Limp competitive (boring?) election season in Olympia

  • Sunday, October 20, 2019 1:30am
  • Opinion

OLYMPIA — Nine of the most powerful political jobs in Washington state will be filled by voters in 2020.

We’re talking governor, attorney general, secretary of state and executive seats overseeing the state’s public schools, treasury, the insurance industry, public lands and government agency ledgers.

Yet next year is shaping up to be one of the least competitive election cycles for these jobs in a while. To be frank, it could be boring.

Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee put a stopper in the excitement bottle for Democrats when he decided he wanted a third term.

That forced Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz to shelve their aspirations to succeed Inslee and settle for re-election. A bunch of other Democrats with designs on replacing those two ladder-climbers have had to box up their ambitions. This ensures no family feuds in the primary, a scenario that leaders of the state Democratic Party very much wanted to avoid.

The Grand Old Party is a different story. Washington state has a Republican secretary of state and treasurer. But the GOP lacks candidates right now with a real potential to capture any of the other executive seats. President Donald Trump’s unpopularity in the most vote-rich region of the state hurts the party’s brand and makes it hard to recruit.

With seven months to go before candidates must file and a year before ballots are cast, here’s how those nine races look:

Candidates for governor

Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee is looking to become the first three-term governor since Republican Dan Evans accomplished the feat a half-century ago. Four Republicans most voters haven’t heard of — Auburn state Sen. Phil Fortunato, Republic police chief Loren Culp, former Bothell Mayor Joshua Freed and Seattle businessman Anton Sakharov — are lining up to take him on.

Lieutenant Governor

Democratic Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib was the top vote-getter in an 11-person primary in 2016, a field which included two Democratic state senators. He won the general election with 54.4 percent of the vote. Right now, only Republican Joseph Brumbles, who lost to Democratic U.S. Rep. Denny Heck in 2018, is challenging the incumbent.

Attorney General

Democratic Attorney General Bob Ferguson looks so unbeatable for a third term that Republicans may not field an opponent. They didn’t in 2016. Ferguson had raised $1.7 million before a campaign event last week in Snohomish. That’s $300,000 more than his entire total last time. Brett Rogers of Lake Stevens, an independent, is the only announced foe for 2020.

Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman is seeking a third term. No opponent has surfaced thus far. Four years ago, it was a different story. Wyman and Democratic challenger Tina Podlodowski waged one of the year’s fiercest ballot duels. Wyman got nearly 55 percent. Podlodowski now leads the state Democratic Party, which means she’s supposed to recruit a challenger.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal is running again. He barely won in 2016. He finished second in a nine-person primary and came out on top by a slim 1 percent in the general election. So far, no one has stepped forward to take him on for this nonpartisan gig.

Democratic Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz is seeking a second term, though, like Ferguson, she’d probably rather be competing for governor. She has no opponent yet, which leaves her free to build her campaign chest, now around $521,000, for her future political plans.

Democratic Auditor Pat McCarthy wants a second term. She’s settled things down since the tumultuous tenure of her disgraced Democratic predecessor, Troy Kelley. Enough so that no challenger has emerged yet.

Republican Treasurer Duane Davidson wants a second term, too. But he will have to fight for it as Democrats are targeting this seat. State Rep. Mike Pellicciotti, D-Federal Way, is running and has raised $137,000 compared to Davidson’s total of $25,000. At the moment, this is the most competitive race for any executive office.

Democratic Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler is running again. He’s the only insurance commissioner Washington has had this century. Libertarian Anthony Welti of Tulalip is the only opponent right now. And as of last week, Welti had raised $7,000 more than Kreidler.

Jerry Cornfield is a political reporter for The Daily Herald in Everett. He can be contacted at 360-352-8623 and jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

More in Opinion

Letters to the editor for the week of Nov. 15

Reader’s child enjoys stories about community Dear editor, I just read “It’s… Continue reading

Why we need media literacy classes now, more than ever

Education on how to find authentic, factual information in today’s digital landscape is a must for future generations

Container math: Divide your roots to multiply your plants

By the month of November gardeners and gardening goals have moved indoors.… Continue reading

George Will and ‘conservative sensibilities’

The journalist is a Constitutional Originalist, but the framers’ sole focus wasn’t solely freedom.

No cost to vote, but million spent to influence it

Check out the numbers behind the November 2019 general election.

Letters to the editor for the week of Oct. 18

Reader credits Pavone for giving them a voice Dear editor, What do… Continue reading

Reject dishonest vehicle taxes, vote yes on I-976

Taxpayers are getting ripped off, everybody knows it and politicians refuse to… Continue reading

Mum’s the word: incorporate this plant into your season displays

If your landscape is not a blaze of autumn glory this week,… Continue reading

Lawmakers to governor: How dare you mess with our budget!

They want Jay Inslee to halt his planned $175 million reallocation of state transportation dollars.

Letters to the editor

Renton Councilmember, Mayor Law support Armondo Pavone Dear editor, For over 20… Continue reading

Making sense out of the census

2020 Census Renton needs your participation

Letters for the week of Oct. 4

Reader loves our coverage Dear editor, Thanks to you all for keeping… Continue reading