The retirement of 10-term Republican U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings has touched off the state’s most-crowded midterm primary, with a dozen candidates competing for the open 4th Congressional District seat.
Eight Republicans, two Democrats and two independents filed to compete in the Central Washington race. The top two vote-getters move on after the Aug. 5 primary.
As the candidate-filing deadline passed Friday, the 2014 election came into sharper focus for hundreds of congressional, legislative and judicial contests. The stakes are particularly high in a handful of key state Senate races that will determine the balance of power in Olympia for next year’s expected battles over education funding, climate change and a possible gas-tax increase.
The packed race for Hastings’ seat may be the hottest primary fight of the summer.
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Better-known GOP contenders include former NFL player and gubernatorial candidate Clint Didier; state Sen. Janéa Holmquist Newbry, of Moses Lake; and former state agriculture Director Dan Newhouse.
State Republican Party Chair Susan Hutchison said the party won’t endorse anyone in the primary. “We have a lot of riches in the 4th,” she said.
Other Republicans who filed are Kennewick attorney George Cicotte; portrait photographer Gavin Seim, of Ephrata; Gordon Pross, of Ellensburg; Glen Stockwell, of Ritzville; and Kevin Midbust, of Richland, who says he’d vote against all legislation if elected.
The 4th has not elected a Democrat to Congress since Jay Inslee in 1992, and state Democratic Party Chair Jaxon Ravens wouldn’t predict a victory this year. Still, he said the party is determined to make a strong showing.
The Democratic candidates are Estakio Beltran, a former aide to U.S. Sen Maria Cantwell, who has lined up the support of local party leaders; and Tony Sandoval, a longtime Yakima political activist.
Two independents, Josh Ramirez, of Pasco, and Richard Wright, of Kennewick, also filed.
In the swing 1st Congressional District, first-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene is seeking re-election amid national polls pointing to a possible Republican wave.
She’s being challenged by Republican Pedro Celis, a former Microsoft engineer.
Republicans Ed Moats, John Orlinski and Robert Sutherland also filed in the race. But Hutchison made it clear Celis is the GOP favorite.
Hutchison said only Celis can raise enough money for a credible campaign, and she pointed to his background as a Mexican immigrant who arrived in the U.S. with a suitcase and a box of books.
“It’s a beautiful story of the immigrant American dream. I think that will have great appeal in that district,” Hutchison said. She predicted problems with “Obamacare,” or the Affordable Care Act, which will weigh heavily against DelBene.
But Ravens predicted 1st District voters won’t trust a GOP candidate who wants to undo Obamacare and who opposes raising the minimum wage.
“If that’s what he’s running on, he’s running in the wrong district,” Ravens said.
With the exception of Hastings, the state’s other nine congressional incumbents all filed for re-election as expected, including U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, the Seattle Democrat running for a 14th term in the 7th Congressional District.
McDermott looks to be facing only token opposition.
Meanwhile, Republicans and Democrats pointed to several state Senate races that will decide which party controls that chamber when the Legislature convenes in January.
Democrats control the governor’s office and state House, but the state Senate this year was led by a Majority Coalition Caucus of 24 Republicans and two renegade Democrats.
To gain control, Democrats would need to pick up two seats without losing any they now control.
Their chances were boosted when Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom made a surprise announcement he would not seek re-election in the 48th Legislative District. Tom, D-Medina, was one of two Democrats in the Majority Coalition.
Democratic state Rep. Cyrus Habib, D-Kirkland, filed for Tom’s seat. Late Friday, Republican Michelle Darnelle filed to seek the position.
Democrats pointed to a few other key state Senate targets.
State Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, is being challenged in the 45th District by Democrat Matt Isenhower, a Navy veteran and Amazon employee.
In the 42nd District, state Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, a key critic of Gov. Inslee’s proposals to reduce carbon emissions, is being challenged by Democrat Seth Fleetwood, a former Bellingham City Council and Whatcom County Council member.
And in Pierce County’s 28th Legislative District, Democratic state Rep. Tami Green, D-Lakewood, is trying to unseat state Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-University Place, who was appointed to the seat last year after the death of longtime state Sen. Mike Carrell.
But Republicans are on the offensive, too, hoping to take out Democratic state Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, in the 44th Legislative District. He’s being challenged by Republican businessman Jim Kellett.
The GOP hopes Mark Miloscia, a Democrat-turned-Republican, can win the open seat in the 30th Legislative District. He faces Democrat Shari Song, a Realtor who last year ran unsuccessfully against Metropolitan King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn.
In Seattle legislative races, six candidates filed for the open Senate seat in the 37th Legislative District, left by the retirement of longtime Sen. Adam Kline. They include Democrats Pramila Jayapal, Louis Watanabe, John Stafford, Claude Burfect and Sheley Secrest; and Republican Rowland Martin.
And in the 43rd Legislative District, state House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, drew a last-minute challenge from Jessica Spear, a member of the socialist Alternative Party — the same party as Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant.
The season includes one noteworthy intraparty feud, as state Rep. Cathy Dahlquist, R-Enumclaw, takes on longtime state Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, in the 31st Legislative District. Two Democrats, Lane Walthers and Lynda Messner, also are running.
Surprisingly few challengers were drawn to the state Supreme Court races, which have been expensive and controversial in recent years.
Mary Yu, newly appointed by Inslee to the state Supreme Court, will face no challenger this fall as she seeks to fill out the remaining two years of Justice James Johnson’s term. Johnson, the court’s most-conservative member, stepped down due to health concerns.
Justice Debra Stephens drew a challenge from John Scannell, an attorney who was disbarred by the state Supreme Court in 2010, in an opinion written by Stephens.
Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter @Jim_Brunner