Opinion

Analysis: Incumbents and ‘change’ slogans

Hold on to your seats.

The last two weeks of this historical election season are going to be a doozy.

With the presidential race between Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) starting to show separation, and Obama’s lead moving to 6 to 8 points, attention is being focused on its impact on other races.

“Change” has become everyone’s slogan, and its blue wave ripple effect may influence some races here, particularly if turnout exceeds 80 percent, as is predicted.

In the congressional delegation, it appears most incumbents are safe no matter which party.

The one toss-up is, of course, 8th District Republican incumbent Dave Reichert’s second go-around with Democratic challenger Darcy Burner. Many feel the Obama pull will yield a significant number of new voters that may be just enough for a Burner win, but Reichert could surprise.

The governor’s race also has a “round two” as Democratic incumbent Christine Gregoire and Republican opponent Dino Rossi are locked in a very tight race. There are more than 280,000 newly registered voters statewide with 85,000 here in King County. Gregoire has to win King County by 60 percent to offset Rossi statewide. Most of these 85,000 new voters are likely Democratic. However, almost 25 percent aren’t sure what the label G.O.P. next to Rossi’s name means. Will they vote Democratic or for “change?”

Most believe Gregoire will do well in King County and the decisive battle may actually be Pierce County, where each candidate has visited more than 20 times. Gregoire leads in three polls by 1 to 2 points; Rossi leads in another poll.

What is conventional wisdom? It is too close to call at this point. The Obama effect may make the difference.

In the usually boring race for Land Commissioner, incumbent Republican Westsider Doug Sutherland has his hands full with Democratic Eastsider Peter Goldmark. If there is a blue wave, this is a race it could affect.

The same is true with the race for State Treasurer. Incumbent Democrat Mike Murphy stepped down and endorsed his Republican assistant, Allan Martin. But Democratic challenger Jim McIntire has decent credentials and maybe the right party label.

In a race that most believed would be closer, Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg’s run for attorney general against Republican incumbent Rob McKenna didn’t go well in the primary. McKenna won his home turf of King County at almost 60 percent, and they split Ladenburg’s Pierce County base. Raising money after that became an uphill climb for Ladenberg. McKenna is probably safe.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson, a 12-year incumbent, may fall victim to the “change” theme.

Former state legislator Randy Dorn of Puyallup is mounting a serious challenge. Bergeson has taken on some very difficult issues and, predictably, has alienated some key groups along the way. Dorn has some critics as well, and while Bergeson gets points for effort, that may not be enough.

Proposition 1 for mass transit looked dead in the spring, but high gas prices brought it back and almost made it look like a winner. However, the economic downturn will likely cause people to vote with their pocketbooks — and that means no.

Tim Eyman’s latest attempt at micro-managing government sounds superficially good, but may actually make traffic worse and hamper many cities’ efforts to solve local traffic problems, or help public safety efforts by transferring their photo/red light income to the state. Think it through before you vote for this one.

Next week: Final election analysis.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner, a former mayor of Auburn, can be reached at bjroegner@comcast.net.

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