GOP has slim, but possible, chance to win House seat

It’s been 33 years since voters chose a Republican governor in Washington.

But it’s been even longer since a member of the Grand Old Party got elected from the 38th Legislative District to the House of Representatives.

You have to go back half a century to find the last one — Jack Metcalf, a Whidbey Island Republican who won a House seat when the district’s boundaries encompassed parts of Snohomish and Island counties.

With any luck, Republicans could end their losing streak next year in a district now centered in Everett and includes Tulalip and a sliver of Marysville.

A vacancy in the state House is creating the potential opportunity. Democrat John McCoy of Tulalip moved from the House to the Senate last month and seven people want his old seat.

June Robinson, Jennifer Smolen, Deborah Parker, Ed Triezenberg, Kelly Wright, David Simpson and Ray Miller are hustling up support from Democratic precinct committee officers who will vote out their top three choices Tuesday. Sometime in the following week, the Snohomish County Council will appoint one of them.

All seven are respectable members of the community with solid Democratic credentials and similar philosophical approaches to governing.

None of them are political rock stars and most are not widely known among voters. Whoever is appointed will need to squeeze out every ounce of advantage from their incumbent status to retain the job in next fall’s election.

As a newcomer, they’ll be politically vulnerable. Any vote they take, bill they introduce, utterance they make could find its way into the campaign. As a latecomer, they will be unable to fund raise during the 2014 session, while any Republican challenger can.

Those are small factors in Republicans’ favor. And they may not be the only ones.

Voters in the district may be less enamored with embracing all Democrats for office after seeing two of them, County Executive Aaron Reardon and state Sen. Nick Harper, resign in disgrace this year.

And if Republicans field a candidate with a strong resume and ample campaign billfold — something they’ve not done in recent years — victory isn’t beyond grasp.

Much of it will depend on what happens in Everett, where the largest chunk of the district’s voters resides.

While Everett voters only seem to send Democrats to do their bidding in Olympia, they are not afraid of electing Republicans to the nonpartisan City Council.

Scott Bader proved it last November when he defeated June Robinson for a council seat by roughly 1,800 votes. Though there was no “R” next to Bader’s name or “D” next to Robinson’s; one didn’t have to work very hard to find out what political party each associated with.

It was an impressive performance in a presidential election year. Democrats turned out more voters than Republicans and outspent them to make sure everyone knew the names of all the Democrats on the ballot.

Still, in numerous Everett precincts, Bader received as many votes as McCoy did in his legislative race.

Campaign strategists view such ballot behavior as an opportunity to snare votes from the less partisan members of their opponent’s party.

Republican Party leaders may see this as one more selling point to those they’re recruiting to do battle for the seat in 2014.

They’ll need a few as they know history is not on their side.

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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