Questions for after the ballots are counted

  • Wed Aug 1st, 2012 8:30pm
  • News

By Jerry Cornfield Herald Columnist

There’s much to puzzle over in these final days leading up to Tuesday’s primary.

Here are four questions to be answered once the ballot counting begins.

Will Suzan DelBene be a victim of her own success?

She made her millions the old-fashioned Microsoft way and is spending chunks of it to get a seat in Congress. As of Wednesday, she had put $2.3 million of her own money into her campaign in the 1st Congressional District.

The investment looks to be paying off. She began the race as one of the least known of the five Democratic candidates. Now, polls show her in front of the pack, in no small part because of the blitzkrieg of television ads and mailers paid for with her dough. (Republican John Koster is the overall leader in every poll.)

Recent history, including DelBene’s, shows the wealthy don’t always win. The Center for Responsive Politics found that in 2010 only 11 of 58 candidates who self-financed their campaign for federal office actually won. DelBene didn’t in spite of dropping $2.2 million into her challenge of incumbent Republican Congressman Dave Reichert.

Darcy Burner, for months the front-running Democrat in this year’s congressional race, tells voters DelBene is trying to buy the seat. To the extent voters agree will become clearer Tuesday.

Will Guy Palumbo be this year’s version of Rod Rieger?

Remember the big story of 2010 campaign season? Rieger, a Republican, beat incumbent state Sen. Jean Berkey, D-Everett, in the primary. He only had $900 for his campaign but had unsolicited help from outside groups who spent a quarter-million dollars to oust Berkey and elect a Democratic successor, Nick Harper.

Well, Palumbo, a Democrat, is in a somewhat similar situation this year. He’s in a heated contest with state Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, and Republican Dawn McCravey.

Palumbo has raised enough money to mount a visible campaign, but unlike Rieger he’s not getting any boost from independent political committees.

Rather, the state’s largest labor organizations are spending gobs of money — $90,000 as of Wednesday — to ensure McAuliffe doesn’t suffer the same fate as Berkey.

The results of their efforts will be known soon.

Will two Monroe Republicans advance to a fall face-off?

For a decade, Republicans have owned the 39th Legislative District in east Snohomish County, repeatedly winning elections for the state House and Senate with ease.

There’s a vacant House seat this time and it’s very possible the top two vote-getters Tuesday will be from the Grand Old Party.

Elizabeth Scott, she of tea party fame, and Robert Zimmerman, the mayor of Monroe, are better funded and maybe better known than the rest of the candidates; Democrats’ best hope lies in Eleanor Walters who ran two years ago.

Chances of a Republican versus Republican match-up may hinge on voter turnout. Historically, the lower the turnout the higher the percentage of Republicans casting ballots and right now the turnout is low.

If the same party fields both candidates this fall, it will be a unique situation. And what Democratic voters do is a question to be answered in the fall.

Will this be a historically poor turnout?

Voters are really taking their time in casting their ballots.

Snohomish County sent out 402,000 ballots and only 43,103 had come back by Wednesday morning, a miniscule 10.7 percent turnout. Election officials expected nearly twice as many ballots to be in hand by now.

This is not an anomaly. King County tallied nearly the same low percentage by late Tuesday night.

Snohomish County Auditor Carolyn Weikel has predicted a county turnout of 44 percent, which is around the historic average for a primary in a presidential election year. However, at this pace, the county will be lucky to hit 40 percent, a bar it last failed to reach in 2000 when turnout was 38 percent.

Where are all the voters?

It’s a question on everyone’s mind. We’ll get the answer Tuesday.

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at Contact him at 360-352-8623 or