The Olympian newspaper at Washington's capital has for some months been running Capitol Chat - live on-line chats with public people in the area. It's been a nifty service, not (yet) much replicated by other regional newspapers. Some sessions have been livelier than others; the guests have ranged from House Speaker Frank Chopp to a local accountant (talking about income taxes) to oneof the newspaper's photographers.
Could be that the liveliest session they've had yet, and possibly the most significant, will be coming up Tuesday. That's when third-term state Senator Tim Sheldon and his opponent in the Democratic primary, Kyle Taylor Lucas, joint chat with whoever types in.
It's a hell of a contest, one of the most watchable in Washington state for next month's primary, and with even some national resonance.
Sheldon is the sometimes-Democrat, sometimes-independent (as when he serves on the Mason County Commission) who has tended to support Republicans for major office (as in George W. Bush for president and Dino Rossi for governor) more than he has Democrats. Quite a few Democrats around Washington would like to see him bounced out of office. (Should note here: Sheldon has done the Olympian chat, by himself, before.)
First question: How will primary voters in rural west-Puget District 35 react? (Roughly, District 35 sits west and northwest of Olympia.)
Second question: How will they react to Lucas, who is best known to this point as the director of the state Indian Affairs office under former Governor Gary Locke?
Third question: Will the change in primary election procedure - in which, this time, the participants in this primary will be more closely limited to Democratic Party members than previously - work against Sheldon?
Fourth question: To what extent does someone - and it's hard to be sure who it would be - try to turn this into another (local) Liberman-Lamont battle?
These last two mesh together. The Olympian quoted state Senator Karen Keiser, D-Kent, who heads the state Senate Democratic Campaign Committee. "What we see in Connecticut … may be emblematic. It may be a signal for all of us to pay attention to.'' She also described District 35 as "'ground zero' for the effects of the pick-a-party primary, where party die-hards can make their preferences felt more strongly."
This is a very hard-fought race. For a sense of how the internal struggle is playing out in the Democratic Party in the Northwest, there'll be no better place to tune in midday Tuesday than on the Olympian's chat.