Opinion

Plot twists and spoilers in Washington Primary

From the editorial board

phaley@thenewstribune.com

These are foolish times when elections seem to have more to do with entertaining the masses than engaging their sense of civic duty.

And judging by the cold reception given to this week’s Washington primary — 28 percent turnout so far statewide, 29 percent in Pierce County — voters had little interest in the warm-up act. They’re impatient for the main event, with divas named Trump and Clinton at the top of the playbill.

Before the spotlight shifts to November, here are a few review notes from Tuesday’s primary:

McClendon was a marvel to behold: In the crowded field for lieutenant governor, media prognosticators didn’t regard Gig Harbor Republican Marty McClendon as a serious contender.

The pundits (including this editorial board) surmised two Democrats could emerge from the 11-person race to replace Democratic Lt. Gov. Brad Owen. If a Republican were to advance, most bets were on the cosmopolitan media darling, Phillip Yin.

Credit McClendon for inconspicuously rising to the top while three sitting Democratic senators publicly bloodied each other, each eager to prove he or she would make the best guardian of the gavel.

In the end, the lieutenant governor post will likely remain in the minority party’s hands. Sen. Cyrus Habib will presumably lock up tens of thousands of votes that were split among Democrats in the primary.

But before McClendon’s moment of fame passes, it’s worth asking how this South Sound Realtor with no elected experience managed to grab more than 200,000 votes.

Perhaps he got a boost from his platform as a Christian radio commentator, or from his consistently positive campaign demeanor. And don’t underestimate the subliminal superpowers of his “Marty” election signs, which slyly mimic the Marvel Comics logo. (Meanwhile, his opponent’s cheeky “Yin it to Win it” signs are headed for the landfill.)

Perhaps the experts wrote off McClendon because he was walloped in his bids for Congress in 2014 and state Senate in 2010.

Maybe all he needed to sniff success was to stop running against Derek Kilmer.

New generation shut out in East Pierce: Political strategists are watching the 31st Legislative District to possibly flip to the Republican column and tilt the power balance in the House. The quiet communities of Buckley, Enumclaw and environs aren’t used to so much fuss.

Republican Phil Fortunato seized front-runner status for the open House seat. “Independent” Democrat (aka quasi Republican) Lane Walthers will face him in the general election.

It’s regrettable that so few voters supported a pair of outstanding young Republican candidates, Morgan Irwin and Pablo Monroy. Neither man cleanly fits the social conservative box, but both flash bright sparks of intelligence and public service (Irwin is a police officer, Monroy a soldier).

Suburban East Pierce County, with its growing base of millennials and first-time homeowners, could benefit by giving voice to up-and-comers like these two. So could the Republican caucuses in Olympia.

Late to get in, late to drop out: The spring ritual of filing for office usually sets a clear path for election season and tells incumbents whether they have a fight on their hands.

But filing week turned out to be an illusion for two positions on this year’s ballot — the Pierce County Council seat held by Connie Ladenburg, and the U.S. House seat held by Dave Reichert.

Retired Tacoma architect Kit Burns didn’t file during the designated week in May, but decided belatedly to run for County Council District 4. He launched a gallant write-in campaign last month and won enough votes Tuesday to have his name on the November ballot against the previously unopposed Ladenburg.

It’s too bad former television sportscaster Tony Ventrella doesn’t have Burns’ stomach for politics, or commitment to finish what he started.

Ventrella submitted his name for Congressional District 8 during filing week, giving voters a high-profile Democratic alternative to Reichert, R-Auburn. But Ventrella dropped out July 1, saying the fundraising demands were more than he bargained for. “Please do not waste your vote on me,” he begged on his Facebook page.

Unfortunately, more than 17,000 voters did exactly that in the primary.

Ventrella’s impetuous leap into politics might have blocked some other prominent challenger from running. His indecisiveness came at the cost of a free ride for a six-term incumbent.

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