[Story written by Rachel La Corte, The Associated Press]
Washington’s voters have a lengthy ballot to consider ahead of Tuesday’s primary election, where they’ll narrow their choices for offices ranging from U.S. Senate to the governor’s office and dozens of legislative races.
More than 4 million of the state’s registered voters started receiving their ballots in the mail weeks ago for the primary, in which the top two vote-getters advance to the November ballot, regardless of party. Under Washington’s top two primary system, voters do not have to pick a party ballot, and instead vote for their favorite candidate for each office on a consolidated ballot, regardless of party preference.
The fact that of the nine statewide offices on the ballot, five have open seats — without an incumbent — is noteworthy, independent pollster Stuart Elway said.
“If you want change in Olympia, you’re going to get some,” he said.
Voters will decide between 11 candidates for governor, though Democratic incumbent Gov. Jay Inslee and Republican challenger Bill Bryant are expected to easily advance.
The open seat for lieutenant governor also has drawn 11 candidates, including three Democratic state senators: Sens. Karen Fraser, Cyrus Habib and Steve Hobbs. The two main Republican candidates are Javier Figueroa and Phillip Yin.
Other open statewide races are auditor, lands commissioner, treasurer and superintendent of public instruction.
Voters will also weigh in on their local legislative races, with all 98 state House seats and 26 of the Senate’s 49 seats on the primary ballot. Republicans currently control the Senate and Democrats control the House, both by narrow margins. In 78 of the 124 legislative races on the ballot, there’s no real contest in the primary. Twenty-seven races are unopposed, and in 51 seats, only two candidates are running, all of whom will automatically advance to the November ballot.
Because Chief Justice Barbara Madsen faces more than one challenger, hers is the only state Supreme Court race on the primary ballot.
Justices Mary Yu and Charlie Wiggins each have just one challenger so they won’t appear on the ballot until the general election, along with the top two advancers from Madsen’s race.
A U.S. Senate race is also on the ballot, with incumbent Democratic Sen. Patty Murray facing 16 challengers, including Republican candidate Chris Vance.
All 10 of state’s U.S. House seats are also on the ballot, including Seattle’s solidly Democratic 7th District, which is an open seat after Jim McDermott decided to retire after serving 14 two-year terms in Congress. That race has drawn nine candidates, including Democratic Sen. Pramila Jayapal, Democratic Rep. Brady Walkinshaw and Metropolitan King County Councilman Joe McDermott. Incumbents are running in the rest of the congressional races in the state, where Democrats hold six of the seats, and Republicans hold four.
The state’s congressional races aren’t expected to affect the balance of power in Congress, where Republicans control both the Senate and House.
Elway said that with such a crowded ballot, he expects there will be some voting drop-off as voters encounter offices and names they’re not familiar with.
“With the party playing less of a role here, then it becomes a name recognition game.”
Voters have until Tuesday to have their ballots postmarked or to return them at local drop boxes.