OLYMPIA — Steve Hobbs is used to taking his lumps in the political arena and on the campaign trail.
But the centrist Democratic state senator from Lake Stevens still found the flurry of jabs getting thrown at him by Senate Republicans ahead of the Aug. 7 primary a bit unsettling.
Especially considering GOP senators dreamed up or drafted most of the policies he’s getting slammed for supporting.
“They feel they have to go after me and it’s unfortunate,” Hobbs said. “It’s a desperate move on their part.”
Early Wednesday, the 30-second ad started airing on CNN, ESPN and other cable channels. It is slated to run hundreds of times over the next two weeks, according to contracts posted on the Federal Communication Commission website.
Coupled with mail pieces and digital ads, Senate Republicans have funneled nearly $70,000 through Washington Forward, an independent political committee, to batter Hobbs. The hope is to better the chances of their candidate, Doug Roulstone, of Snohomish, in November. (This presumes Roulstone beats the other candidate in the primary, Libertarian Jeremy Fitch, of Everett.)
Hobbs is targeted for a simple reason. Republicans hold 24 seats in the Senate and need one more to reach a majority. The GPS for the party’s political strategy shows one of the best routes to this destination runs through the 44th Legislative District in Snohomish County.
It is a district where voters routinely choose Democrats and Republicans to represent them in the Legislature. A Republican, Dave Schmidt, held the Senate seat until Hobbs beat him in 2006.
“We feel that Steve Hobbs has rented a Republican seat for too long,” said Justin Matheson, the political director for the Senate Republican Campaign Committee. “It’s probably the most conservative seat the Democrats still hold that we don’t have.”
Hobbs, who travels in the political left lane on social and civil rights issues and the right lane on fiscal policy and government reform, has been a pretty good Democrat tenant — by Republican standards — though the 30-second commercial paints a different picture.
He is criticized for voting to raise the gas tax in 2015 and statewide property tax in 2017 and, earlier this year, supporting a bill to make some but not all lawmakers’ records public.
What the ad leaves out is the critical role Republican senators played in all three of those matters.
A GOP senator drafted the gas tax legislation that is now financing billions of dollars of transportation improvements.
Another Republican senator first proposed the property tax increase, which is enabling the state to better fund public schools as demanded in the McCleary case. In fact, Republican senators used their then-majority in 2017 to repel every alternative put forth by Democratic lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee. Only in 2018 — with the state rolling in dough from the booming economy and the GOP back in the minority — did Republican senators clamor for tax relief.
And finally Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, co-sponsored the aforementioned public records legislation that Inslee wound up vetoing after an outcry from residents and media.
Schoesler’s role also entails raising money and electing Republicans. He steers The Leadership Council, the source of money behind the attack ads. Thus, the GOP leader is in the position of blasting Hobbs for supporting one of his ideas.
Hobbs is counterpunching with $50,000 worth of commercials on cable channels, 2,051 spots in all. They focus on his record, not the Republican jabs, he said.
He figures if he can eclipse 50 percent by a comfortable margin, it might cause the Senate Republican caucus to ponder other routes to the majority.
Hobbs would still take his lumps but the jabs might lack the same punch.