The last outcome, last year, wasn't all that promising: After a strong push and widespread word that the race would be close, Democrat Peter Goldmark didn't wind up especially close to taking out Republican Representative Cathy McMorris. Of course, he was then running in one of the most Republican parts of Washington, and this time he'll be running in Washington overall, which could change the picture.
So, Goldmark's announcement Monday that he's running for state lands commissioner, the job now held by Republican Doug Sutherland. It could be doable.
On one hand, Sutherland hasn't been an especially controversial office holder, seems to have generally good relations around Olympia. And he has background in the key swing area of Tacoma and Pierce County, where he was twice elected mayor and twice county executive, respectively. He's been elected commissioner twice statewide.
But those wins weren't spectacular. In 2000, he won by a close 49.5%-45.1%, although that involved beating a former (and controversial) governor, Mike Lowry. In 2004, when he might have been expected to do much better, his margin diminished: 50%-46.7% over Democrat Mike Cooper, who never caught fire but did fire shots at Sutherland that have echoes in Goldmark's now.
Goldmark's rationale is simply put: "From the perspective of rural communities, school districts, users and neighbors of our state lands, we see a Commissioner that is too tied to corporate interests, too focused on short term profits at the expense of long term planning, and frankly not listening to the people impacted by his decisions in Olympia. I'll bring a unique perspective to the office-a voice for rural Washington, for long term conservation goals, and sustainable resources and revenues for our communities and educational institutions."
His early start will help. And hailing as he does from Okanogan County, he may be able to dig a little (not to overstate the matter) into the normal Republican numbers east of the Cascades. And, of course, Washington has been trending Democratic in the last few elections, and Sutherland has scant margin to lose.
Sutherland may need to jump in soon himself, if he wants a third term.
ALSO As David Postman writes, and the Post-Intelligencer has reported, state Senator Erik Poulsen, D-West Seattle, and King County Councilman Dow Constantine have been noted as expressing interest. Will Goldmark's nearly official entry dampen theirs?