Partisan Dickering

This year's new primary format is terrible. But it's still important to vote. Here's for whom.

For 67 years, we've voted in primary elections for people, not parties. But after legal action by the Democrats, Libertarians, and Republicans, we now must commit to one of them for the honor of choosing among nominees for November's general election. No more voting for a Republican candidate in one race and a Democrat in another—no more crossover voting, not in the primary. For many of us, maybe even most of us, it is viscerally distasteful to be partisan, even one day of the year. But that's what we've got to work with, at least this year, and it shouldn't prevent us from voting on Sept. 14.

For one thing, we can skip the partisan part of the ballot and vote for the best judges, like Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders, and in favor of important ballot propositions, like Seattle's Families and Education Levy or King County's library bond.

Or we can hold our nose and also fill in a little round circle to temporarily pledge allegiance as a Democrat, Republican, or Libertarian for the privilege of picking among the candidates of that one party. At least this choice of slate is private. No record is kept, and our ballot is anonymous, as always. But the requirement to pick a party and choose candidates affiliated only with that one party rankles. The American electoral system presents us with flawed choices all the time, though. Consider this one more "lesser evil" decision.

Seattle Weekly's Editorial Board is not recommending that voters choose one party slate over another. We make recommendations for the best candidates within each party's slate, endorsing candidates in every contested race in King County for the Democratic, Republican, and Libertarian party nominations. In November, we will choose a single candidate for each office.

Confused? Call the King County Elections Division at 206-296-8683, look at the instructions in your voters' pamphlet, or check out www.metrokc.gov/elections.

Here we present our endorsements in the same order as they appear on your ballot.

Democratic Slate

U.S. Senator

Incumbent Patty Murray is the obvious choice for her party's nomination for U.S. Senate. Not only is she facing just nominal opposition, she has shown considerable courage by voting against the resolution on war in Iraq. That vote looks better with each passing day as the carnage mounts and the reasons for going to war disappear like a mirage. Washington's senior senator also is a consistent advocate for the interests of the state, and while this means encouraging porky politics, better us than New Jersey, as Sen. Warren Magnuson used to say. Warren Hansen and Mohammad Said are also seeking the Democratic nomination.

U.S. Representative, District 8 (Bellevue, Sammamish, Kent, Enumclaw)

Tired of predictable politicians? Vote for Dave Ross. Until recently a KIRO-AM talk-show host, he is exactly the kind of citizen politician we need more of in Congress. He won't pay deference to party bosses or toady around with special interests. He'll figure out how to crusade for common sense on the floor of the House of Representatives. Who will he hook up with? Sen. John McCain of Arizona? Rep. Bernie Sanders of Vermont? It's hard to say, but he won't be jockeying for re-election and greasing the wheels with pork. Instead, Ross will pursue the public's interests vigorously and creatively. Democrats also have a strong contender in Alex Alben, a former high-tech executive who would be an effective representative for his district. Ross' originality, however, earns him our endorsement. Heidi Behrens-Benedict is also in the race.

Governor

Washington needs bold leadership, and Ron Sims is the Democrat to provide it. Sims has chosen to advocate for a much-needed income tax in Washington state. Rightly criticizing our current property, sales, and business tax system as both unfair and inadequate, Sims has started a debate on tax reform that Washington needs to prosper in the 21st century. As King County executive, Sims has shown that he can work with a bipartisan legislative body and move an agenda—skills he will use to the whole state's benefit in Olympia. While there are many issues we've disagreed on—from his tunnel vision on light rail to his failure to adequately fund human services—we like the energy and risk-taking he has shown throughout the campaign. Attorney General Christine Gregoire is deserving of praise for fine work on major issues—the tri-party cleanup at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and the famous tobacco settlement. Gregoire, however, has chosen to run a cautious campaign that reminds us too much of Gov. Gary Locke's weak, incremental approach to pressing problems. The other Democratic candidates are Eugen Buculei, Don Hansler, Scott Headland, and Mike the Mover.

Attorney General

As a two-term state insurance commissioner, Deborah Senn served as a fierce advocate for consumers desperate for affordable health care. When virtually everyone else let the issue lie after the state's attempt at health care reform imploded in the mid-1990s, Senn kept on pushing—not only battling insurance companies at the policy level but intervening in heartbreaking individual cases in which ordinary folks had been denied coverage. There is no doubt that Senn will bring her populist-crusading instinct to a range of issues as attorney general. For one, she promises to make sure that the state stops obstructing valid attempts to make use of the Open Public Records Act. She also pledges to crack down on identity theft and investigate spiraling gas prices and predatory lending to the poor. Think of current Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Christine Gregoire's fight against Big Tobacco. You'd see a lot more of that under Senn. While the other Democrat in the race, former Seattle City Attorney Mark Sidran, has the smarts and competence to do the job, we can't forget his troubling record on civil liberties as the city attorney who pushed through a range of "civility" laws affecting the homeless and the poor.

State Representative, District 11 (Seattle, Tukwila, Burien), Position 2

Vacated by incumbent Velma Veloria, this seat is ready for new heat, and four candidates are itching for the chance to provide it. We're going with Bob Hasegawa, a longtime champion of laborers and a pain in the ass for big businesses. He was not afraid to challenge the entrenched old guard in a Teamsters local. It cost him a union post and his job, but as United Parcel Service workers will tell you, he walked his talk. We expect similar ballsiness from him in the Legislature on tax reform, education, and the protection of family-wage jobs. His opponents are Ed Prince, Rosemary Quesenberry, and Marvin Rosete—not a lame one in the bunch, especially Prince, who is ready for prime time but finds himself in the wrong race.

State Representative, District 36 (Magnolia, Queen Anne, Ballard), Position 1

After 32 years of Helen Sommers in the Legislature, it's time to give someone else a chance. Sommers' district has changed during her tenure, becoming more in line with the liberal politics of her opponent, Alice Woldt, a well-known Seattle progressive. Woldt will better represent the district's views on preserving social- service spending and support for poor mothers with young children. Sommers has been part of the Democratic House of Representatives leadership that has been unable to build an effective, unified caucus and has been outmaneuvered by the Republican Senate. Pundits have jabbed at Woldt for running with the support of the Service Employees International Union and for taking money from outside of her—gasp!—district. We think it says quite a bit about Sommers that she has received thousands of dollars in contributions to her campaign from big businesses like Conoco, many of them outside of her district. At the same time, SEIU's tactics opposing Sommers have been excessive, and we expect Woldt to stand up to the union when necessary.

State Representative, District 37 (Madrona, Rainier Valley, Skyway), Position 1

With three terms in the House under her belt, Sharon Tomiko Santos has hit her stride as a smart, effective legislator who is poised to creatively resolve the state's budget problems. We particularly like her approach to transportation: It's time to toss out the regional way, because it's just not getting the job done. She favors a statewide approach and a sustained push for the rest of the state to underwrite transportation fixes for Seattle, as Seattle has been doing for the rest of the state for years. She favors a blend of funding sources for transportation, such as tolls on the Interstate 90 and state Route 520 bridges. She advocates for much-needed state tax reform and plans to be a workhorse on the issue, regardless of what becomes of Ron Sims. Her opponent is John Stafford.

State Representative, District 37 (Madrona, Rainier Valley, Skyway), Position 2

We endorse Eric Pettigrew, particularly for championing educational options for minority communities that are not getting a decent shake from Seattle and other school districts. We don't necessarily agree with him on using charter schools as the fix, but he is right when he says that change in the public education system takes far too long to help a child in third grade today—that something needs to be done immediately. His opponent, Jeremy Daniels, a newcomer to politics, has a future as a civic do-gooder but is not ready for the Legislature.

State Representative, District 41 (Mercer Island, Bellevue, Renton), Position 1

Political newcomer Lance Ramsay of Bellevue is a former Naval officer who served in the Persian Gulf, an Annapolis graduate with an MBA who has worked for high-tech and telecom firms such as Lucent and AT&T. Many candidates are for "improving education," but Ramsay isn't shy about actually supporting more money for education. Imagine that. His opponent is Geoff Stamper, a retired Boeing employee whose wife wants him out of the house. That doesn't qualify him for the other House.

Republican Slate

U.S. Senate

Give us the real thing over a phony any day. Reed Davis is a long shot for the Republican nomination, but we like his guts in criticizing the GOP Congress' spending binge, and we like his willingness to take on front-runner George Nethercutt for his failure to honor a term-limits pledge. Davis, a professor of political science at Seattle Pacific University, is a consistent, principled conservative. That means that while we might disagree with him on social issues like gay marriage and abortion, we find common ground on concern about the overreaching nature of some of the Patriot Act's provisions and the federal deficit. The GOP's likely nominee, Nethercutt, has still not articulated a strong reason for his candidacy. While Nethercutt is a charming, folksy individual, he has already started running unfair, inaccurate advertising. Moreover, we're not sure of what he stands for other than personal loyalty to a deeply flawed president. William Chovel, Chuck Jackson, Brad Klippert, and Gordon Pross also hope to be the Republican nominee.

U.S. Representative, District 8 (Bellevue, Sammamish, Kent, Enumclaw)

What do you want, a sheriff who shoots straight or a legislator who gives you straight talk? We'll take the legislator, Luke Esser, over the sheriff, Dave Reichert, every time. Since there are no strong ideological differences between the Republican nominees to represent the 8th District in Congress—all are very right wing— experience and temperament matter. Esser is a state senator who in a short time has risen to leadership in his caucus, becoming floor leader. That's valuable experience to take to Congress. Esser is forthright and well informed on the issues, and he has personal skills suited to bipartisanship. The GOP's best-known candidate, King County Sheriff Reichert, deserves accolades for his work in law enforcement but is having trouble making the transition to politics. He stumbles on the issues, changes his positions, and does not seem able to handle the hurly burly of debate. Diane Tebelius and Conrad Lee round out the Republican field.

U.S. Representative, District 9 (Federal Way, Tacoma, Olympia)

In the 9th Congressional District, Republicans have only marginal candidates to oppose the dynamic Democratic incumbent, Adam Smith. We recommend C. Mark Greene for his interesting libertarian critique of the war in Iraq and the federal deficit, and his hustle in collecting signatures to get on the ballot. Paul Lord is the other Republican in the race.

Governor

Dino Rossi is an easy pick among the Republicans seeking to be the GOP's nominee for governor. He is truly conservative, but he knows how to work with moderates in his own party and across the aisle. His strong personal skills enable him to communicate well with voters, the press, and other politicians. His campaign is correctly focusing on the core problems that are facing the state—the economy, education, and health care—rather than the social issues that have distracted his party in the past. While we might not agree with the solutions he is proposing, at least he has the subject matter right. Rossi will be a terrific standard-bearer for his party. John Aiken Jr. and Bill Meyer are also seeking the nomination.

Lieutenant Governor

Last time we weighed in on this position, we endorsed the Libertarian candidate who wanted to abolish the office. The main duty of this largely ceremonial, money-wasting job is to be prepared to stand in, if necessary, for the governor. In a weak field, we pick Jim Nobles, someone who has interesting life experience. He works as a supervisor for a facility that treats chronic inebriates and sits on the King County Mental Health Advisory Board. Nobles wants to use the job to serve as a kind of ombudsman for the state, bringing forward citizen complaints and comments. His opponents are Jim Wiest and Scott Boniefield.

Attorney General

Current King County Council member Rob McKenna has distinguished himself as one of the smartest and most articulate Republicans around. We don't agree with all of his positions, but he'll present them rationally and is sensitive to the nuances of an argument. He also is campaigning as a conservative civil libertarian who is concerned about the overreaching nature of the U.S. Patriot Act and similar state efforts. On tort reform, McKenna veers away from caps on jury awards in malpractice cases, which Republicans and medical lobbyists have been seeking. McKenna supports moderate steps, like revising the law that holds minor players in medical cases fully financially accountable. Opponent Mike Vaska is a refreshing face on the political scene. Recruited by former Gov. Dan Evans to run, he seems truly committed to bipartisanship and showed guts by bucking the party line in standing up to obsessive tax-initiative backer Tim Eyman. We'd like to see more of him in politics.

Insurance Commissioner

To be frank, none of these guys is insurance commissioner material. But if you're going to vote in this race, our pick is John Adams. Like his opponent, Earl Dennis, he has longtime experience selling insurance. Unlike Dennis, however, Adams supported the current insurance commissioner in opposing Premera Blue Cross' attempt to become a for-profit company—a litmus test for us. If he ever got near the insurance commissioner's office, we hope he'd drop his terrible idea of establishing a monetary scale for injuries in malpractice suits. (Lose an eye, this much; lose an arm, that much.) The third candidate in this race is Curtis Fackler.

State Representative, District 11 (Seattle, Tukwila, Burien), Position 2

While Ruth Gibbs is too conservative for us, she has the backing of local 11th District Republicans and the King County Republican Party. We also recommend her to GOP voters because of the contribution she makes to the larger community, taking in difficult foster children and adults with drug and alcohol problems. Her opponent is John Potter.

State Representative, District 45 (Kirkland, Redmond, Carnation), Position 2

The GOP field consists of two qualified candidates: Jeffery Possinger, a Duvall City Council member, and our choice, Roger Stark, a political newcomer with an impressive résumé as a heart surgeon and co-founder of the Open Heart Surgery Program at Overlake Hospital. Both are conservative, fiscally and otherwise, but Stark has extensive experience in a key area, health care. And an important difference for us is that Stark is pro-choice and opposes outlawing late-term abortions.

State Representative, District 48 (Bellevue, Kirkland, Sammamish), Position 1

The GOP has two candidates competing to take on incumbent Ross Hunter, a rare Democrat from this generally Republican district. Both are mainstream conservatives. David Doud of Medina has foreign policy experience. His opponent, James Whitfield, a Kirkland resident, is a program director for the Washington Health Council, where he's gained important statewide experience in understanding issues of health care and access. A member of the state GOP's executive board, Whitfield has also pushed the party to address environmental issues through a group he co-founded, the Green Elephant Society. He is an African American with neighborhood grassroots experience, and he's our pick in this race.

Libertarian Slate

Governor

Libertarians should strongly support Ruth Bennett as their gubernatorial nominee. Bennett is an articulate spokesperson for the party's perspective that a government that governs least governs best. In addition, Bennett, an out lesbian, makes a strong case that government has no right to sanction a heterosexual couple's commitment but not a homosexual's one. Michael Nelson is the other Libertarian candidate for governor.

State Representative, District 48 (Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Sammamish), Position 1

Vying for the nod are two unknowns, Robert Walker and our pick, Martin Linane Jr. The party hopes interest in the race will generate the 1 percent of the vote they need to advance to the general election. Since most Libertarians are, almost by definition, people who eschew organized politics, it's tough to make a decision based on résumés. But what about ideas? Linane has done a better job laying out his issues. Among them: He's for charter schools, urges expanded bus service over transportation boondoggles, and is committed to eliminating "vice" crimes involving consenting adults. Go, Marty.

Nonpartisan Slate

Superintendent of Public Instruction

Our heart is with incumbent Terry Bergeson, who is one of the most dedicated, hardest-working public servants around, and a lifelong in-the-trenches educator to boot. We nonetheless feel that during her two terms in office, she has developed tunnel vision about the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, commonly known as WASL. As discontent with the high-stakes test mounts among teachers, parents, and students, with as many as two-thirds of high-school students poised to lose out on a diploma because of their performance, Bergeson keeps charging ahead with seeming oblivion, apparently too vested in the test to question it. Former superintendent Judith Billings, seeking her old job back, wants to scrap the WASL as a graduation requirement. She wouldn't have the authority to do so as superintendent—only the Legislature could do that—but she would be a needed voice that would hopefully prompt a full, public debate of the issue. Parent Juanita Doyon raises some of the same issues but doesn't have Billings' experience. The other candidates are John Blair, David Blomstrom, Arthur Hu, and KumRoon Maksirisombat.

State Supreme Court, Position 1

This judicial race has the most capable field this year. It is led by Robert Alsdorf, a King County Superior Court judge for 14 years. Alsdorf has a steady hand in court, earning him a long list of endorsements and assessments as exceptionally well qualified. With the departure of Faith Ireland from this position, the high court will have only two justices with Superior Court experience. Pick Alsdorf and make it three, we say. His highly regarded challenger is Mary Kay Becker, a Court of Appeals judge for 10 years and a former state legislator. Also running are assistant state attorney general Maureen Hart and attorneys Gary Carpenter of Clarkston, William Murphy of Bainbridge Island, and Jim Johnson of Olympia.

State Supreme Court, Position 5

Barbara Madsen's varied career includes public defender, Seattle Municipal Court judge, and, today, the incumbent in this position. Keep her. She was the third woman elected to the high court (1992), is considered inquisitive and innovative (she's heading the effort to develop the first automated appellate case-tracking system in the country). She is challenged by the capable Terry Lukens, a Superior Court judge and former Bellevue mayor.

State Supreme Court, Position 6

What can you say about incumbent Richard Sanders? Reformer, activist, independent, controversial, he's a lover of liberty who unabashedly crusades from the bench. Yet the net effect is that he challenges and energizes the process. Every ensemble court needs one of these. His top challengers are Steve Merrival, a Pierce County prosecutor, and former judge and gubernatorial legal adviser Terry Sebring. Also running are Tacoma lawyer Doug Schafer, former Eastern Washington prosecutor Fred Stewart, and James White, a Lynnwood prosecutor.

State Court of Appeals, District 1, Position 1

C. Kenneth Grosse is serving a 20th year on the Court of Appeals and has written more than 1,000 appellate decisions. We favor him in part because he's been a friend of the First Amendment. His opponent is William Fosbre, a Snohomish County court administrator.

King County Superior Court, Position 13

We hear positive community feedback on Theresa Doyle's work as a mental health court judge. A Municipal Court judge for six years, she also earned a top rating in the most recent King County Bar poll of defense attorneys and prosecutors. She gets our vote. Her qualified opponent, David Larson, who bills himself as an "Everyday Hero," is a Seattle attorney.

King County Superior Court, Position 23

A county judge pro tem and member of the state parole board, Julia Garratt also gets "highly qualified" ratings from local bar groups. Her background includes work as a prosecutor and defender—she's seen the law from all sides. We urge a vote for her. She is ably challenged by Andrea Darvas, a local trial lawyer. Also seeking the seat is Eric Weston, an attorney with the Northwest Defender Association.

King County Superior Court, Position 42

Chris Washington is endorsed by Gov. Gary Locke, former U.S. Attorney Mike McKay, and former Gov. John Spellman. We say vote for him anyway. His judicial résumé includes felony trial attorney, King County deputy prosecutor, and judge pro tem. Opponent Catherine Moore is a part-time family law court commissioner and a former tribal court judge. She's a qualified challenger, as is respected Snohomish County defense attorney Mark Mestel, a former prosecutor as well.

King County Superior Court, Position 45

Superior Court Commissioner Kimberley Prochnau ranks in the top three of all women judges and commissioners on the bench, according to a 2003 King County Bar survey, and is endorsed by more than 40 fellow judges. Vote Prochnau. Her able opponent is Jim Rogers, rated exceptionally well qualified.

Ballot Measures

King County Rural Library District, Proposition 1

The King County Library system is one of the busiest in the nation. It should be a point of pride that we love using our libraries, and now we need to give them adequate funding. As our population explodes, we need new libraries, and we need to upgrade the ones that we already have. This $172 million measure will improve all 43 branches, whether north (Richmond Beach), south (Auburn), east (North Bend), or west (Vashon Island). It will also build three new branches and only cost the average household around $25 a year. This is an important and necessary investment that is well worth making. Vote Yes.

City of Seattle, Proposition 1 (Families and Education Levy)

This would be the second renewal of a property-tax levy that, since 1990, has generated $138 million for programs aimed at children of low-income families. It's not a school levy, it's for programs outside school—for preschool, health care, family support and involvement, and after-school programs that most of us take for granted. Kids can't learn if they aren't supported, encouraged, or fed outside school, and we wholeheartedly endorse this renewal, which would raise $116.7 million over the next seven years. We wonder, however, if city officials aren't risking losing the whole program by increasing the amount of the levy by 69 percent. The amount the past seven years was $69 million. Opponents say these programs have been ineffective and lack accountability, and that the city would have too much discretion in spending. We disagree with the former and think the latter is fine. It's time voters stopped micromanaging. Vote Yes.

politics@seattleweekly.com

 
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