Election preview: "Top-two" nominations await Washington's state executive primaries

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August 6, 2012

By Ballotpedia's state executive team


OLYMPIA, Washington: Tomorrow is Election Day in Washington state! Unlike many partisan primaries, Washington uses 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."[1] The two candidates who receive the most votes then advance to the general election.

But the Evergreen State's primary election is non-traditional in more ways than one.

Voters in Washington do not physically go to a polling place to cast their votes. Voting takes place via mail - ballots are mailed out to voters at least 18 days before each election and in order to be counted, ballots must be:

  • postmarked no later than Election Day; or
  • returned to a designated ballot drop box by 8 p.m. on Election Day;
  • returned in person to the county elections department by 8 p.m. on Election Day

This year, there are nine state executive offices up for election in Washington: governor, lieutenant governor, Washington, attorney general, treasurer, auditor, superintendent of public instruction, insurance commissioner and public lands commissioner.

Of the nine primaries, only one is completely uncontested: the race for treasurer. Incumbents are seeking re-election in five of the nine offices.[2] For each of the races, candidates are listed in the order in which they will appear on the ballot, according to Washington's lot draw system.[3]


After two terms as governor, Gregoire (D) is retiring at the end of her term.

Democratic Party Rob Hill (Prefers Democratic Party)
Republican Party Rob McKenna (Prefers Republican Party)
Democratic Party Jay Inslee (Prefers Democratic Party)
Independent James White (Prefers Independent Party)
Christian Joubert (States No Party Preference)
Republican Party Shahram Hadian (Prefers Republican Party)
Independent L. Dale Sorgen (Prefers Independent Party)
Republican Party Max Sampson (Prefers Republican Party)
Republican Party Javier Lopez (Prefers Republican Party)

Incumbent Christine Gregoire (D) announced on June 13, 2011 she would not seek another term in office.[4] Since Gregoire's departure, two candidates have emerged as the clear front-runners: former Congressman Jay Inslee (D) and current state attorney general Rob McKenna (R). Barring a huge upset at the polls tomorrow, they will face each other in the general election. Inslee initially indicated he would hold his seat in Congress throughout the election cycle, but resigned on March 11th in order to focus on the campaign.[5]

General election polls have had mostly McKenna leading since October 2011, but by an average margin of just four points, with at least three times that many voters still undecided.[6][7]

There are seven other candidates in the primary line-up, including Shahram Hadian, Javier Lopez and Max Sampson (who all prefer the Republican Party); Rob Hill (who prefers the Democratic party); and Dale Sorgen (who prefers the Independent Party),[8] but the primary race seems to be a mere formality, with all eyes looking to a McKenna-Inslee showdown in November.

Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen (D) will defend his seat against five challengers in the 2012 primary election.

Republican Party Glenn Anderson (Prefers Republican Party)
Democratic Party Brad Owen (Prefers Democratic Party) Incumbent
James Robert Deal (States No Party Preference)
Republican Party Bill Finkbeiner (Prefers Republican Party)
Dave T. Sumner IV (Prefers Neopopulist Party)
Mark Greene (Prefers Democracy Independent Party)

One of the primary responsibilities of the lieutenant governor is to preside over the Washington State Senate. Incumbent Brad Owen (D) has been in office for the last 16 years. His strongest challengers heading into the primary are former state Rep. Bill Finkbeiner, who has centered his campaign on a promise to "work to change the culture of the Senate and make our government more open to the public,"[9] and Glenn Anderson, a current member of the Washington House of Representatives.

Both Anderson and Finkbeiner believe Owen hasn't done enough to cross the aisle and encourage cooperation between the two major political parties. Owen has defended his more hands off approach to the politics of the Senate, noting "you get to a point where you start sticking your nose in and your effectiveness as a presiding officer diminishes rapidly."[10]

The three other candidates who are in the primary have indicated they do not expect to finish in one of the top two spots and are using their candidacies as an opportunity to highlight issues that are important to them.[10] Those candidates include:

  • James Robert Deal, who does not indicate a party preference, is an attorney who believes "the state needs to raise the minimum wage to $12 and implement a tax on high income-earners to fund education" and advocates for higher quality drinking water across the state.[10]
  • Mark Greene, founder of the Party of Commons, is running on a pro-environment platform and "wants mandatory labeling of genetically modified food, the phasing out of nuclear energy and further protections for the environment."[10]
  • Dave T. Sumner IV, who prefers the Neopopulist Party is a self-described "electro-goth and rap recording artist, lobbyist and a Satanist who founded the Haunted Church."[10]

Republican incumbent attorney general Rob Mckenna is seeking the governorship in 2012.

Democratic Party Bob Ferguson (Prefers Democratic Party)
Republican Party Reagan Dunn (Prefers Republican Party)
Republican Party Stephen Pidgeon (Prefers Republican Party)

The race to replace two term Republican incumbent Rob McKenna as Attorney General of Washington features three primary candidates in 2012, all of whom stated party preferences. Per Washington's almost unique top-two primary system, Democrat Bob Ferguson will join Republicans Reagan Dunn and Stephen Pidgeon on the primary ballot on August 7, when voters from all parties will nominate (you guessed it) two candidates for the chance to compete in November for the state's third most visible post, known for launching its ambitious occupants into higher office. Outgoing governor Chris Gregoire preceded McKenna as attorney general and previous three term officeholder Slade Gorton parlayed the role into a seat in the U.S. Senate. The state's top cop oversees more than 1,100 people, including 525 attorneys. The current two-year budget for the office is about $229 million.[11]

Reagan Dunn was appointed to the King County Council in 2005 to fill McKenna's seat after his election as attorney general in 2004. Dunn was then elected in November, 2005 and re-elected in 2009 with 78% of the vote.[12] 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. He touts his record as a federal prosecutor in Seattle and as a consistent supporter of measures to limit government as a Councilman as reasons to elect him attorney general.

Along party lines, Dunn is in favor of increased voter-ID legislation and unrestricted Second Amendment rights.[13] Also notable is his ability to diverge from those 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.[14]

Ferguson is a Washington native and fellow King County Councilman. In fact, he and Dunn sit next to each other on the King County Council. 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.[15]

Dunn and Ferguson are presumed to advance to the general election. They are both rising stars within their respective parties and have demonstrated strong fundraising abilities throughout the campaign season. While both have raised upward of $1 million since the first reporting period, Dunn ended this most recent period with almost $500,000 more cash on hand than his Democratic opponent, owing disproportionately high expenditures from Ferguson's campaign. The two have engaged in debates since the filing deadline - crowning himself the winner each time - in which they highlighted their different legal backgrounds and traded personal jabs about performances on the Council. Dunn's history as a prosecutor informs his stance that the responsibility of attorney general is heavy on criminal litigation; Ferguson's history as a private practice attorney specializing in civil cases informs his own that the office is almost entirely dedicated to "civil matters."[11] Each has attracted endorsements from his respective party's leadership in Washington, for example Gregoire has endorsed Ferguson, and McKenna has endorsed Dunn.

Also on the ballot is ultra conservative Republican Stephen Pidgeon. Pidgeon is a member of the United States Supreme Court Bar and has been admitted to practice in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. He has appeared before both of those courts, "all federal courts in Washington and most Superior Courts."[16] He also is active in the private sector, where his work as a business executive 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.”[17] Pidgeon is the most polarizing of the candidates in the 2012 attorney general race; During an interview on a conservative radio show, Pidgeon told the host that if Obama is re-elected, “You will be under the tyranny of the iron fist of an Islamic caliphate.”[18]

Sam Reed (R) is retiring at the end of his term. He was first elected secretary of state in 2000.

Democratic Party Jim Kastama (Prefers Democratic Party)
David J. Anderson (States No Party Preference)
Sam Wright (Prefers The Human Rights Party)
Karen Murray (Prefers Constitution Party)
Democratic Party Kathleen Drew (Prefers Democratic Party)
Republican Party Kim Wyman (Prefers Republican Party)
Democratic Party Greg Nickels (Prefers Democratic Party)

Incumbent secretary Sam Reed (R) announced in 2011 that he would not be running for another term in 2011. In the immediate aftermath, Thurston County Auditor Kim Wyman (2001-present) became the first of what would grow to a seven candidate field to emerge in the race to replace him.[19] Wyman has overseen many successful elections in her 20 years auditing, including a stint auditing under Secretary Reed.[20] Wyman says she would be behind any legislation to increase voter-ID requirements.[20]

Fellow challenger Kathleen Drew is a former state senator. (D) 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."[21] She boasts "over 25 years experience as a results-oriented, effective public service manager for the people of Washington State."[21] 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."[22]

Senator Jim Kastama of Puyallup has served in the Washington State Senate since 2001. Previously, Kastama served in the Washington 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.[23] He cites raising voter confidence and youth registration as priorities for the office, as well as modernizing the office through new technologies.[23]

Former Mayor of Seattle Greg Nickels is also seeking the office this year. 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.[24]

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 candidate with no declared party preference, David J. Anderston, will appear on the primary ballot for secretary of state.[25]

Based on fundraising figures and strength of endorsements, Wyman will likely earn a general election slot tomorrow. As to who will fill the other slot, Drew, Kastama and Nickels could all eek out a win without raising eyebrows.

Incumbent McIntire is seeking a second term

Democratic Party James McIntire Incumbent

Democratic incumbent James McIntire was first elected Treasurer of Washington in 2008. He is unopposed in the primary and general election in his bid for a second term. Thus, barring any unforeseen circumstances, McIntire will hold the office for another four years. He previously served in the Washington House of Representatives from 1999 - 2008.[26]

Democratic PartyTroy Kelley (Prefers Democratic Party)
Republican PartyJames Watkins (Prefers Republican Party)
Democratic PartyMark Miloscia (Prefers Democratic Party)
Democratic PartyCraig Pridemore (Prefers Democratic Party)

With incumbent Brian Sonntag (D) not seeking re-election, four candidates, three of whom currently serve in the state legislature, are trying to replace him as Washington State Auditor. Sonntag has served in the position since 1993. State Auditors in Washington have not been ones to give up their positions easily - since 1933 only three people have held the office.[27]

  • Troy Kelley is a Democratic state representative, holding the District 28a seat since 2007. Kelley's re-election to the House in 2010 made headlines as he spent the most per vote of all of the 237 candidates who ran. It is thought that his high spending could play a role in the race. Early in his career, Kelley led audit teams at the Securities and Exchange Commission and did audits at First American Title Insurance Company.[28]
  • Mark Miloscia is also a Democratic state representative. He has represented District 30 since 1999. During his career, Miloscia performed audits of contractors while in the military, and has audited state agencies, hospitals, colleges and small businesses. "I've been in this audit business for over 25 years, and I've been passionate about trying to make Washington state the best run, most efficient, effective, responsible government," he stated.[27]
  • Craig Pridemore is a Democratic state Senator, representing District 49 since 2005. He currently serves as chairman of the Joint Legislative Audit Review Committee and the Senate Government Operations Committee. Earlier in his career he served as finance manager for Clark County public works and was an administrator for a private sector accounting firm.[29]
  • James Watkins is the only Republican in the race as well as the only candidate who is not currently serving in the state legislature. Watkins currently works for Microsoft as a Manager and Business Development Consultant. He previously worked as a troubleshooter for the Federal Deposit insurance Corporation (FDIC) from 1991-1995.[30] Earlier in the year he was running in the 2012 election for the U.S. House, representing Washington's 1st District.[31], but withdrew in January.[31]

Incumbent Dorn is seeking a second term in office

First elected in 2008, current Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn is taking a shot at re-election. While he has four challengers for the nonpartisan office, Dorn is the only candidate who has raised money to support his campaign and is seeking to defeat all four by a wide enough margin to avoid a general election.[32]

  • Perennial candidate John Patterson Blair sought the office of Superintendent in 2004[33] and 2008.[34] He came in fourth place in the 2008 primary with 7.46% of the vote.[35]
  • 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.[35] Retiring in 1982, Hansler went on to write a textbook on teacher 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.[36]
  • James Bauckman is a teacher and school administrator. His campaign website states that Bauckman 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.”[37]
  • Ronald Higgins is a retired engineer who works as a substitute teacher. A one issue candidate, Higgins is pushing for the return of teaching civics in the classroom. Not expecting to win, he stated, "Hopefully someone will plagiarize all my good ideas."[32]

Incumbent Kreidler is seeking a fourth term

Republican PartyJohn R. Adams
Democratic Party Mike Kreidler Incumbent
Republican PartyScott Reilly
IndependentBrian C. Berend

Democratic Washington Commissioner of Insurance Mike Kreidler was first elected in 2000 and re-elected to subsequent four-year terms in 2004 and 2008. He is facing three challengers:

  • Perennial Republican candidate John R. Adams has sought the office of Insurance Commissioner in 2004[38] and 2008.[39] Kriedler defeated Adams in the 2008 general election by a margin of 61.4% to 38.6%.[40] Adams has said he wants to bring in more insurance carriers in order to increase competition and give customers more choices.[41]
  • 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.[42] A major issue for Reilly is encouraging companies to move to the state by creating a more business friendly environment.[41]
  • Brian C. Berend is an insurance agent and running as an Independent. Berend stated, “The entire purpose of the office is to regulate insurance. And my vision of the insurance commissioner’s office is to bring it back to the independent, executive position it was meant to be, focusing on, protecting and educating the people of this state about all kinds of insurance."[43]

Incumbent Goldmark is in search of a second term

Independent Stephen Sharon No party preference
Democratic Party Peter Goldmark Incumbent
Republican Party Clint Didier

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, it initially looked like Goldmark would sail through the election without major party opposition, but two hours before the filing deadline Republican Clint Didier threw his hat into the ring.

Didler, a rancher and former NFL player, is a favorite of the Tea Party. Regarding the office he stated, "This is way too important to be mismanaged. These lands are not being managed in a husband-like manner. We are not producing optimum revenues for school systems."[44]

Also in the race is Stephen Sharon, who is running without a party preference. Sharon describes himself as a conservationist and is not spending any money on the campaign other than the filing fee.[45]

See also


  1. Washington Secretary of State, "Election & Voting: Top 2 primary," accessed May 18, 2012
  2. '"Washington Secretary of State, 2012 candidates who have filed, accessed May 19, 2012
  3. Washington Secretary of State, "2012 candidates appearing in the primary," accessed May 24, 2012
  4. The Washington Governor's website, "Gov. Gregoire's statement on future plans," June 13, 2011
  5. Huffington Post, "Jay Inslee, Washington Conressman, resigning to focus on gubernatorial campaign," March 10, 2012
  6. Public Policy Polling, October 2011
  7. SurveyUSA/KING 5 News "Dead heat in WA governor race," July 2012
  8. Washington Secretary of State, "2012 candidates who have filed," accessed May 18, 2012
  9. Bill Finkbeiner.org, "Our reform agenda," accessed May 24, 2012
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 The Republic, "A crowded field seeks to oust Washington Lt. Gov. Brad Owen after 16 years in office," July 21, 2012
  11. 11.0 11.1 San Francisco Chronicle, "Ferguson and Dunn spar over attorney general's role," July 26, 2012
  12. Reagan Dunn for Attorney General, "About Reagan," accessed February 9, 2012]
  13. The Seattle Times, "Candidates for governor, attorney general talk guns," July 28, 2012
  14. King5 "Washington Attorney General candidate Dunn backs legalizing gay marriage," January 9, 2012
  15. Bob Ferguson for Attorney General, "About Bob," accessed May 19, 2012
  16. OnYourBallot, "Attorney General candidate Stephen Pidgeon," accessed July 26, 2012
  17. Stephen 4 AG, "About," accessed February 12, 2012
  18. The News Tribune, "Our primary choices for attorney general, auditor," July 10, 2012
  19. The Olympian, "Auditor Wyman makes run for Secretary of State official, July 1, 2011
  20. 20.0 20.1 Washington State Wire, "Wyman Launches Campaign for Secretary of State – Only GOP Candidate in the Running," June 30, 2011
  21. 21.0 21.1 Kathleen Drew for Secretary of State, "About Kathleen," accessed May 17, 2012
  22. The Olympian, "Olympia's Kathleen Drew running for secretary of state," November 14, 2011
  23. 23.0 23.1 Jim Kastama for Secretary of State, "Jim Kastama," accessed May 17, 2012
  24. Greg Nickels for Secretary of State, "Greg Nickels," accessed May 17, 2012
  25. Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed, "2012 Candidates who have filed," accessed May 17, 2012
  26. Columbia Basin Herald, "Primary ballot mailed," July 27, 2012
  27. 27.0 27.1 The Republic, "Washington state's auditor to retire after 20 years in position; 4 men seek to replace him," July 22, 2012
  28. The News Tribune, "Résumés touted in race to be state auditor," July 5, 2012
  29. The Columbian, "State Auditor: Pridemore and Watkins," July 17, 2012
  30. Project Vote Smart, "Biography of James Watkins," accessed June 30, 2012
  31. 31.0 31.1 Seattle PI "Watkins out, endorses Koster in the 1st," January 29, 2012
  32. 32.0 32.1 KEPR TV, "Randy Dorn hopes to finish campaign at primary," July 24, 2012
  33. ‘’King County, Washington, “September 14, 2004 primary and special election voters pamphlet - Superintendent of Public Instruction,” accessed May 18, 2012
  34. ‘’John Blair for SPI, 2008,” “Home,” accessed May 18, 2012
  35. 35.0 35.1 ‘’Washington Secretary of State, “August 19, 2008 primary results,” accessed May 18, 2012
  36. ‘’The News Tribune,” April 13, 2012
  37. ‘’James Bauckman for SPI, “About,” accessed May 18, 2012
  38. ‘’King County, Washington, “September 14, 2004 primary and special election voters pamphlet - Insurance Commissioner,” accessed May 18, 2012
  39. ‘’Elect John Adams, “Home,” accessed May 18, 2012
  40. Washington Secretary of State, "November 2008 General Election Results," accessed May 18, 2012
  41. 41.0 41.1 KUOW, "Three Challenge Kreidler For Wash. Insurance Commissioner," July 24, 2012
  42. ‘’Scott Reilly, “About Scott,” accessed May 18, 2012
  43. Auburn Reporter, "Auburn's Berend ready for a run at State Insurance Commissioner," July 3, 2012
  44. Columbian, "Late challenge in lands commissioner race," July 15, 2012
  45. The Spokesman Review, "Stephen Sharon," accessed August 2, 2012