Primary Election 2012: Yes, There’s An Election Afoot

By • on July 22, 2012 9:11 pm

Most of us will hardly notice, but Washington state voters have a ballot to fill out.

The suspense is, uh, not riveting. There’s not a whole lot going on this summer. The action is this fall, when hotly contested races for president and governor will dominate the news and the commercials. Now, not so much.

Nonetheless, some of us insist on filling out and mailing these silly pieces of paper (yes, it’s another all-mail election; ballots must be postmarked by August 7), and, worse, insist on trying to hazard an educated opinion as to which options are least worst. As is our time-honored custom, here are the ETS! suggestions. The usual caveats apply: this is one opinion. Do your own research, make up your own mind. And if you want meaningful change, get involved; don’t rely on voting. Even if we had an actual functioning democracy, that would be the last step, not the first.

And speaking of functional democracies: We don’t endorse unopposed candidates, no matter how much we might like them. This isn’t North Korea.

Suggestions? Comments? Post your feedback below.


US Senator: Sen. Maria Cantwell, seeking her fourth term in the US Senate, is a better senator than her more liberal colleague, Sen. Patty Murray. While Murray votes more liberally, she spends most of her time raising money for and playing politics within her party, rarely initiating legislation except for local pork projects and feel-good issues like military veteran benefits.

Cantwell, by contrast, is a workhorse, initiating legislation on utility reform and clean energy, access to higher education and job training, and other issues with real-world impact. Alas, she’s also a corporate Democratic centrist who will coast for re-election. She’s better than her Republican opponent will be in November, but she also needs pressure in the primary to adopt more progressive positions on more issues. For that reason, we’re recommending the one candidate running to Cantwell’s left: Timmy (Doc) Wilson.

US Representative, District 1, short & full terms: A crowded field is looking to advance to November in a rare open seat in a true swing district. Both parties will pour a ton of national and SuperPAC money into this race, especially the Republicans, for whom this is a rare chance nationally to pick up a seat (formerly held by Inslee) in the House of Representatives.

To complicate things, there are two primary elections: one for the two months left in Inslee’s term after he resigned to run for governor, and then the full 2013-14 term. It’s a somewhat different field for the two elections, but all the major candidates are on the ballot for both.

Only one Republican, Tea Party favorite John Koster (who lost to Rick Larson in 2010), is running; he’ll almost certainly advance to November. Of the other six candidates (five Democrats and an Independent), three Democrats have the best shot at joining Koster: Darcy Burner, who lost to Dave Reichert in 2006 and 2008; Suzan DelBene, who lost to Reichert in 2010; and former State Rep. Laura Ruderman.

Full disclosure: Burner is both a personal friend and a business colleague, though I’m not involved in her campaign. That said, she’s also the best alternative to Koster, and the best choice of the three leading Democrats. She’s the most progressive, the most experienced campaigner, she has the most grassroots support, and since her loss in 2008 she’s been working on policy issues and citizen activism in DC, so she’s better versed on both the issues and how Congress works. She’d be a formidable progressive voice in Congress, and I’m not just saying that as a friend.

DelBene is a former Microsoft executive, appointed last year by Christine Gregoire to collect the state’s taxes; her biggest strengths are the support of the state’s Democratic Party leadership (headed by Gregoire and Larson) and her personal wealth. She’s strong on some issues, but is by far the most centrist and corporate-friendly of the candidates. Ruderman is better, but hasn’t been able to keep up with Burner or DelBene’s fundraising (despite her mother’s attack ads) – she’d get swamped in November. And as colleague Maria Tomchick points out, if she can’t control her own mother, how on earth could she be effective in Congress? Darcy Burner.

US Representative, District 7: Jim McDermott has held this safe Democratic seat for two decades. In that time he’s taken a lot of admirable stands and accomplished almost nothing. He’ll coast to re-election, but Andrew Hughes is running a strong independent campaign from McDermott’s left and deserves your support to light a well-needed fire under McDermott’s complacent seat.

US Representative, District 8: By subtracting the Microsoft suburbs (Kirkland, Redmond) and adding Kittitas County east of the mountains, redistricting took the 8th from a swing district that first Burner, then DelBene almost won, to one that will continue to elect Dave Reichert to Congress no matter how little he does. (And it’s hard to do less than he already hasn’t done in his eight years in Congress.) Reichert’s nominal opposition this year includes two Democrats, one of who, Karen Porterfield, is not nuts.

US Representative, District 9: The big story in this year’s redistricting was that District 9 became the state’s first majority-minority district. It’s a shame, then, that incumbent Adam Smith is a corporate centrist Democrat and middle-aged white guy whose time in DC has included almost no attention to the concerns of his new constituents. What he did do, recently, was introduce and successfully push for a bill that made it legal for the US government to propagandize its own citizens. Seriously. Smith will coast against his four opponents (two Republicans, a Democrat, and a Larouchite), but the best choice is fellow Democrat Tom Cramer.

Governor: Only two candidates matter here: Democrat Jay Inslee and Republican Rob McKenna, who will be the two advancing from this primary and whose bitterly contested November election (polls are currently dead even) will attract boatloads of national money. The two are polar opposites.

McKenna, like Dino Rossi before him, is a far-right Republican who avoids specifics on issues (except for helping launch the Tea Party-inspired lawsuit to end ObamaCare) and who then claims he’s a moderate – a falsehood perpetuated by our state’s supine media. Unlike Rossi, McKenna is articulate, likeable, and a far better actor. Don’t be fooled. As attorney general, and before that in his long King County Council tenure (both heavily bankrolled by Eastside anti-transit developer Kemper Freeman), McKenna’s record suggests that as governor he’d be a Scott Walker in all but name.

Inslee, by contrast, would be the most progressive governor Washington has had since Mike Lowry 20 years ago – and unlike Lowry, he has a much stronger track record of getting things accomplished. He’d be a dramatic improvement over inert corporate centrists Christine Gregoire or Gary Locke. Pitted against McKenna, it’s a clear choice: five steps forward, or 2,358 steps back. Jay Inslee.

Lieutenant Governor: Straight up: this position should be abolished. It’s a cushy gig and waste of taxpayer money that does nothing but break ties in the state senate and stand by in case the governor gets struck by lightning.

Long-time Democratic incumbent Brad Owen has used his copious free time and the taxpayers’ money to barnstorm the state extolling the virtues of the War on Drugs. What this has to do with either his job or common sense is anyone’s guess, but he has to go. Alas, none of his fringe opponents (no other Democrats and no Libertarians or Greens are running) want to abolish the office. The most reality-based of them seems to be a guy named Mark Greene, but really, this is a waste of everyone’s time. Skip it.

Secretary of State: The last two Secretaries of State, moderate Republicans Ralph Munro and the retiring Sam Reed, have held this position for the last 32 years. This office, in other words, is its own independent little fiefdom, generally used by Munro and Reed to promote international trade with our state. But it also oversees our election process, and Reed has held the fort admirably against the forces in his own party who, as in many other states, want to turn the office into a tool for disenfranchising Democrats and rigging elections.

Three well-known Democrats are running: Greg Nickels, the former Seattle mayor who got bounced out in the primary while seeking reelection in 2009 precisely over his tendency to turn his elected office into a fiefdom; Sen. Jim Kastama, the Tacoma senator who was one of the three Democrats to jump to the Republican side and force extensive, harmful cuts in this year’s budget in Olympia; and Kathleen Drew, who wants Citizens United repealed and is saying all the right things about the formerly uncontroversial idea that everyone should be able to vote. Drew is solid, and the other two, to put it mildly, aren’t. Kathleen Drew.

State Treasurer: Incumbent Jim McIntire is running unopposed. Skip it.

State Auditor: With Tim Eyman’s I-900 performance audits having opened the door to politicizing this office, the politics of the State Auditor matter. A lot. Vancouver Sen. Craig Pridemore, who ran a progressive campaign to replace Congressman Brian Baird two years ago, is the strongest of the candidates. Craig Pridemore.

Attorney General: Bob Ferguson is a mavericky King County Council member; Reagan Dunn, privileged son of longtime Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn, is a Tea Party-ey King County Council member. One of them will step into a state attorney general office already politicized by Rob McKenna. I know which I’d rather have. Bob Ferguson.

Commissioner of Public Lands: In his first term, incumbent Okanogan County Democrat Peter Goldmark has done a solid job stewarding the state’s lands and protecting them from excessive resource extraction. Peter Goldmark.

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Randy Dorn has been adequate in his first term, and while there are compelling changes that need to be made in our public schools – funding them adequately, getting away from high-stakes testing and teaching to the test, stopping the siphoning of remaining public school money to corporatized charter schools, and funding them adequately s’more – none of his challengers seem up to the task. Randy Dorn.

Insurance Commissioner: Incumbent Democrat Mike Kreidler is the only one running who doesn’t think health insurance companies are oppressed victims that need to be unshackled to let the magic of free enterprise work. Nobody’s advocating that health insurance company executives instead be sentenced to life without parole (or worse) for their numerous crimes against humanity, so Mike Kreidler it is.

State Senator, Dist. 11: Progressive union champion Rep. Bob Hasegawa looks to step up to the state senate to replace the mercifully retiring Sen. Marguerita Prentice (D-Payday loan industry). He’s earned it.

State Representative, Dist. 11 Pos. 2: Several Democrats and a Republican seek Hasagawa’s abandoned seat. The best-known of the Dems is Port Commissioner Rob Holland, but his campaign has focused almost exclusively on jobs and international trade, which is only a tiny part of Olympia’s business. Both Stephanie Bowman and Bobby Virk seem to have broader and more progressive perspectives; of them, Virk, with good fundraising and numerous endorsements, has run the stronger campaign. Narrowly, Bobby Virk.

State Representative, Dist. 36 Pos. 2: Another merciful retirement, of Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson (D-Warm Body), opens this seat up. Port Commissioner Gael Tarleton has run the strongest campaign and has done a better job at the port than her corporate past would have predicted. But other candidates, particularly Sahar Fathi and Linde Knighton, are more progressive. And unlike the permacandidate Knighton, who’s unfortunately never shown any serious constituency, Fathi has a shot at winning. Sahar Fathi.

State Senator, Dist. 41: Former Washington Toxics Coalition Executive Director Maureen Judge is running a strong campaign to unseat freshman Republican Sen. Steve Litzow. She’d be a massive upgrade. Maureen Judge.

State Representative, Dist. 43 Pos. 1: One of the most liberal districts in the state is, inexplicibly, represented in Olympia by two of the more conservative Democrats: House Majority Leader Frank Chopp and wealthy gay attorney Jamie Pederson. This time, Chopp has no meaningful opposition, but Pederson has drawn a young, smart, articulate opponent, who, for being a socialist candidate, is remarkably grounded and deserves support: Kshama Sawant.

State Representative, Dist. 46 Pos. 1, short and full term: Rep. Gerry Pollet has done a great job in his short time stepping in for Rep. David Frockt after he moved to the state senate to replace the late Scott White. Pollet deserves both to finish the last few months of Frockt’s term and to be reelected. Gerry Pollet.

State Representative, Dist. 46 Pos. 2: Rep. Phyllis Gutierrez-Kenney completes our troika of local mercifully retiring Democrats. Six candidates are vying to replace her (five, if you don’t count Stan Lippman). The four Democrats all have their strengths, but the best of the lot is Sarajane Siegfriedt.

Other Legislators Worth Re-electing: Rep Zack Hudgins (11th Dist. Pos. 1), Rep. Reuven Carlyle (36th Dist. Pos. 1).

State Supreme Court Pos. 2: Neither challenger makes a compelling case for replacing incumbent Susan Owens.

State Supreme Court Pos. 8: Steve Gonzalez is endorsed by every sitting state supreme court justice, His opponent, Bruce Danielson, believes that “The US Constitution…should not be a living, breathing document,” which I guess means that only propertied white men should vote and blacks should go back to the plantation. Sheesh. Steve Gonzalez.

State Supreme Court Pos. 9: Last time he ran for reelection, Justice Richard Sanders got in a bit of hot water for being a racist asshole. That likely hasn’t changed. The libertarian Sanders has been good on civil liberties, but former Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg would be, too, with the added bonus that he’s sane. John Ladenburg.

Court of Appeals, Division 1, District 1, Pos. 4 & 7: In both positions candidates are running unopposed. On principle, skip it.

Superior Court, Pos. 25: Eric Schmidt has more experience, but Elizabeth Berns also has prioritized social justice issues in her background. Elizabeth Berns.

Superior Court, Pos. 29: Six years ago, Hong Tran ran a thoughtful and noble but doomed candidacy challenging Sen. Maria Cantwell’s support of the Iraq war. Now, with more experience, she’s running for this judgeship. She’d be great. Hong Tran.

Superior Court, Pos. 30: Judge Doug North is re-running for a position he vacated due to illness. Alas, challenger Kimberly Allen would be better.

Superior Court, Pos. 42: Three people are running against Judge Chris Washington. Why? In this year’s King County Bar Association survey of local lawyers, among the 50 superior court judges Washington came in dead last in every category. He’s a disaster on the bench. The worst of the challengers: former Rob McKenna aide Sue Parisien. The best: Marianne Jones.

Superior Court, Pos. 46: Prosecutor Gary Ernsdorff faces off against Judy Ramseyer, who has a broad variety of experience, including social justice advocacy. In general, we need fewer prosecutors on the bench. Judy Ramseyer.


Seattle Proposition No. 1: Renewal of the Library Levy would raise $122 million over seven years for this most essential public resource. Yes.

King County Proposition No. 1: The Children and Family Services Center Capital Levy would increase King County property taxes by .07 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in 2013, and then an undetermined (but not likely to be smaller) amount in the next eight years, to replace the county’s Orwellianly named Children and Family Justice Center. Sounds like a nice, helping place for kids, doesn’t it? The county needs a new juvie jail. Every other service bundled here can go in any office building in the city; it’s the jail that matters here.

Here’s an idea: why not legalize pot in November, stop locking kids up for drug use when what they need is health care or maybe a parent who cares, and divert other nonviolent offenders into community service or education programs. Voila! You’ve relieved overcrowding, and you can rehab what’s wrong with the old center (e.g., the decrepit plumbing and electrical) for a fraction of the cost of a new one.

Nah. They’d rather lock more kids up, and in the process needlessly ruin some of them for life. It’s easier, and for some people, more profitable.

Most of the public opposition to the lobby has been the predictable any-tax-is-a-bad-tax crowd, but what we really ought to pay attention to is efforts to fix our broken juvenile justice system, not shovel more money into the same old paradigms. The county, to its credit, does have some good and innovative programs for troubled kids – but not nearly enough. The same old paradigms aren’t working.No.


By John on July 23rd, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Hey guys,

I’ve used your election site for years. Great job, as always.

Keep up the good work.


By Tony Formo on July 26th, 2012 at 4:43 am

Thanks again!

By Scott H on July 29th, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Likewise thankyou! Your ideas changed my vote on at least three contests.

By Toby Thaler on July 30th, 2012 at 8:43 pm

I strongly disagree with you on two races: “Commissioner of Public Lands: In his first term, incumbent Okanogan County Democrat Peter Goldmark has done a solid job stewarding the state’s lands and protecting them from excessive resource extraction. Peter Goldmark.” This is not a true statement. Goldmark has not done a “solid job” with state forest lands. (He’s done OK with submerged lands.) He has been wishy washy, failed to clean out the dead wood at DNR (so to speak), and has done everything possible to give the fiscal beneficiaries of timber sales what they want. He has given the green light to harvesting timber that Jennifer Belcher put off base to protect ESA listed marbled murrelets. The Olympic Forest Coalition, Seattle Audubon, and Sierra Club are suing Goldmark and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service because of his decisions.

Goldmark was quoted in the Seattle Times on July 15; “”We have to maintain our revenue-producing capability,” Goldmark said. “Timber sales are the core of our mission.” Not conserving the forest to produce revenues over time, not conserving the forest in the face of global warming; “Timber sales”! Those lands are “held in trust for all the people” (WA Const, Art. XVI, §1), but Goldmark apparently doesn’t think so.

To get a flavor of Goldmark’s ability to satisfy the timber industry while keeping most of the green community from trying to find someone better, take a look at his campaign contributions. Industry is “all in.” Greens are there too, but at lower numbers and amounts overall.

Goldmark’s opponents are Clint Didier, a real tea-bagger, and another candidate whose name I don’t even know by heart (not viable). I’m sitting out the primary; Goldmark needs to work harder for the green and progressive vote.

I also disagree with your selection for Supreme Court Position 9. Bruce Hilyer is by far the best candidate, with solid credentials as a judge and a background in the environmental community. Ladenburg, not so much. Just compare the two candidates’ endorsements! On this race, you are wrong wrong wrong.

Please do more thorough research, especially on the down ballot races. People rely on you; your opinion counts and your endorsements should reflect your values. I don’t believe they do in the above two races.

By Judi Gibbs on August 3rd, 2012 at 2:23 pm

Your comment about Linde Knighton is off-target. She does have a constituency. She also reflects the values of the very Democratic 36th LD. Furthermore, her position as the Progressive Party candidate means that she is not beholden to either the Democratic or Republican parties–and that is a huge plus!

I have asked one of the incumbents why s/he voted to dumb down Workers Comp, particularly after the voters so thoroughly rejected any dumbing down when the issue appeared on the state ballot.

The incumbent’s answer: Those were the orders I was given (from the Democratic Party). That is also the answer I have gotten when I asked about other votes.

The Dems are by no means alone. The Republicans also give orders. Voting is often along party lines. As a legislator, Linde would take her orders from the voters in the 36th District.

The Progressive Party has been around since 1912. It was a major force in this country until the McCarthy era, and it is now making a comeback. Bernie Sanders is a member of the Vermont Progressive Party. He runs as an independent–but he is in fact a Progressive Party member.

If you like having Bernie Sanders in Congress, then you would like having Linde Knighton in the state legislature.

WRT Linde’s constituency: Who do you think got her yard signs up around around the district? Or did the other work of the campaign? It was her constituents.

As a long-time liberal Democrat, I love Linde Knighton. I view her as somebody who will represent the liberal Democratic views of the 36th District without taking orders from either party–as someone who will vote the way her 36th District constituents tell her to vote.

~Judi Gibbs
Precinct 36-1701

By Linde Knighton on August 3rd, 2012 at 2:54 pm

I believe that more people need to learn what the Secretary of State office is for and what they actually do. For too many years, Independent voters, and both Independent and third party candidates have had to put up with election rigging by the Rs and Ds. Who do you think came up with the lame idea that 3rd party and independent voters would have to pay to elect PCOs of the Rs and Ds? Or the Top Two Primary, or having to register as a write in candidate?
It is long past time for people to re-think who they would trust to run our elections, count signatures for initiatives, etc., and get rid of election rigging to benefit incumbents? Do we trust the same parties who made the mess in the first place, or do we have enough sense to vote in a 3rd party candidate with the smarts and honesty to end the election rigging so all candidates and all voters can find a ballot they could in good conscience vote for someone…KAREN MURRAY.

By David Gordon on August 4th, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Geov: I definitely agree with you on Maria Cantwell. She needs a push to the left. In fact, she has voted with the Republicans on the 3 most important votes of her tenure: 1) the voted to invade Iraq 2) she voted to renew the Patriot Act 3) she voted (the key procedural vote) to confirm Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court (you can thank her for all of the bad 5-4 Supreme Court decisions such as Citizens United). So I will definitely cast a protest vote for Wilson.

By Kristen L on August 4th, 2012 at 9:59 pm

What are your thoughts on the lackluster options for legislative district #37 Rep position #2?

Thanks so much for all your endorsement info.

By Darrell Toland on August 5th, 2012 at 9:31 am

Thanks again for helping wade through election time. I agree with David Gordon on Cantwell. I can’t forgive her for her votes on Irag, the so called Patriot Act or Alitio. She lost my vote along with Murray with those votes.

By Stewart Wechsler on August 5th, 2012 at 10:45 am

I wanted to add my personal recommendation for the 34th Legislative District House of Representatives (position 2). While it looks like Joe Fitzgibbon is running unopposed, he actually has an opponent running a write in campaign. His name is Mark Cavener. Mark is the director of the Washington Domestic Violence Commission. After running into innumerable problems with how our government deals with domestic violence issues, and being encouraged by others to go into government itself, he took the plunge, and filed for office, sadly a bit late to actually get on the ballot. Myself, having gone to years of meetings of the 34th District Democrats, I have been sick of how conservative that group has been and how much they function like a fan club for the Democrats, and a group that will back any insider or the president regardless of what they do. Mark presents a refreshing alternative to the incumbent Joe Fitzgibbon, the pick of this conservative Democratic club. Joe, at age 23, having worked as a legislative assistant, for Sharon Nelson, strikes me as someone who really doesn’t know what is going on, but gets all of his direction from others in the party, and is just working his way up in the system. In contrast, I am pleased to say that I don’t know Mark Cavener from the insider’s local Democratic Club, but know him from conversations in our coffee shop (C&P), as a sincere guy with a strong background in working to stop domestic violence, and working on a project that got a hospital built in Central America. Rather than coming to politics by working his way up from the inside in a sick system, he is coming as someone that was encouraged to enter the sick system to make it work at least a bit better. With a government and electoral system sicker than I have ever seen it, I look at my ballot with more disdain than ever, but the one vote I know I will make is the write-in for Mark Cavener in the 34th District House of Representatives 2nd position race.

By Stewart Wechsler on August 5th, 2012 at 10:57 am

Let me also add Mark Cavener’s website: and a great article in the Vashon Loop (he lives on Vashon Island) on his candidacy:

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