running as an independent candidate, is a plane inspector for Boeing.
- Christian Joubert, the third of the lesser-known candidates who also ran in 2008, is again running on a holistic platform. He believes "the governor's first job is to help lead the State community back to holistic health, to teach how to be healthy, as health is the most important resource of the Nation, without which individual freedoms are meaningless."
Incumbent Brad Owen (D) is seeking re-election. His two most likely competitors in November's general election are Glenn Anderson (R), a state Representative who was first elected in 2000, and former state Senator Bill Finkbeiner.
Owen had an early fundraising lead, but Anderson has been openly critical of Owen's tenure, noting "he's been in office for 16 years and so far, there's not a lot to show for it."
To be fair, the office of lieutenant governor in Washington is notoriously weak. The primary duties are to assume command in the absence of the governor and to preside over the Washington State Senate. Owen has focused his energies on combating substance abuse and working for its prevention. He was knighted by King Juan Carlos of Spain in 2008 "in recognition of more than 15 years working with the country's government on projects related to Washington." Anderson, who is the first to admit the lack of power for the lieutenant governor, said he would use his position to "advocate for creating jobs, and funding and reforming education."
Other candidates running for the office include:
- Mark Greene, the "Common Man's" candidate, wants to start a state bank, supports workers' rights, identifies the environment as a "necessary priority" and is against the privatization of government services."
- Dave T. Sumner IV of the Neopopulist Party
- James Robert Deal is a "semi-retired" bankruptcy attorney
- Reagan Dunn was appointed to the King County Council in 2005 to fill the vacancy created by current Attorney General Rob McKenna (R), who left the Council upon his election as Attorney General. Dunn was then elected in November, 2005 and re-elected in 2009 with 78% of the vote. On his official campaign website, Dunn said his mission is "to use the power of the office to increase public safety – in schools, at work, in our homes and in our neighborhoods." The self-described fiscal conservative cites reducing reduction "millions of dollars wasted in settlement payouts by keeping state agencies from being sued in the first place" as one of his chief priorities for the office - something he, as a former private practice attorney experienced in advising both private companies and local governments on proper risk management , believes himself uniquely capable of achieving. In a departure from standard party lines, Dunn told the Seattle press in January that he was backing efforts to support gay marriage legislation as a King County Councilman and would do the same if elected attorney general.
- Republican Stephen Pidgeon is a member of the United States Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. He also is active in the private sector, where his work centers around Christian-values and Bible advocacy. Pidgeon is the CEO of BiblePlex.com, and the founder of DecaLogos International and The Faith Coalition, a Washington group that promotes the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. A religious theme underlines Pidgeon's candidacy, as illustrated through the list of priorities provided on his campaign website; among the list, he cites “protecting the rights of street evangelists to distribute flyers on public sidewalks and citizen journalists to freely assemble, keeping churches from being zoned out of selected areas of Washington cities, and protecting pastors from persecution.”
- One Democratic candidate, Bob Ferguson, has also filed for the office. Ferguson is a Washington native and current King County Councilman. So far, his campaign has focused on some major issues he would expect to face if elected attorney general, such as defending consumers against fraud, veteran care, and environmental protection. Ferguson's political background includes three terms, representing two districts, on the King County Council. Since his first election in 2003, in which he ran a grassroots campaign resulting in the ousting of a 20 year incumbent, he has distinguished himself as a leader in creating reforms for increased government transparency and accountability of elected officials to taxpayers.
Records at the state Public Disclosure Commission reveal that Ferguson has raised about $13,000 more than his Dunn, his fellow King County Councilman and presumptive general election opponent, as of the filing deadline. Early polls indicate a toss up between Dunn and Ferguson, with approximately one third of those polled reporting as undecided.
Kim Wyman began her campaign in June, 2011, well in advance of the May filing date for Washington. The Thurston County Auditor (2001-present) was the first to enter the race after current secretary Sam Reed, fellow moderate Republican and longtime officeholder, announced he would be retiring after this term. Wyman has overseen many successful elections in her 20 years auditing, including a stint auditing under Secretary Reed. Wyman says she would be behind any legislation to increase voter-ID requirements.
On the Democratic end, three hopefuls have submitted their nominating petitions with the secretary of state since the filing window opened on May 14:
- Former state Senator Kathleen Drew (D) announced her candidacy on November 14, 2011. Her husband, Steve Drew, is the Assessor for Thurston County, where Wyman, her prospective general opponent, serves as Auditor. As laid out on her campaign website, Drew's campaign platform is to "ensure impartial and fair elections, streamline services, and increase community and civic engagement." She boasts "over 25 years experience as a results-oriented, effective public service manager for the people of Washington State." Drew, who currently serves as adviser for Gov. Christine Gregoire(D), wants to increase voter registration and "oppose efforts to suppress or discourage any groups or individuals from voting."
- Senator Jim Kastama of Puyallup has served in the Washington State Senate since 2001. Previously, Kastama served in the Washington State House of Representatives from 1996 to 2000. Capitalizing on his resume as a legislator, Kastama has been on the campaign trail for months talking to voters about his plans to apply "the same practicality, ingenuity, and boldness that has defined my sixteen years in the State Legislature," to the job of secretary of state. He cites raising voter confidence and youth registration as priorities for the office, as well as modernizing the office through new technologies.
- Former Mayor of Seattle Greg Nickels is also seeking a place on the general election ballot. The once popular mayor says he is ready to return to public office. He is running on a belief that Washington needs its secretary of state "to be strong voice for transparency, who advocates for keeping the citizens initiative process a tool for citizens," and limited the influence of corporations and special interests. In that vein, Nickels is calling for tighter limits on political contributions by corporations. As mayor, Nickels was referred to as the "Pied Piper" for his work establishing and an organization dedicated to climate protection, to which he recruited 1,000 mayors from across the nation; his efforts earned him the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Climate Protection Award in 2006.
Since the office is fundamentally responsible for managing elections, all of the candidates are campaigning heavily how they believe they can improve Washington's voting system. There is support among the entire group for trading in the state's current paper based system, wherein data is entered by hand, for a more efficient and accurate electronic system.
Also vying for the open seat, two third party candidates - Sam Wright of the Human Rights Party, and Karen Murray of the Constitution Party - and one unaffiliated candidate - David J. Anderston - have filed for the secretary of state election this year.
Washington has a top-two primary system, in which the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, go on to the general election.
First elected in 2008, Democratic incumbent James McIntire is seeking re-election as Washington Treasurer. No candidates have filed to run against him and barring any unforeseen circumstances, he is guaranteed re-election in November. His goals for a second term include improving the state's long-term debt fluctuations and detailing the future monetary needs of the state.
Democratic Washington State Auditor Brian Sonntag did not seek re-election. Having served in the seat for 20 years, with a total of 35 years in elected office, he announced last September that it was the right time for him "to transition to new leadership." Four candidates are seeking to replace him, three of whom are current Democratic state legislators.
- State representative Troy Kelley (D) has served District 28a since 2007. A small business owner and JAG lieutenant colonel for the Washington National Guard, Kelley stated, "Our ability to focus state government on our top priorities like education depends on our ability to manage budgets responsibly. I believe the best way I can ensure that happens is by applying my background in auditing and business to make certain our tax dollars are used as efficiently as possible.”
- State representative Mark Miloscia (D) was the first to declare in the race. He has represented District 30 since 1999. An Air Force Academy engineering graduate with a Masters in Clinical Psychology, he currently works as a substitute teacher. In announcing his bid for Auditor, Miloscia stated, “I have been auditing and reviewing private and public sector organizations for 25 years. I cut my teeth auditing different Boeing programs—I know what to look for, and I won't tolerate poor performance. I know what agencies and programs must do to be effective and efficient and I don't hesitate to act on poor performance.”
- State Senator Craig Pridemore (D) has represented District 49 since 2005. Prior to joining the Senate, Pridemore served for six years as a Clark County commissioner and has been CFO for the Clark County Department of Public Works. Calling himself “a fiscal hawk and social progressive,” Pridemore said, “I'll bring hands-on auditing experience, an eye for detail, and expertise in the functioning of state and local governments to this important office.”
- Along with being the only non-legislator in the race, James Watkins is also the only Republican running. Watkins, a business consultant, was originally running for Washington's 1st Congressional District in 2012, but withdrew in January. Joining the Auditor's race in early March, he said, “I'm running to continue and strengthen the dedication to government accountability, fiscal responsibility and open, effective government championed by outgoing State Auditor Brian Sonntag. With our state government mired in an ongoing financial crisis, maintaining an independent, effective State Auditor is a top priority for voters.”
- Perennial candidate John Patterson Blair sought the office of Superintendent in 2004 and 2008. He came in fourth place in the 2008 primary with 7.46% of the vote.
- Don Hansler, a retired teacher, also ran for the office in 2008. He took third place in the primary with 8.98% of the vote. Retiring in 1982, Hansler went on to write a textbook on teaching and worked as an adjunct professor at Seattle Pacific University. He has said, “Most of my ideas are unconventional. A few people call them radical.” These include establishing a teacher bonus system based on parent evaluations and limiting state-mandated testing to grades five, eight and 11.
- James Bauckman is a teacher and school administrator. His campaign website states that he is running “in order to put into practice what he has learned from working at a variety of different school models and building a school community based on best practices he has observed and studied throughout his career and education.”
- Perennial Republican candidate John R. Adams has sought the office of Insurance Commissioner in 2004 and 2008. Kriedler defeated Adams in the 2008 general election by a margin of 61.4% to 38.6%.
- Scott Reilly is the owner of Wall's Training, a business that teaches people how to become insurance agents and stockbrokers. He has worked in the insurance industry for over 30 years.
- Brian C. Berend is running as an Independent. Little information is currently available about him.
Incumbent Democrat Peter Goldmark was first elected as Washington Commissioner of Public Lands in 2008, winning by just over 1 percent of the vote. Seeking his second term in office, Goldmark will face Stephen Sharon (No party preference) and former NFL player Clint Didier (R) in the August 7th primary.
- Washington state executive official elections, 2012
- Washington gubernatorial election, 2012
- Washington lieutenant gubernatorial election, 2012
- Washington attorney general election, 2012
- Washington secretary of state election, 2012
- Washington elections, 2012
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