This year is the warm-up act for 2016, which will be a significant year in politics.
While there is a presidential race to keep us reading the front page, the statewide elections in the local section will have a much bigger impact on our daily lives. All statewide offices and Patty Murray’s United States Senate seat are up for election and control of the state Legislature will be an issue.
Some pundits think Gov. Jay Inslee could be in trouble. Much has been made of the recent Elway Poll where 41 percent said Inslee’s performance was “good” or “excellent.” In January of 2014, it was 45 percent.
However, there has been only a 1 percent dip since January of this year and that is after a very hard and very political legislative session. Republicans also note Inslee only got a “C” in the poll. However, in the same poll legislators got a “D.” And 30 percent said they would vote for Inslee and only 25 percent said they would vote for a Republican.
Only Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant has officially announced he will run against Inslee. Bryant is a moderate, and well respected, but needs to increase his name familiarity. He was here in Federal Way for an economic development meeting and was well received.
The other possible Republican candidates to run against Inslee? State Sens. Andy Hill from Redmond and Steve Litzow from Mercer Island. Both are from Republican territory and have some skills that will make them serious opponents if they decide to run.
Other names include Congressman Dave Reichert from Auburn and state Sen. Joe Fain also from Auburn. After redistricting, Reichert is now in a safe seat and seems unlikely to run and Fain could be a good candidate in the future. Inslee has done an outstanding job of appealing to his base of seniors, people in need on social issues, educators and environmentalists.
There were a couple of labor issues but labor is likely to be there when it counts. Also, he set aside the death penalty, and made sure state government responded quickly to the Oso slide and Interstate 5 Skagit River bridge collapse. That’s what governors do. Inslee has protected his home base and will put a Democratic fence around Seattle.
However, one vulnerability could be turnout. Murray is up for reelection to her Senate seat and so far no one is planning to run against her. It will be very hard to defeat Murray and if the Republicans field a creditable candidate, Murray loyalists, of which there are many, will help increase turnout.
That in turn helps Inslee by bringing more Democrats to the polls. If the Republicans back off from a race they are likely to lose anyway with Murray, it may help suppress Democratic turnout and in turn help the Republican nominee for governor.
The bottom line is this is a blue state. If Democrats turnout, Inslee is likely to win barring any major surprise. Lt. Governor Brad Owen is not expected to run, nor is Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn.
Right now, Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland appears the most interested in running to replace Owen and was in Federal Way to give a speech recently. However, about half the state Senate is also interested, so stay tuned. And at least four candidates are eyeing Dorn’s job, which is non-partisan.
Democratic Representative Chris Reykdal from Tumwater has already announced his plan to run. Former state Rep. Larry Seaquist and Tacoma school official Erin Jones of Lacey are also interested. Jones has a local tie as she used to work here in Federal Way. The field could change after Dorn makes official his intentions.
Other intrigue to watch is our own state Sen. Mark Miloscia. He lost to incumbent state Auditor Troy Kelley last time around and is expected to run again next year. Some in Olympia are also wondering if he could be interested in the state lands commissioner job after his questions surrounding a land deal the incumbent commissioner made with the Navy.
It seems more likely he will stay with his first plan and run for the auditor position. The big race in Federal Way this year is between Democrat Carol Gregory and Republican Teri Hickel for the House seat currently held by Gregory.
The winner will have a big impact on future control of the state House and on the 2016 legislative session. Whichever one wins, there still could be a rematch next year. If not, other candidates will be recruited and it will be another expensive race. Some names of local office holders are already being floated.
Everything in Olympia will be wrapped in the politics of who is made to look good and who is made to look bad. Promotions and job vacancies are created in this kind of environment.
The pursuit of retaining, or gaining power, is never pretty and rarely polite. The 2016 legislative session will look less like the dignified debate of competing political ideals and more like a back alley knife fight.
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn: firstname.lastname@example.org.