Democrats have the edge in WA’s 2020 elections

Bob Roegner

Bob Roegner

Last year, most political insiders thought 2020 would be a big Democratic year in our statewide elections and might be among the most exciting years ever seen. Prevailing thought was Gov. Jay Inslee would run for president to position himself for vice president, or a cabinet appointment in a Democratic administration, and would not run for a third term as governor.

That would leave impatient but talented candidates in King County Executive Dow Constantine, Attorney General Bob Ferguson, and possibly Lands Commissioner Hillary Franz to face off to be governor. Others thought Inslee might run to give himself options, but then after being re-elected, he would step down and take a cabinet position, leaving the ambitious Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib as the new governor. Many were giving Habib high marks for thinking ahead.

Most thought Denny Heck, a Democrat, would be easily re-elected to Congress in 10th District.

All those ideas have since gone off the rails. Constantine and Ferguson were clearly anticipating Inslee would not run, as were two King County Council members who were already measuring the executive’s office for curtains. And rising star in the Attorney General’s Office Noah Purcell was the front-runner to replace Ferguson.

Inslee’s run for president didn’t go well and he decided being governor was a pretty good job and is running for a third term. Constantine, Ferguson and Franz decided not to run against a fellow Democrat.

Inslee’s opponent will come from a crowded group of Republicans, with Tim Eyman providing the entertainment, but former Bothell Mayor Joshua Freed being the more likely opponent in November. Eyman is more well known, but Freed has raised the most money at $538,812 so far. Much of Freed’s money is his own, though still small compared to Inslee’s $3.2 million.

Heck had already announced his decision to leave Congress when Habib announced his shocker about leaving politics altogether to become a priest, providing Heck an unexpected option.

Heck was chief of staff for former Gov. Booth Gardner for three years and will start off as the front-runner, but it won’t be a free ride, as Sen. Marko Liias (D-Lynnwood), the current Senate majority floor leader, will provide competition. Sen. Steve Hobbs (D-Lake Stevens) withdrew and the insiders are split on who that helps more: Heck on policy or Liias with geography, since Hobbs also represented part of Snohomish County. I think it helps Liias more and he is the most progressive candidate in the field, which will help with Seattle voters. Heck has raised $543,156 while Liias has raised $114,708. Liias has Habib and much of the Democratic Senate in his corner, while Heck has former governors Gary Locke and Christine Gregoire among others. Republicans to watch are Dick Muri and Marty McClendon. Both are well known to Republican voters. But with Heck and Liias, an all-Democratic final is a possibility.

The 10th Congressional District is packed with candidates, but should remain a safe Democratic district this year, and the battle to replace Heck has three well-known Democratic candidates: former State Rep. Kristine Reeves who resigned her seat in District 30 to campaign full time; current Olympia area State Rep. Beth Doglio; and Marilyn Strickland, the former mayor of Tacoma and former Seattle Chamber of Commerce CEO.

While Washington is a blue state, two Republicans hold statewide office. Kim Wyman is secretary of state and Duane Davidson is completing his first term as state treasurer. Wyman is opposed by Democratic State Rep. Gael Tarleton of the 36th District, and is well regarded by many of each party and independents. Wyman has been one of the few elected statewide Republicans on the West Coast. Davidson is opposed by Federal Way State Rep. Mike Pellicciotti, who in a Democratic year should win.

The bigger question for Republicans may be whether President Donald Trump’s unpopularity here will also cost them Wyman’s seat.

Democratic incumbents look safe: Franz as commissioner of public lands, Ferguson as attorney general, Mike Kreidler as insurance commissioner, Chris Reykdal as state superintendent of schools, and Pat McCarthy as auditor, despite getting a challenger from her own party in West Seattle CPA Joshua Casey.

Though Inslee says no, the theory that he might be open to a federal cabinet post remains in the political debate between Heck and Liias.

Not as exciting as a wide open race for governor with political heavyweights, but lieutenant governor, treasurer, secretary of state and the 10th congressional seat will be fun to watch.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.


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