Primary races to watch closely | Inside Politics

The Aug. 4 primary election will advance the top two finalists to the November general election.

Bob Roegner

The Aug. 4 primary election will advance the top two finalists to the November general election.

In primary races, the key to watch for is the vote total for the top two candidates. If the leading vote-getter has more than a 10 percent lead, then it will be very hard for the second place finisher to make up enough ground to win. Inside of that margin, the winner will be determined by money, name familiarity, endorsements and hard work.

But there is one two-person race to watch very closely. That is the race between appointed Democratic incumbent state Rep. Carol Gregory and Republican challenger Teri Hickel. Gregory has been in Olympia since January with the Legislature in session, giving Hickel plenty of room to increase her name familiarity. This is a special election and both candidates will advance to the general election. As a signal of how important this seat is, Democratic Speaker Frank Chopp was in town recently to help Gregory raise money.

Prior to her appointment, Gregory ran for the Legislature and was elected to the school board, which gives her an advantage in campaign experience. She should be considered the front runner. But Hickel is well regarded among many political insiders for her community work and has had the ability to campaign while Gregory was in Olympia.

Hickel received an “outstanding” rating from the Municipal League and Gregory received a “very good.” These are two nice people who will run a clean campaign. However, third party attack ads were launched against Gregory before the Legislature even adjourned. That was a significant demonstration of how important winning this seat is. The primary is a test of strength and is crucial to each party’s fundraising efforts. Both candidates must look competitive or the money will dry up.

Another primary to watch closely is for King County director of elections. There are three candidates. Chris Roberts is a Shoreline City Council member and a Democrat, Zack Hudgins is a Democratic state representative in the 11th District just north of Federal Way and Julie Wise is the current deputy director of King County Elections.

Each candidate brings something to the job. Wise has the most direct experience in this very difficult job as she has worked in the department for several years. County insiders speak well of her skills to hold the top post. But while her steadfast non-partisan approach is an asset in both the deputy and director positions, not having held office or run for election before contributes to her lack of name recognition.

The Seattle Times endorsed her, at least in part, because of her lack of name familiarity, suggesting her competence and lack of errors in the Election Department on her watch has kept her name out of the paper. Wise also has a local tie to Federal Way as her parents live here. Her father previously served as mayor of Enumclaw.

Hudgins is a respected legislator and is well known through his campaigns. He would bring a different policy view and his knowledge of Olympia would be helpful. This will be an interesting race, look for Wise and Hudgins to advance.

In the City Council race, appointed incumbent Lydia Assefa-Dawson is being challenged by Anthony Murrietta and Mark Greene. Greene referred to Murrietta as a “union boss” in an unflattering manner at the Mirror’s recent candidate debate. Murrietta bristled but contained his temper.

And Greene’s claim of political support from Mayor Jim Ferrell was refuted and also turned the candidates forum into a shouting match. Greene’s candor might be interesting but he needs more seasoning on city issues. Greene received a “not qualified” rating from the Municipal League. Assefa-Dawson received a “very good” and Murrietta a “good.” Look for Assefa-Dawson and Murrietta to advance to the general election.

The South King Fire and Rescue race for the commissioner seat that will be vacated by Mark Freitas, who is not running for reelection, has a situation where the most thoughtful candidate might not get past the primary. The fire district has had several controversies over the years, and Freitas’s role has been to play a necessary check and balance on district policy.

The leading candidate to replace him is Roger Flygare. Flygare is a local businessman, has run unsuccessfully for the Legislature and City Council and is a Democrat. He is supported by the district power structure including incumbent commissioners and fire chief.

He has not identified areas that he would seek to change that would demonstrate any independence from the current policies.

Flygare’s most visible opponent is Republican and long-time South King Fire and Rescue critic Jerry Galland. Galland has also run for office several times and lost each time. Galland has been more restrained in his criticism of the district this election cycle, but would still bring a needed critical eye to the board. However, he may have already marginalized himself and likely would not be able to gain the support of other commissioners to bring about positive change.

The third candidate in the race is Bill Fuller. He is a former firefighter, but he has balanced that with his private sector experience at Weyerhaeuser. Fuller has questioned some of the current policies, including those that address nepotism.

He would support allowing family members of current employees to only apply for specialized job function needs. That is far short of public expectation but at least he is willing to try and discuss changes to an outdated personnel system that appears to favor family members.

And his approach is more likely to be well received by other board members. Galland and Fuller got the Mirror’s endorsement.

But Fuller doesn’t have the name, money, campaign experience or political connections the other two have. Too bad, a debate in October including him with either Galland or Flygare would yield a much more substantive discussion for public consideration.

Watch the numbers in these races.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn:


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