It could be year of the woman in state, congressional races

Surprise filings from Hutchison and Kochmar

The big newsmakers in elections this year will be women, as they are energized and both parties have recruited them. Two well-known women filed for office, and it came as a surprise as neither had expressed any interest in the offices for which they filed. Former State Republican party chair Susan Hutchison filed to run against Maria Cantwell for the United States Senate. Hutchison is a supporter of President Trump and many in political circles thought she would receive a political appointment. She will have an up-hill battle coming in late against an incumbent. While dozens filed for the position, Cantwell and Hutchison will be in the general election, and Hutchison is the only one with the name and connections to mount a serious challenge to Cantwell. It’s a blue state and Cantwell will campaign against Trump. Cantwell is the front runner.

Three local races feature well-known women candidates challenging male incumbents of the opposite party. The biggest surprise locally was former republican state representative, and council member Linda Kochmar filing against democratic incumbent Mike Pellicciotti for position No. 1 in the 30th District House of Representatives. This is a reversal of the race two years ago when Kochmar was a two-term incumbent, and Pellicciotti’s win helped the democrats retain control of the state House. At the time, both House seats were held by republicans and all eyes were on the 30th District. The other upset winner that year was Kristine Reeves as she defeated incumbent Teri Hickel. Reeves will be opposed by perennial candidate Clifford Mark Greene. Reeves is the favorite.

The Kochmar filing caught many by surprise, as she had talked openly about running for the City Council next year amidst speculation that council member Dini Duclos would not seek re-election. Kochmar had testified at council meetings expressing her concern about city spending and most recently was involved in the effort to put the new city utility tax up for a vote of residents. That effort fell short of the necessary signature requirements. If Duclos is really going to step down, the council seat seemed a more likely option for Kochmar. With no incumbent, and voters who have elected her several times to city office, it seemed to fit her aspirations.

Pellicciotti will be difficult to beat, but Kochmar is already fine tuning her message to women voters. She is experienced enough to know that by starting late she is at a disadvantage. Pellicciotti has already raised $77,910 and retains most of it for summer campaigning. Kochmar will have a kick-off fund raiser in June. One school of thought is that Kochmar can run and if she looses, she will have reminded voters who she is for a council campaign next year. Kochmar says she is serious about returning to state government. The early front runner is Pellicciotti.

Senate races all over the state will be watched to see who will be in control when the legislature convenes next January. Similar to the race for House Position No. 1, women candidates and women voters could make a difference in the local Senate race, as two democratic women take on incumbent republican Sen. Mark Miloscia. As expected School Board Chair Claire Wilson filed, but she will have company as political newcomer Tirzah Idahosa, who has volunteered in several races, joined the field. Only the top two advance to the final which favors more well-known candidates such as Miloscia and Wilson. Early favorite is Miloscia, but this could be a closer race by fall.

The third local race where women may hold the key to voters, and is of interest to Federal Way residents, is next door in Auburn in the 47th district where republican floor leader Sen. Joe Fain is up for re-election. Fain has been a visible supporter of Reach Out to help the homeless and other issues in Federal Way. He is being challenged by democrat Mona Das, who owns a mortgage business in Covington. She had earlier planned to run for the Congressional seat being vacated by Dave Reichert, but changed her mind. Early line favors Fain.

Over in Port Orchard in the 26th District, incumbent republican Sen. Jan Angel had raised more than $90,000 for her re-election and filed early in the week. But, she withdrew and Pierce County republican party Chair Marty McClendon filed just before closing. McClendon is well known and had previously run for lieutenant governor and the House, so he won’t have the fund raising challenge that others might with a late start. But the script remains the same for elections this year as he will be challenged by democrat Emily Randall who has already raised $52,088 for the race. Independent Bill Scheidler is also in the race but has not raised any money.

Pellicciotti-Kochmar; Miloscia-Wilson or Idahosa; Fain-Das; McClendon-Randall or Scheidler: Four very interesting races in what might be the year of the woman.

Even though the incumbent democrat Karen Keiser in the 33rd District and republican Phil Fortunato in the 31st are favored, insiders will watch those races closely.

It will be a very exciting summer!!

My apologies for misspelling Senate candidate Tirzah Idahosa’s name in a recent column.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn and retired public official. He can be reached at bjroegner@comcast.net.

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