44th District candidate downplays GOP affiliation

One of the first things you notice after reading Jim Kellett’s campaign announcement is what the Snohomish resident leaves out.

Kellett outlines in 518 words his qualities as a candidate for state Senate, sharing details of his personal life and professional accomplishments.

There also are quotes on why he is challenging incumbent Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, in the 44th Legislative District.

“I am running because I want a better future for our children and grandchildren,” he says. “I can no longer sit on the sidelines and watch decisions in Olympia negatively affect our community.”

What Kellett doesn’t write in that March 24 press release is that he’s a Republican — and not just any run-of-the-mill member of the Grand Old Party.

He served as chairman of the Snohomish County Republican Party in 2009 and 2010 and is a GOP precinct committee officer.

In both posts, he’s engaged in forging the political positions and selecting the party leaders in the county and state.

That stuff is kind of hard to overlook even for a first-time candidate. One could overlook this oversight except it may offer worthwhile insights about Kellett and this contest, the outcome of which could affect which political party controls Washington’s Senate in 2015.

Kellett is a financial adviser for Edward Jones Investments, a job requiring he provide clients information they need to make informed decisions about their financial futures.

“There is an ‘R’ after my name on the logo,” he told me recently.

Sure enough. Look closely — real closely — at that logo pictured in the release posted on his web site and you will see the ‘R’ he’s talking about — in real tiny type.

Kellett said he didn’t intentionally downplay his party affiliation. It may be a good move, given the circumstances.

In political terms the 44th District, which includes Lake Stevens, Snohomish and Mill Creek, is considered a swing district. That means Democrats and Republicans enjoy generally equal footing among voters, making every election contest potentially close.

Hobbs, a moderate Democrat, knows this. As such, he’s been unafraid of teaming with Republican lawmakers on spending and education reforms. That’s helped him garner Republican votes in the district to offset those he does not get from Democrats offended by his centrism.

In 2006, he unseated Republican Sen. Dave Schmidt by 2,000 votes. In their 2010 rematch, Hobbs won by 936 votes.

“That tells me he is definitely beatable,” Kellett said, adding that he intends to “represent all the people of the 44th Legislative District, not just the Republicans or Democrats.”

It won’t be easy. Kellett is not well known with the electorate yet. And as of Wednesday morning, he had raised only $200 for the campaign compared to the $130,000 hauled in by Hobbs.

Kellett should be able to eventually count on help from the Republican Party. In the Senate, Republicans hold 24 seats and with one more can gain outright control.

While this one won’t be easy to pick up, GOP leaders have repeatedly said it’s a race they are targeting to win — even if their candidate isn’t touting his ties with them right now.

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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