Opinion

Democrats fight to keep power in Olympia | Bob Roegner

And they’re off and running!

The candidates have now officially filed in what may become one of the most important election cycles in years, and there were some surprises.

One of the biggest was right here in Federal Way, as City Councilman Roger Freeman shook up the political matrix by filing against Republican incumbent State Rep. Katrina Asay.

Freeman filed as a Democrat. Rick Hoffman also filed as a Democrat for the same position, but that had been expected. Freeman’s filing was not.

Democrats hold only a 56-42 margin in the state House, and Republicans talk openly about winning six to nine seats. Freeman’s sudden interest suggests that the push for him to run may have come from Olympia and House Speaker Frank Chopp as part of the Democratic strategy to retain control of the House.

Freeman was elected to the city council two years ago. Some viewed his election as preparatory to running for higher office. However, he has been a low-key council member and has not demonstrated the ambition many had anticipated. His late entrance gives him an uphill battle as Asay has already been working on her re-election for many months. She has literature, endorsements and held her campaign kickoff a few weeks ago.

Hoffman had planned to run for position one, which is being vacated by Mark Miloscia in his run for state auditor. Hoffman chose to defer to other Democrats and run for position two held by Asay. Freeman’s filing means there will be a split among Democrats in a top-two primary. Both Freeman and Hoffman will have to spend extra money to advance to the general election while Asay raises, and saves, money before facing the Democratic nominee. This race now looks important to both parties and may rival position one for spending. By getting Freeman into the race, Democratic leaders may also have been trying to keep Republicans from spending significant amounts on position one. Now, Republican strategists and donors will also have to defend position two and Asay.

One of the more interesting races may be for the State Supreme Court, where three big names are all in the same race. Former Justice Richard Sanders, former Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg and current  Superior Court Judge Bruce Hillyer. Hillyer is well connected in King County politics and was the Democratic nominee for King County Executive several years ago. He may split votes with Ladenburg, a fellow Democrat. Sanders will have the conservative vote to himself.

Although not a surprise, Dale Washam filed to retain his Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer position. Since he was first elected, Washam has been on the front page of the newspaper for lawsuits filed by his employees and other allegations of misconduct. An attempt to recall him did not get enough signatures. His filing ensures a visible and potentially volatile campaign. Well known Tacoma-area politicians Spiro Manthou, Tim Farrell and Mike Lonergan along with Billie O’Brien, who works in the assessor’s office, have filed to run against him.

The Senate is under nominal control of the Democrats by a 27-22 majority. But three Democrats sided with Republicans to control the budget last session. With conservative Democrats voting with the Republicans, the Republicans really only need to win a couple of seats currently held by Democrats. They are eyeing the District 25 seat in Puyallup that Jim Kastama is vacating, and hope to take out longtime Olympia fixture Mary Margaret Haugen in District 10, which is north of Everett.

If the Republicans take the Senate and the governor’s office, Speaker Chopp may become the most important Democrat in state government if he is able to hold on to the House and force compromise.

It’s going to be a fun year in politics.

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