There’s a question hanging in the air: Can a Republican U.S. Senate candidate really win in Washington?
Republican Tiffany Smiley will take on Senator Patty Murray, who is no longer the “mom in tennis shoes” she was 30 years ago. Republicans acknowledge it will be hard to beat Murray, but they may have a chance, although the election is still several months away.
The races to watch are the ones for the state Legislature as control of each House may be up for grabs. Incumbents have a significant advantage in fundraising and name recognition. But nearly two dozen lawmakers won’t seek re-election this year. Five are running for the Senate, two are running for Congress and one is running for Secretary of State.
Two local vote-getters are retiring and it may turn into a free for all. One who is not running is Jesse Johnson (D-Federal Way) in the 30th District, who would have been completing his first term and would have likely faced a battle to hold the seat from some police officers and chiefs who didn’t agree with Johnson’s police accountability legislation. He is putting his family first as a new father.
The 30th District includes Auburn, Federal Way, Pacific and Algona. Johnson holds state representative position 2, which has attracted the most candidates, as you would expect for an open seat. Johnson’s decision has drawn several candidates from both parties. Republicans who have filed paperwork with the Public Disclosure Commission for Johnson’s seat include Ashli Tagoai, Janis Clark and Paul McDaniel, and Democrats include Carey Anderson, Lynn French and Ryan Odell. None of them has done much fundraising, but the filing period isn’t until May. The front-runner to replace Johnson is former House member Kristine Reeves who has transferred $37,567 from her congressional race to replace Johnson. The other candidate to watch in District 30 is former Federal Way City Councilmember Leandra Craft, who was defeated last fall in her attempt to hold the seat to which she had been appointed.
District 30’s Position 1, which has also attracted some interest, is held by Democrat Jamila Taylor. Taylor has raised $38,177 and will be challenged by perennial candidate Clifford Mark Greene. In the Senate race in the 30th District, incumbent Democrat Claire Wilson has raised $65,384 and will be challenged by Federal Way City Councilmember Linda Kochmar, who may have a primary on her hands from Mark Christie, who also filed as a Republican. Kochmar has raised $7,016.
The 47th District is another one to watch due to the retirement of 18-year incumbent Pat Sullivan (D-Covington). It includes much of Kent’s East Hill, along with Renton, Maple Valley, Covington and Auburn.
In the 47th District, Carmen Goers is co-chair of the Kent Chamber of Commerce government affairs committee and has filed for position 2, which is Sullivan’s seat. She has raised $31,183. The big change in the 47th District may be in the Senate position, where incumbent Democrat Mona Das said she needs to spend more time with her family and Kent City Councilmember Satwinder Kaur will run against fellow Kent City Councilmember Bill Boyce. Kaur is a Democrat and Boyce is a Republican. In position 1, Democrat State Rep. Debra Entenman is the incumbent and has raised $10,075 to Kyle Lyebyedyev’s $300. Das defeated incumbent Joe Fain four years ago to capture the Senate seat and has already raised $179,331. Boyce has raised $29,960. The candidates will have the opportunity to create some very competitive races.
But I don’t think we will know who is running against who until filing week in May. A good example of that uncertainty is the 31st District, which has a strong tilt toward conservative Republicans. Former State Representative, King County Councilmember and state Republican party chair Chris Vance will run as an independent against Phil Fortunato. The two House incumbents are both planning to run — Drew Stokesbary has raised $102,449 toward re-election and Eric Robertson has raised $31,545, and both have already filed paperwork to run as Republicans. Vance’s strategy appears to try and out-poll Fortunato and then defeat the Democrat in November. The 31st District includes much of SE King County including Auburn and Sumner. These will be interesting races to follow, but I don’t think we have seen the final matchups — and won’t until filing week.
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.