2014 election season officially gets under way next week

OLYMPIA — The 2014 election season officially begins Monday, when candidates can start filing to run.

Unofficially, it’s been under way for a while. Incumbents and their announced challengers have been building campaign organizations and tapping supporters for contributions.

In Snohomish County, early signs point to Democrats engaging in the fiercest ballot battles, rookies enjoying the safest seats and a headline emerging from the Aug. 5 primary about — gasp — low turnout.

Here’s how things are shaping up for the summer election:

Job openings: Two seats are up for grabs with the retirement of state Reps. Mary Helen Roberts, D-Lynnwood, and Mike Hope, R-Mill Creek.

In the 21st District, where Roberts served, Democrats are on track to keep it. No Republican seems to want it.

But it’s going to be a bit of a brawl. Four Democrats are campaigning as of today: Strom Peterson and Justin McMahon, both of Edmonds, Scott Whelpley of Mukilteo and Dick McManus of Mill Creek.

Richard Wright, chairman of the Snohomish County Democratic Party, said he’s not trying to talk any of them out of the race.

“What a terrible problem to have,” he said facetiously of the abundance of candidates.

In the 44th District, where Hope patrolled, an old-fashioned donnybrook is shaping up. The Democratic and Republican parties both very much want this seat and are expected to invest heavily to capture it.

Right now it’s a duel between two Mill Creek residents — Republican Mark Harmsworth, a city councilman, and Democrat Mike Wilson, a public school teacher.

In search of foes: A rule of thumb in politics is that a lawmaker is most vulnerable the first time they run for re-election.

Rookie Democratic Reps. Lillian Ortiz-Self of Mukilteo and June Robinson of Everett might not have to test that theorem, because Republicans haven’t come up with a challenger to either so far.

They are not the only ones who might get a free ride in 2014.

Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, and Rep. Cindy Ryu, D-Shoreline, are without Republican opponents as of today. And Democrats are unlikely to find someone to take on House Minority Leader Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish.

Worth watching: Republicans want to unseat state Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, and hope that Jim Kellett of Snohomish can do it. This might add a little spice to their matchup in the primary.

GOP leaders would like Kellett to perform well and find a theme that will resonate with voters this fall. Hobbs views the primary as a chance to demonstrate he’s not as vulnerable as Republicans think.

Meanwhile, Sen. Maralyn Chase, D-Shoreline, had expected an opponent — just not from her own party. Democrat Chris Eggen, a Shoreline city councilman, is looking to unseat her. Republicans, thus far, are sitting out.

If the only entries are Chase and Eggen, the top-two primary format assures both will get a berth in the general election. This feud in the Democratic family could be a source of sparks in the primary.

Abstaining voters: Historically, the percentage of voters who cast ballots in an even-year, non-presidential primary like this one hovers around the mid- to upper-30s.

It might be a challenge to get there this time.

Aside from the all-Democrat rumble in the 21st District, intrigue will be lacking if most contests wind up with only two candidates when the official filing period closes next week.

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623 or jcornfield@heraldnet.com

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