Opinion

Big surprises in the 2012 primary election | Bob Roegner

Much of the primary went as expected, but there were a couple of big surprises.

The biggest one was in the governor race. For the past year, Republican Rob McKenna has run an almost textbook campaign, and at one point led Democrat Jay Inslee by double digits. McKenna easily claimed the mantle of front-runner, and many newspaper stories wrote that McKenna would be the first Republican governor since John Spellman was elected 30 years ago.

“Jay who” was a familiar question in voter-rich King County. But then a couple of weeks before the primary, Inslee ran two outstanding commercials to introduce himself to the public. Neither of McKenna’s commercials seemed to connect as well as Inslee’s. The polls tightened up, though McKenna continued to lead.

Before the primary, McKenna was rated higher on economic issues, and Inslee rated higher on social issues. They were rated even on concern for education. But in “likability,” Inslee ranked higher in the polling.

McKenna was expected by many to come out of the primary with a slight lead. But in a surprise, it was Inslee leading 47 percent to 43 percent statewide, even with 4 percent going to another Democrat.

The shocker was Inslee’s margin of 59 percent to 35 percent in King County. McKenna was previously on the King County Council and has run several points above the Republican base in past races. Even though both parties said typical primary voters favored the other side, independent analysts said primary voters tend to be older and slightly more conservative. That would have favored McKenna.

Last spring, some leading Democrats felt McKenna would be hard to beat, particularly with his King County ties, and were thought to be looking for a stronger candidate to lead the Democratic ticket. But with Inslee exposing a possible McKenna weakness in King County, this could be a very close race.

On the local front, many were disappointed with State Rep. Mark Miloscia’s third-place finish in the Democratic primary for State Auditor. Sen. Craig Pridemore had been projected as the front-runner, but House member Troy Kelley came on strong toward the end of the race to win and will face Republican James Watkins in November.

In reviewing newspapers published by Sound Publishing throughout the state, Kelley started spending for news print several weeks ago, and it appears to have paid off. Miloscia will be out of office for the first time in almost a decade, and it will interesting to see if he has any future political plans. Kelley has the resources and will be considered the front-runner.

Also on the local front, Federal Way City Councilwoman Linda Kochmar pulled a mild upset in defeating Federal Way School Board President Tony Moore and Jerry Galland, and will represent the Republican party against Democrat Roger Flygare in November.

Kochmar had good name identification after 14 years in public office, and was named “Outstanding City Official” twice in the annual Mirror poll. Being the only female in the race may have also helped.

But the reason for her win goes deeper. The shocker wasn’t Kochmar winning, but Tony Moore barely finishing third in total vote, just slightly ahead of first-time candidate Thom Macfarlane.

In a previous column, we projected that Galland might play a role in deciding who won. It appears that may have been the case. The numbers suggest that Galland may have taken enough votes away from Moore to help Kochmar. Although all three candidates are conservative, Kochmar had sought to position herself to the left of both Moore and Galland. Also, some election watchers thought Moore’s visibility as president of the school board during the controversy over standards based education may have hurt him. There was some possible residual effect from his previous race with Sen. Tracey Eide.

Thom Macfarlane had a very respectable showing gaining 20 percent of the vote. But Roger Flygare had the money to do at least three mailings the past two weeks, and that combined with significant labor support appears to have made the difference. Flygare vs. Kochmar should be a great race to watch.

As expected, incumbent Republican State Rep. Katrina Asay had a good showing and was also able to save much of her war chest for the general election, where she will get additional support from Olympia. Late-starting Roger Freeman defeated fellow Democrat Rick Hoffman and will face Asay.

Interestingly, there were 1,300 more total votes cast on the Republican side in House race number one. But there was over 1,000 more that voted Democratic in House race number two. Those are the “true” independent voters who may hold the key to victory in November.

Both parties were watching those numbers to see if the garbage strike would affect the election. Though brief, it was thought the strike might affect independent voters and tilt them toward Republicans.

While that may have been true elsewhere, it doesn’t appear to have been the case here. Flygare and Hoffman were the candidates most closely aligned with labor. Flygare advanced with numbers very close to Kochmar, and Hoffman showed well for a first-time candidate as his numbers were similar to Macfarlane, who was the other first-time candidate.

But the primary may have provided an unexpected opening.

The Republicans had thought they could take position one, and that Asay was safe in position two. They appeared to have the Democrats on the defensive, as House Democratic Speaker Frank Chopp got involved. But the vote totals have changed that thinking, and the Democrats may think they have a chance to claim both seats with Flygare and Freeman. Watch to see if the Democrats put more money into the race and if the Republicans respond.

The turnout was about 6 percent under projections and the Democratic Get Out The Vote program appeared stronger than the Republicans’ effort. Since this is a presidential year, the turnout could double in November.

Fasten your seat belts — it’s going to be a great election!

 

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