Sure, the Olympics are a distraction, many of us are on vacation and the weather’s been so sunny that perhaps it’s thrown Northwesterners for a loop. But does that explain the lower-than-expected turnout in Tuesday’s primary?
Going to an all-mail election statewide was supposed to boost turnout. After all, there’s no excuse for failing to vote when the ballot is right there on the dining room table.
Unless a whole lot of voters waited until the very last minute to return their ballots, it’s looking like turnout won’t reach the 46 percent that Secretary of State Sam Reed had predicted. That makes it hard to decipher what the results indicate about voter sentiment and what they portend for the Nov. 6 general election. Because this is a presidential election year, turnout is likely to be more than double what it was in the primary, possibly around 85 percent.
While there are yet a lot of unknowns, the primary did clarify a few things as voters selected the top two candidates to appear on the November ballot.
• Pierce County voters have had enough of Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam’s shenanigans. Even if many of them voted for him four years ago, they didn’t like how he bullied staff and racked up huge legal costs. They cut their losses by choosing former Tacoma City Councilman Mike Lonergan and, if early results hold, office administrative manager Billie O’Brien to move on to the November ballot. Either will be a big improvement over Washam.
• A majority of voters were paying attention when they voted for state Supreme Court Position 8, the statewide race that had the greatest potential for disaster.
A very fine incumbent by appointment, former King County Superior Court Judge Steve Gonzalez, was challenged by a stealth candidate who didn’t campaign, didn’t raise money and received no significant endorsements. He was banking on voters opting for the candidate who didn’t have a Hispanic surname.
Indeed, most rural counties and all of Eastern Washington voted for the less qualified challenger with the Anglo name. Fortunately, the more populous Puget Sound counties pulled Gonzalez through. Because he got more than half the votes in a judicial race, he automatically retains his position.
• Congressional incumbents sailed through the primary with comfortable margins going into November, but the open seats will be competitive. The state’s newest congressional district, the 10th, looks like it will have a hot race between two fine candidates, Democrat Denny Heck and Republican Dick Muri. And voters in the 6th Congressional District picked the Republican most likely to give Democrat Derek Kilmer a strong race, businessman and former Marine Bill Driscoll.
Now the real campaign season begins. And a note to those candidates who didn’t make the cut: Please take down your campaign signs promptly.