GOP may forfeit three local races for Legislature

EVERETT – State Sen. Jean Berkey is primed for an election. She’s drawn up her strategy, written the mailers and is raring to ring doorbells.

The only thing missing from the campaign today is an opponent.

“I don’t ever want to take anything for granted,” the Everett Democrat said Monday of her preparations.

She can’t count on victory yet – but maybe soon. Though filing by candidates ended Friday, state law grants political parties an extra week to find recruits for those empty slots in partisan races such as Berkey’s. The deadline to sign up challengers is Friday.

The intent is to spur more contested races. But in Berkey’s 38th District, the Democratic Party is a dominant force and that is proving a deterrent. The last Republican to win election to the state House of Representatives for the district was Jack Metcalf in 1961. In the state Senate, Gary Stranigan’s election in 1994 ended a lengthy dry spell for the GOP there.

“It’s very tough,” admitted Frauna Hoglund, chairwoman of the Snohomish County Republican Party.

“We’ll start looking around. There are some names we have heard about. Maybe we can twist their arms,” she said with a laugh.

In addition to the Senate seat, Hoglund needs a candidate for one of the House seats in the 38th District.

As of Monday, no challenger awaited the victor of the primary battle between two Demo- crats, Rep. David Simpson and labor leader Mike Sells. If no one steps up, the winner of that duel Sept. 14 won’t face a Republican challenger in November.

Rep. Maralyn Chase, D-Edmonds, is unopposed by a Republican in the 32nd District that includes southern Snohomish County and northeast King County.

“It’s entirely possible that I could have an opponent,” said Chase, who is ratcheting up a full campaign operation in pursuit of a third term. “We’re in fighting form.”

Chris Vance, chairman of the state Republican Party, said the unopposed seats “are not being focused on. You’ve got to go where you can win.”

He said the party’s attention is on capturing other seats that will gain the GOP control of the Legislature; the GOP holds a one-seat edge, 25-24 in the Senate, and trails by six seats in the House, 52-46. This fall, all 98 House seats and 26 Senate seats are at stake.

“Neither party has enough money to focus on every race. Our mission is to get the majority,” Vance said.

Reporter Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623 or jcornfield@heraldnet.com

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