For several months, Democrat Jim McIntire appeared to have a free ride to re-election to a second term as state treasurer this year, because no one filed against him.
Look again: Conservative Republican Sharon Hanek kicked off a write-in campaign not long before the Aug. 7 primary. And in a result that state election officials don’t remember seeing in at least three decades for a statewide political campaign, the self-styled “education watchdog mom” from Bonney Lake qualified for the Nov. 6 ballot.
“I do plan to do my best,” Hanek said in a telephone interview Friday, acknowledging that she faces an uphill fight against McIntire, who is well known around the state after one term and who already raised $136,000. “I also feel Republicans in general don’t do well in raising money, so it is not going to be a situation where I can match him.”
But Hanek, a social conservative who has spoken to tea party groups and once testified against a sex education bill in the Legislature, is going to raise money for yard signs and mailers – “the normal things a campaign does. I’m seriously in a campaign mode. I’m not doing this to make a statement and walk away.’’
Although Hanek’s 3.4 percent of the vote against McIntire wasn’t anywhere near the same number of votes as Linda Smith received in 1994, she also is taking a bit of inspiration from Smith’s legendary write-in campaign. Smith defeated two Republicans in the primary and then unseated U.S. Rep. Jolene Unsoeld of Olympia.
That might be hard to do against McIntire – Smith was a sitting state legislator and was coming off two successful statewide campaigns to approve state spending limits and create campaign donation limits in state elections.
But McIntire, a several-term lawmaker before he won his first term as treasurer in 2008, said he plans to restart his campaign. He said he had shut down his fundraising in May but now will do some.
“I’ll hire a campaign manager, and I’ll be getting around the state. I’ll be actively campaigning,” he said. “I’m going to run just like it’s any other opponent. The reality is there have been people that have run campaigns like this for county treasurer and got elected. I need to consider it a race.”
Sheryl Moss, certification and training program manager in the state elections arm of the Office of the Secretary of State, said she doesn’t recall seeing a write-in candidate qualify for the general election for a statewide race in the three-plus decades she has worked in elections.
Hanek did it by getting about 3.4 percent of the total votes cast in the primary for treasurer. And it turns out the bar is not very high to get over.
“A write-in candidate in the primary has to receive 1 percent of the total votes cast and be one of the top two vote getters,” Moss explained.
Because Hanek paid the $1,169.50 filing fee and registered her write-in candidacy, her name wasn’t on ballots, but elections officials “were able to count a lot more votes for the people who didn’t get her name right As long as it was obvious who they were trying to vote for we were able to include their votes.’’
Although write-in candidates often fly under the radar and their votes never amount to much, Hanek is one of nine candidates for legislative, judicial or statewide office that qualified this year in the Aug. 7 primary to move on to the Nov. 6 election.
Seven others are running for Legislature – including Socialist Alternative Party candidate Kshama Sawant against House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle.
There are a few reasons so many people are filing as write-ins. Moss said it appears candidates are figuring out they can register their write-in campaigns and they need only 1 percent of the vote.
One big factor is the state’s “top-two” primary. Because the primary is now a runoff that no longer guarantees any party a candidate on the November ballot, the major political parties no longer have the right to appoint someone to run if no one has filed from their party during filing week.
This has led to even more vacant seats than one might have seen in years when the parties had three days after the primary to appoint a candidate. This year, about two dozen House incumbents alone didn’t draw a challenger during filing week.
Another factor is the relative lack of competitive races in the state, due to redistricting and the power of incumbency. With campaign costs rising, fewer challengers are willing to get in, and political parties appear to be less willing to recruit to find a candidate for every single race on the ballot.
In Hanek’s case, she was too busy with college and high school graduations for two of her three children to consider filing in May. But after going to the state party convention, people got to talking – and supporters suggested she consider making a run for treasurer.
She was known to some party activists because of her background as an accountant and the work she has done for candidates to manage their campaign finance reports made to the state Public Disclosure Commission.
In her campaign materials, Hanek has touted her background as an accountant and is running on several themes – to make government in Olympia “accountable” with better transparency and what her campaign fliers called “meaningful transparency.’’ In an interview she called herself a “Christian conservative.”
Asked about McIntire, Hanek said: “I don’t have anything bad to say. I don’t really have anything good to say it’s a pretty routine job.’’
Asked about her accomplishments and background, Hanek said she was one of the few women receiving accounting degrees from the University of Washington, and she thinks she may be the first Japanese American woman from the UW to become a CPA.
As an activist watching the legislative process, she has opposed the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, preferring other standardized tests. And she testified against a sex-education bill at the Capitol and raised questions to lawmakers about how they were spending money for technology in schools.
Others who got written in
Nine write-in candidates qualified for Nov. 6 ballot by getting at least 1 percent of the vote in the Aug. 7 primary:
Statewide – Sharon Hanek, Republican, for state treasurer.
Legislature – nine candidates:
• 1st District - Mark Davies, no party, vs. Rep. Luis Moscoso.
• 19th District - Tim Sutinen, independent, vs. Rep. Brian Blake.
• 21st District - Kevin Morrison, Republican, vs. Rep. Marko Liias.
• 24th District - Craig Durgan, no party, vs. Rep. Kevin Van De Wege.
• 33rd District - Martin Metz, Republican, vs. Rep. Dave Upthegrove.
• 40th District - Brandon Robinson, no party, vs. Rep. Kristine Lytton.
• 43rd District - Kshama Sawant, Socialist Alternative Party, vs. House Speaker Frank Chopp.
Courts – In Pacific-Wahkiakum Superior Court, Dennis Gordon is a write-in for judge against Mike Sullivan.firstname.lastname@example.org 360-753-1688