Running once, running twice

When Washington 1st District Representative Jay Inslee resigned to run for governor – in what looks like unfortunate timing – he set up a number of curiosities in his old district.

In November (and in the primary too), voters will have the oddity of being able to vote for two different people to represent the 1st – one for a “short term”, really short, just a month – and the other for the full two-year term. Candidates can run for both, since the terms are consecutive, not concurrent.

In one sense, why should they run for both? Here’s another oddity: The 1st district to be represented is different in the two elections. It was reapportioned, dramatically, with the boundaries moved much to the east, so that the new and the old district only overlap about half of the population. Campaigning may be a lot more complicated running in, in effect, two districts at once.

(Left: Current District 1; Right: New District 1/Daily Kos)

In the last few days, though – last week being filing week – there’s been quite a tussle about who runs in one or both. Word was that state Democratic Chair Dwight Pelz wanted his main candidates to run just for the full term, in what will be a very competitive new district, more closely competitive than the old Democratic-leaning one has been. But there’s been some pushback.

For one thing, John Koster, the presumptive Republican standard-bearer, is running in both – and there are good reasons. An article in Daily Kos points out one factor applying to all candidates in the races:

By running in two elections at once, FEC contribution limits are doubled, so donors who’ve already given the maximum amount allowed by law can be re-solicited. Burner was reportedly concerned that Koster, the Republican standard-bearer, would also jump into the special, giving him a financial leg up. Koster did ultimately wind up doing so, but it appears Burner made the first move—and that prompted most of the rest of the field to abrogate their agreement with Pelz and follow suit, lest they, too, wind up at a disadvantage.
The one holdout was, as I mentioned, Hobbs, who put out a press release hammering the other candidates for trying to “dodge federal campaign contribution laws.” It’s not clear why Hobbs didn’t follow the herd, though perhaps he thinks he’s got a good angle with voters by avoiding what he called “financial trickery and shifty politics.”

That would be Darcy Burner, who has run twice (unsuccessfully, but in close races) in the 8th district, part of which makes up the new 1st (but not the current 1st; see?). And legislator Steve Hobbs.

Of the seven candidates for the two-year term, just two – Hobbs and Independent Larry Ishmael – aren’t running as well for the month term. But, oddly, the short term has drawn a raft of candidates. They include one Independent (Bob Champion), eight Democrats (compared to five for the 2-year) and two Republicans.

The top-two primary will winnow the lists, of course, presumably to Koster and one of the Democrats. But working out the calculus beyond that has gotten a little harder.

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