Which candidates can best reset government?

The Seattle Times

August 20, 2010 By Ryan Blethen

Tuesday's primary was rather pedestrian given the breathless political talk nationally. The common story line of woe for those in office and a challenger revolt fueled by frustration, anger and fresh blood ran into political reality in the Evergreen State.

Our entrenched system of elections did what it does well: set up incumbents to defend their seats in November's general election.

The numbers for federal office tea-party candidates were so insignificant they might as well have not shown up. The state's most high-profile race, for U.S. Senate, attracted Sarah Palin's futile interest from Alaska on behalf of Clint Didier. No grizzly power here. The general election will pair 18-year-incumbent Patty Murray against political insider Dino Rossi.

U.S. Reps. Dave Reichert, Jay Inslee, Adam Smith, Jim McDermott and Norm Dicks might have forgotten there was a primary, given their commanding numbers. The only congressional incumbent with something to worry about is the 2nd District's Rick Larsen, a Democrat, who emerged from the primary nearly even with Republican Snohomish County Councilman John Koster.

Washington state's incumbents are safe, but only for now. In state legislative races, there are some incumbents on the Eastside and in South King County who have to be dismayed with Tuesday's results.

State Sen. Claudia Kauffman, D-Kent, goes into the general election having been outpaced by Republican Joe Fain. Sen. Eric Oemig, D-Kirkland, came out behind Republican challenger Andy Hill. Medina Sen. Rodney Tom's lead is thin enough to ensure a bruising general election. The same for Sen. Jean Berkey, D-Everett, who will have to fend off a fierce challenge from the left by the union-backed Nick Harper.

The good of Tuesday's results was the thinning of candidates. This primary brought out what must have been a record number of candidates not prepared for elected office. Some of them struggled to articulate what it was they wanted to accomplish — other than getting rid of the incumbent.

The lack of talent made some of The Seattle Times editorial board's decisions easy. Candidates such as state Sen. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, eclipsed their competition. Other candidates such as Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Monroe, were disappointing this last session and faced enough of a challenge to lose our past support.

I was confident Dunshee would clobber Shahram Hadian, the candidate we endorsed in the 44th District. I also suspected Reichert would advance with ease in the 8th Congressional District. He still had to earn our endorsement, which he didn't.

We don't keep a scorecard or endorse candidates because we believe they will be victorious. We back candidates we feel are right for their district and right for the times in which they will serve.

Guiding our endorsements for the primary was the Reset 2010 project. We relied heavily on seven points when making our picks:

• Fiscal responsibility;

• Independence/leadership;

• Getting out of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars;

• Education, with an emphasis on doing better by higher education and reforming K-12;

• Public safety;

• Creating more jobs on Main Street and reining in Wall Street;

• Ensuring Washington state's competitiveness nationally and internationally.

We will again adopt this project for the general election.

The importance of this election, given the sad state of the United States and the economy, requires the editorial board to focus on the candidates who can help most on our seven points. Will the incumbents and our system allow a reset?

The general election will force candidates to better define themselves and show voters that they are up to the task of turning our state and nation around.