The top Republicans and Democrats for Congress

The News TribuneJuly 13, 2014 

Truth in packaging is a virtue of the traditional partisan primary.

The winners who move on to the final election are clearly endorsed by their parties. The party labels give voters a rough idea of the candidates’ politics – Republicans, more conservative; Democrats, more liberal.

Washington’s unusual top-two primary – which is about to start churning out absentee ballots – creates much trickier choices.

The state’s weird twist on the system prevents candidates from indicating on the ballot whether they are supported by their parties or even whether they actually belong to it. They can only “prefer” it.

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith of the 9th Congressional District, for example, has been a Democrat his entire political career, and he’s been voting with his party since he entered Congress in 1997. He’s a leading Democrat in both Washingtons. Yet the ballot permits him only to state that he “prefers” the Democratic Party.

This is confusing. As we publish our political endorsements this week, we will identify which candidates are most authentically Republican or Democrat, as evidenced by their records, personal views and the support of their parties.

We will also identify which of them are likely to be their parties’ best representatives in the November elections and in office. Most Washingtonians identify with one of the two major parties; we rarely endorse candidates from third parties or minor parties unless they have first shown they can play in the big leagues by doing well in a previous election.

We’ll be running legislative endorsements later this week. Today we’ll start with Congress. These endorsements apply to the primary election only. The names of endorsed candidates are in boldface:

 • In the 6th Congressional District – which encompasses the Olympic Peninsula and a small part of Tacoma – incumbent Rep. Derek Kilmer of Gig Harbor is the sole Democrat. Marty McClendon, also of Gig Harbor, is the sole Republican. They share the ballot with a Green Party candidate and a candidate no with affiliation.

 • In the 8th District – which covers eastern Pierce County, southeastern King County and a chunk of Central Washington – incumbent Rep. Dave Reichert of Auburn is the only Republican. Of the two Democrats, Jason Ritchie and Keith Arnold, Ritchie – who lives in Issaquah – is the stronger.

 • In the 9th District – an urban sliver running from Northeast Tacoma into South Seattle and Bellevue – Adam Smith of Bellevue faces a weak Democratic challenge from Don Rivers. Doug Basler of Kent is the sole Republican. A “prefers Citizens Party” candidate shares the ballot.

 • In the 10th District – which includes Lakewood, University Place, Puyallup and the Olympia area – Rep. Denny Heck of Olympia is the Democrat and Joyce McDonald of Puyallup is the Republican. A “Human Rights Party” candidate and an “Independent Party” candidate are also running.

We hope this helps sort out that complex ballot.

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