Longtime Lt. Gov. Brad Owen is retiring from politics, which leaves the second-highest elected office in the state wide open. The 11 candidates who have filed will be reduced to the top two in the Aug. 2 primary race.
OLYMPIA — The lieutenant governor holds the second-highest office in the state behind governor, filling in when the governor is away or incapacitated.
In Washington state, the position may best be known as the presiding officer of the Senate, overseeing that chamber during the legislative sessions, ensuring that protocol is followed and weighing in on parliamentary questions that arise during debate. And in case of a tie in the Senate, the lieutenant governor would cast the deciding vote.
Current Lt. Gov. Brad Owen is a Democrat who has held the post since 1997. He announced this year that he wouldn’t seek re-election, sparking a rare rush of candidates for the office. Eleven have filed for the position that will pay $101,889 a year.
The top two vote-getters in the Aug. 2 primary will move on to the general election Nov. 8.
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The lieutenant governor is also chair and a voting member of the Senate Rules Committee, which determines which bills make it to the floor for debate. Additionally, the lieutenant governor heads up the Legislative Committee on Economic Development and International Relations, and makes appointments to more than three dozen committees, boards and commissions.
In Washington — as in more than a dozen other states — the lieutenant governor is elected separately from the office of governor.
Here’s a look at the most prominent candidates in the race, listed in alphabetical order:
Javier Figueroa: A Republican from University Place, Figueroa, 64, is a member of the City Council and was elected in January by council members to serve as mayor. Figueroa said that the position of lieutenant governor has not been “utilized to its fullest potential” and said he’d be a champion for small business.
He cited his work as a certified arbitrator for the Better Business Bureau of Washington as experience that can be used when political tensions flare in the Senate.
“I believe as president, as facilitator of the body, that this person has a role to see those conflicts and go and try to resolve them so they can get the business done.”
Figueroa has raised about $38,000.
Karen Fraser: A Democratic state senator from Olympia, Fraser, 71, hopes to become the first woman elected lieutenant governor in Washington.
“I think we need more women at the highest levels of state government,” said Fraser, who is currently serving her sixth four-year term in the Senate and previously served four years in the state House. “A woman in that office could be a role model.”
Before her work in the Legislature, Fraser served as mayor of Lacey and as a Thurston County commissioner. She said her long political résumé, along with her temperament, suits her for the job.
“Even though I’m a partisan, I would be a fair arbiter of parliamentary procedure,” she said.
Fraser has raised more than $132,000.
Cyrus Habib: An attorney and Democratic state senator from Bellevue, Habib has raised the most money in the race, more than $503,000.
Habib, who lost his eyesight to cancer at age 8, was first elected to the state House in 2012.
Habib, 34, said that part of the unpredictability of the Senate lies with some of the parliamentary challenges that occur related to bills on the floor. He noted that he teaches legislative procedure at Seattle University and is “one of the rare ilk of people who enjoys legislative procedure, who enjoys parliamentary procedure.”
He says that he believes the institution can be made more accessible and modern, and said that he’d like to see the public be able to testify on bills through the video on their phones or computers.
Steve Hobbs: A Democratic state senator from Lake Stevens, Hobbs, 46, also serves as an infantry major with the Army National Guard. Hobbs cites his work last year as a negotiator on a $16 billion bipartisan transportation package as an example of his ability to work with both parties.
“I think I have a proven track record of bipartisanship and working across the aisle,” he said.
Hobbs says working in the National Guard gives him an edge for when natural disasters affect the state.
“I’m probably the only one who could step up to the plate and know all of the players in emergency management,” said Hobbs, who said he’d like to take on a more active role as a partner with the governor during such emergencies.
Hobbs has raised nearly $252,000 in his campaign.
Phillip Yin: A Republican from Bellevue, Yin’s professional past includes both journalism and banking.
Yin, 42, most recently was an anchor in Washington, D.C., for CCTV America, a division of China’s state-owned Chinese television network. Previously, he worked for Bloomberg Television and CNBC Asia Television, and has also worked in banking, at both Unifund SA and Charles Schwab.
He said that he’s a “business person first, politician second.”
“For most of these guys they are politicians first, second, third,” he said. “Just because you’re a good lawmaker doesn’t make you a good executive or leader.”
He said he would use the office to cultivate business relationships and “promote Washington state around the world” with a focus on helping smaller businesses.
Yin has raised about $130,000.
Also running for the post are Republicans Marty McClendon and Bill Penor, Democrat Karen Wallace, Libertarian Paul Addis, Mark Greene, running as “Citizens Party,” and Daniel B. Davies, who has no party preference.