OLYMPIA — Voting is under way in the Aug. 7 primary.
Although turnout tends to slumber for the summer matchup and awaken for the November finals, the election is critical for Democrat and Republican leaders of the Legislature along with their political strategists and bulwark of allies.
They know that in the era of the Top Two primary, the person who wins next month will way more often than not be the same one claiming victory in the general election.
Thus now is the time for them to try to capture hearts and minds of voters through all means necessary. Here is a snapshot of three races where this is happening in a robust way.
Upset in Snohomish County? Democrat Jared Mead’s attempt to unseat Republican Rep. Mark Harmsworth could provide a gauge of energy and enthusiasm among Democrats in the county this election cycle. The two men, both from Mill Creek, are vying in the 44th Legislative District where voters routinely elect members of both parties to the Legislature.
Mead, with a hand from the House Democratic Campaign Committee, had outraised Harmsworth as of Tuesday, by a margin of $71,665 to $38,751. Plus, Mead is getting a boost from an independent political committee — New Direction PAC — that has spent nearly $65,000 on mailers supporting him. Those dollars come from Democrat, labor, environmental and progressive groups.
Harmsworth has not garnered any dollars yet from his caucus political committee nor benefited from any outside spending on his behalf. Republican strategists appear comfortable in his ability to overcome the independent spending and repel the upset bid. The primary will reveal if such confidence in the incumbent is justified.
The return of Rodney Tom: Democrat Rodney Tom, of Medina, wants back in the state Senate and to do it he must oust Democrat Sen. Patty Kuderer ,of Bellevue, in the 48th District. Tom, a political centrist, famously left the Republican Party to join Democrats when he first served in the Senate. Then, he walked away from them in 2012 and reforged ties with Republicans to form the Majority Coalition Caucus. Tom left office in 2014.
In this race, Tom is the loud choice of business groups and quiet favorite of Republicans. Enterprise Washington, which gets its largest checks from the Washington Association of Realtors and Building Industry Association of Washington, spent $186,000 on ads and mailers promoting Tom as of Tuesday — nearly $75,000 more than Tom had expended on himself.
Senate Democrats and their allies certainly don’t want to see Tom return. The New Direction PAC has countered with $131,629 of advertising trumpeting Kuderer’s candidacy as of Tuesday. Kuderer, who has received financial support from the caucus, has expended $136,509 through her campaign. Tom and Kuderer are expected to meet in the general election. It will be interesting to see if Senate Republicans come off the sidelines on his behalf.
Dems take on one of their own: In the House, the Democrat caucus is angling not so subtly to keep Democrat Rep. David Sawyer, of Tacoma, from getting re-elected. Sawyer is on the outs after several women, including staff members and lobbyists, accused him of unprofessional and inappropriate behavior, and an investigation concluded some of his actions violated House workplace policies.
Sawyer resigned a chairmanship under pressure from his colleagues. He is running again to their dismay and disappointment. Nineteen of them are backing Democrat Melanie Morgan in this race. Plus, New Direction is providing a wad of cash to the newly formed South Sound Women’s Leadership PAC to conduct an independent campaign against Sawyer consisting of ads and a website chronicling the investigation.
If Sawyer and Morgan both advance Aug. 7, House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, will have to decide how far the caucus might go to defeat one of its members.