Cornfield: Limp competitive (boring?) election season in 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.

 

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