In the presidential contest, how Washington state voters will go is not in question. Democrats Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will likely win decisively in this reliably blue state.
The state has not had a Republican governor in 36 years and undoubtedly will not, come January. Even with 35 challengers, Gov. Jay Inslee garnered 50.1% of the primary votes.
Rather, most of the electoral suspense in our state is over whether the most liberal Democrats will take down more moderate Democrats. That’s the case in three of the four key races The Seattle Times editorial board is highlighting today. In each, the board recommended the more moderate candidate. Our preference always is for independent, open-minded candidates focused on constituents, not their party leaders or campaign benefactors.
Since May, The Seattle Times editorial board researched and interviewed 117 candidates, in online meetings. Candidates for the same seat were interviewed together.
The most newsworthy Democrat-on-Democrat battle is between moderate incumbent Sen. Mark Mullet of Issaquah and challenger Ingrid Anderson of North Bend.
Mullet is a well-respected member of Senate Democratic leadership with many colleagues endorsing him — as are several mayors in the 5th Legislative District.
Alas, he is not obedient enough for the tastes of labor unions, which have poured a startling sum — more than $2 million — into campaign efforts to defeat him. Really, the nerve — all for trying to represent the sensibilities of his suburban-to-exurban district.
Mullet is by far the better choice.
We also are recommending the independent-minded, service-oriented moderates over more ideological team players in two other intraparty contests: Former Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland in the 10th Congressional District and the man leaving that job, Denny Heck, for state lieutenant governor.
Washington state’s top-two primary allows for these in-party matchups. Ideally, that leads to more moderate candidates on the ballot. Republicans are not shut out of primary contests in Democratic strongholds, and vice versa. But as Washington state tilts further left, that might not always be the case.
And that’s where the suspense is surfacing this year — not to mention the campaign cash.
In the 52 races the editorial board examined, the state Republican party did not consistently field strong candidates this year. Perhaps some credible candidates were dissuaded by what is likely to be another blue-wave year, because of the unpopularity of President Donald Trump and U.S. Senate Republican leaders’ actions.
Many Republican candidates the editorial board interviewed for legislative offices seemed to be motivated by purely ideological reasons, rather than serving the broader needs of constituents and the state. Most often mentioned were the Legislature-passed sex-education law that is now the subject of a referendum on the Nov. 3 ballot (we recommend voters affirm the law) and school vaccine requirements.
As a result, the editorial board endorsed only three Republicans. One of those we’re highlighting as a key race. Secretary of State Kim Wyman should be reelected to a third term. She runs a tight ship and, contrary to erroneous campaign smears, has repeatedly advocated for the security of mail balloting in national media.
Competition is good for the soul of a public official, especially if the challenger is qualified. But that’s not the case in Washington state’s top job.
In the gubernatorial primary, the Republican who emerged is, by any measure, unqualified to hold the seat. Loren Culp is the police chief of the tiny town of Republic in remote Ferry County who gained some notoriety by pledging not to enforce a state approved gun-control measure.
Establishment Republicans were concerned enough about another challenger, initiative entrepreneur Tim Eyman, getting to the general election ballot, they rallied behind a Tri-Cities physician who had barely voted in the last decade.
So Gov. Inslee is sailing to reelection, even though he spent more than a year running for another job and has had his share of management disappointments, from corrections to Western State Hospital defunding to jobless benefits fraud. This year, the best challenge for him would have been from a candidate in his own party.
After he ended his presidential bid, the editorial board urged the governor not to run for a third term, to make room for the bench of other Democrats waiting in the wings. But once he declared, he was home free.
“I just wouldn’t run against a friend, I don’t want the job that bad,” said Washington high-profile Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who has established himself as one of the nation’s Trump-suing-est AGs. Also standing down were Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz and King County Executive Dow Constantine.
That leads to an interesting question. When the governor’s seat opens up, will Washingtonians be choosing between two Democrats on the November ballot?