Friday, April 21, 2006

Handicapping the upcoming elections...

Locally, in the 23rd District, moderate incumbent Republican Bev Woods has her hands full with challenger Christine Rolfes. The Democrats are pulling out ALL the stops for the former Bainbridge Island city council member. I’ve heard that even Congressman Norm Dicks is quietly making calls and applying pressure on centrist Republicans to support Rolfes.

First-term, Democratic incumbent Sherry Appleton should be vulnerable over her boneheaded attempt to hand the Suquamish Tribe a bunch of our tax money to fund purely pork barrel — and highly questionable — political payback reservation projects. She’s also got the construction unions, who supported and worked hard to help elect her, absolutely livid over her venomous stand against NASCAR. Luckily for Appleton, most north end voters haven’t ever heard of Republican Earl C. Johnson. Maybe the unions should check him out — I've been told he supports NASCAR.

The 26th District, which spans portions of both Pierce and Kitsap Counties, is certainly the most entertaining. In the Senate race, perennial Republican candidate Lois McMahan will probably take out political newcomer Jim Hines in the primary, despite Hines’ endorsement by retiring Senator Bob Oke and the Pierce County Republican Party.

Look for Democrat Derek Kilmer to bury McMahan — not for good, just for now. McMahan will undoubtedly resurface in 2008. At the state level, Republican insiders believe McMahan can’t win, and are furious with her for insulting Oke by announcing a full year before he retired, as well as for refusing to either step aside, or run for the House seat left open by Kilmer’s move up. That’s why the party is backing Hines. They believe McMahan’s stubbornness will deliver that Senate seat to Kilmer for as long as he wants it. They're probably right.

In the 26th District House races, Gig Harbor Republican Beckie Krantz, who owns a business tracking legislation for politicians nationwide, presents a formidable challenge for Democratic incumbent Pat Lantz, who just barely beat a moderate Republican last time. This one could go either way.

A moderate Republican would also stand an even chance of winning Kilmer’s former House seat, but I expect 71 year-old Democrat Larry Seaquist to prevail. Not because he’s a particularly stellar candidate, but because he has no credible opposition.

Seaquist’s Republican challengers are Trent England, a 20-something lawyer with strong ties to the conservative wing of the national party, and Ron Boehme. My personal impression upon meeting England was that he's young egotist so full of himself he's annoying, and will be insufferable by the time he’s 50. Boehme meanwhile, sounds like a graduate straight from the McMahan-Craswell school of religious politics.

State party leaders asked England to step aside, dangling a plum job in front of him as an incentive, after lining up a centrist they feel certain can beat Seaquist. England’s ego wouldn’t allow that — and then Boehme jumped in. The moderate in question pragmatically walked away from that primary quagmire. Seaquist will steamroller whichever one of this dynamic duo survives.

In the 35th District, Republican Randy Neatherlin presents what is perhaps Incumbent Democratic Representative Bill Eickmeyer’s first serious challenge. Neatherlin’s activist role in the Theler Center controversy raised his standing among many in North Mason County. This could get interesting.

It's business as usual for Senator Tim Sheldon, who remains in the crosshairs of his own party. Democratic leaders are enraged the maverick centrist ignores marching orders from party headquarters, and actually voties his constituent’s wishes instead. That often means voting with Republicans against Democratic tax and spend measures.
What is he thinking???

It’s no secret the Democrats have literally spent years desperately trying to enlist almost anyone — including at least one Republican — to oppose Sheldon. Does that give a clue to just how bad they want him gone? Kyle Taylor Lucas, former Governor Gary Locke’s executive director of the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs, finally succumbed to the temptation.

The 52 year-old Lucas still owns a home in Tumwater — but now leases one in Shelton. Lucas says with a straight face she wasn’t recruited specifically to challenge Shelton. If you believe that, I have some prime swampland in Florida you should probably be looking at.

“Follow the money,” was the advice the infamous “Deep Throat,” gave Woodward and Bernstein to help them crack Watergate. That advice also makes PDC reports interesting reading. In the 26th, McMahan’s contribution flow seemingly makes it appear her running for office is the family business. Seaquist’s money has mostly come from the Washington DC beltway, and California contributors, while England’s campaign shows a negative balance. In the 23rd, Appleton’s PDC’s are filled with tribal and public-sector union donors, while Rolfes’ reads like a Who’s Who of the environmental movement. Makes you wonder what kind of ROI is expected if they win.

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