State GOP is happy to watch and wait

One might think, judging by their sharply worded press releases, that Republican lawmakers are genuinely disturbed by the special session.

It looks like they’re enjoying each moment, almost relishing them, the longer they sit as onlookers in Olympia while the scrabbled majority of Democrats cast around for a resolution to their differences. Pure schadenfreude.

As the session lengthens — today is the seventh day — the time nears for an irritable public to express itself via the ballot.

“Have you seen my November smile?” Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt asks without waiting for a reply before breaking into a full facial beam.

Part of the Walla Walla Republican’s job is increasing his party’s numbers in the Senate, and he’s been piling up dossiers filled with promising signs for those who might run this fall.

One folder is for the 44th Legislative District in Snohomish County where freshman Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, is up for re-election.

A February phone poll by the Senate Republican Campaign Committee revealed Hobbs is vulnerable, and Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, might fare well against him should he challenge his fellow Democrat, though most indications of late are that Dunshee won’t.

One of the more interesting revelations in the survey of 400 people is the popularity of freshman Rep. Mike Hope, R-Lake Stevens. He emerged in this snapshot as the most favored of the three legislators serving the district.

In a hypothetical contest for the Senate seat, Hope garnered 40.5 percent of those polled followed by Dunshee with 28 percent and Hobbs at 12.2 percent.

And Hope bested Dunshee by a little and Hobbs by double digits in separate head-to-head match-ups.

But, Hope says he won’t seek the seat having respectfully declined repeated invitations from Republican leaders.

The results reflect a positive feel toward Hope’s tenure, no doubt. The numbers also show a public mood far less supportive of Democrats right now.

That has Hewitt searching out other candidate options and the newest name to emerge is former state Sen. Dave Schmidt, the guy Hobbs unseated in 2006 by 2,064 votes.

“I’m strongly considering it,” Schmidt said this week. “I know the district. I know how the district votes, and I don’t think it’s changed much in the last four years.”

The poll provides him generally encouraging information. While 39 percent said they never heard of him, compared to 31 percent not recognizing Hobbs, most of those who did know him had a favorable impression.

In a measure of his potential, Schmidt edges out Dunshee and Hobbs in a three-way race for the seat.

Former Snohomish Councilman Jeff Sax, who’s been pondering running for office, didn’t do as well. This same poll found him losing to Hobbs and Dunshee in separate comparisons.

Schmidt said he’s got a few personal matters to clear up before making a decision. And he would have to move back into the district, as he’s been living the last couple months in Edmonds.

He’s started making the political calculations.

Environmental groups and unions representing teachers and health care workers backed him in 2006, and he’s well aware those organizations have had a trying time with Hobbs. He’ll be trying to tap them again for support.

His focus, like that of all Republican candidates this fall, will be decisions on spending and taxes made by Democrats. Voting against them, as Hobbs had, won’t buffer him from criticism.

“Even if they don’t vote for the tax increases they are from the party that did,” Schmidt said. “I think the 44th is one of the most winnable districts in the state for Republicans.”

So does Hewitt. You can tell by his smile.

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

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