A large field of candidates for the U.S. Senate won't be winnowed down to two until the Aug. 17 primary, but Patty Murray and Dino Rossi are acting like they're already in a head-to-head fight.
Blink and you might miss the efforts to be heard by the other 13 candidates, most prominently conservatives Paul Akers and Clint Didier, who are now campaigning together.
In part because of Washington’s top-two primary system, it will likely cost Rossi little to ignore the other two Republicans.
That frees him up to spend his ammunition on Murray, attacking the Democratic incumbent as a big spender who’s not doing enough to promote jobs, even as Murray and Democrats paint Rossi as a sleazy businessman.
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Voters probably will hear the same arguments come November.
For a glimpse of the fall campaign, Western Washington University political science professor Todd Donovan says, look no further than the $750,000 television commercial an independent, GOP-led group has aired attacking Murray’s record on spending and taxes.
“That’s the general election already starting up,” Donovan said.
Didier and Akers are hoping to crash that party.
Early polls suggest any of the actively campaigning Republicans could give Murray a tough race one-on-one, but the few surveys that have asked respondents to pick among several candidates show Murray and Rossi head and shoulders above their rivals.
Political newcomers Didier and Akers face a tough challenge competing with a pair who are about as well-known as any Washington politicians: Murray for her 18 years in the Senate and Rossi for his two losing campaigns for governor.
But Didier and Akers say voters want a grass-roots candidate, contrasting themselves with Rossi, whom they call an establishment candidate, persuaded to enter the race by national GOP leaders.
Starting this week, the pair of political newcomers will join forces to air joint radio commercials around the state.
In an online broadcast last week, they challenged Rossi to debate them and said establishment Republicans have been spreading the message they can’t win.
An endorsement by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin helped jump-start Didier’s campaign fundraising, but not to the levels that would pay for a television advertising campaign. To introduce himself to voters he’s relied on the news media, radio ads and months of speaking to tea party gatherings and other groups.
The Eastern Washington farmer and Super Bowl-winning former tight end deploys football metaphors to talk about returning the nation to its “game plan,” the U.S. Constitution.
Didier talks tough about downsizing the federal government to pre-New Deal levels.
In his vision, the federal Education and Energy departments would close. The Constitution would change to abolish the income tax and automatic citizenship for children born in the United States.
Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid would be phased out for future generations in favor of private retirement and health care accounts. The poor would rely on charity.
His goal of “unshackling” industry from regulations will have about as much appeal to environmentalists as the ostrich-skin cowboy boots he’s worn since playing for the Washington Redskins.
“You want to see pollution, go over to China,” Didier said. “We’re not polluting our country.”
The danger that scientists point to of greenhouse gases warming the planet? Carbon dioxide isn’t a pollutant, he says: It keeps the plants alive on his farm near Eltopia.
“The American people have got to start having some faith that this thing was put together right, and was done by a higher power, God,” he said.
Akers, too, says regulation is stifling American business.
He’s successful enough in his own business to allow him to finance his campaign almost entirely with his own money, spending more than $400,000 through June.
Started when he invented an adhesive cover for woodworkers to hide screw caps, Akers’ company was big enough by 2006 for the Bellingham entrepreneur to make plans for a $5 million manufacturing plant.
In China, Akers said, the project could have been planned and built in four months. In the United States, he said, it took him two years just to obtain the necessary permits. By that time the economy had crashed, and Akers shelved the project.
He points to another area where the country lags Asia: high-speed trains zipping around China and Japan. Much of the system was created by governments, but Akers insists private industry can build them here if regulation is removed.
To illustrate, he likes to pull out his iPhone.
“What would the government phone look like?” Akers asks. “You’d file two pieces of paperwork to make a phone call.”
Akers said he’s positioned to take advantage of anti-establishment feeling by voters: Just look at tea party-backed candidates’ success in other elections around the country, he said.
But Washington is unique in having a top-two primary system that is getting its second major use this year.
Anyone can pick any candidate, regardless of party, unlike in states where primaries often are decided by partisans to the right and left of center. The two candidates with the most votes advance to the Nov. 2 general election.
And Rossi’s base of support from previous runs makes it tough for his challengers even without the new format, said independent pollster Stuart Elway of Seattle.
“It’s just very difficult to see how they get past Rossi,” he said.
There are longer long shots in the race: Republicans Norma Gruber, Mike Latimer and William Edward Chovil; Democrats Bob Burr and Charles Allen, plus Goodspaceguy and Mike the Mover; and independent and third-party candidates Will Baker, Schalk Leonard, Skip Mercer and Mohammad Said.
ROSSI VS. MURRAY
If Rossi and Murray emerge as winners, the campaign will continue as it has.
Murray has run on her record of delivering money to projects in Washington, something she’s become expert at as she’s climbed to the No. 4 spot in Senate leadership.
She says jobs will be saved because she fought on behalf of Boeing’s bid to win the contract for an Air Force aerial-refueling tanker.
Rossi has attacked Murray’s earmarks as waste, saying he wouldn’t seek them. He accuses Democrats in Congress of driving the country into dangerous levels of debt.
“I am not part of the crew,” Murray shot back in an interview, “that voted in the early part of this decade for tax cuts that were not paid for, for war in Iraq that was not paid for, for Medicare Part D that was not paid for.”
Rossi touts his work as a state senator to balance the 2003 state budget.
Like his rivals, he has criticized Murray for supporting the overhaul of the health care system and Wall Street rules, calling them government intrusions that will cost businesses jobs.
Democrats say Rossi is opposing critical regulations to protect patients and prevent future economic collapses.
The state and national Democratic parties also have been calling attention to the past business associates Rossi has made in his real estate investing, and his speeches at real estate seminars involving tips on dealing in foreclosed property.
“They’re going to do everything they can to try to distract the public from their record of taxing, spending and growing government,” said Rossi.
Democrats are targeting him early, seeing him as Murray’s likely foe in the general election. Republicans will wait and see.
“As a gambling man, I’d say he entered the game as a favorite,” state Republican chairman Luke Esser said. “That’s why we have the game.”
United States Senate
No fewer than 14 candidates have filed to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Patty Murray – or at least gain exposure for their views and causes by running.
Here are excerpts from candidate profiles in The Olympian’s online voter guide. Information was furnished by the candidates. For more details, including their positions on key issues, go to www.theolympian.com/election .
E-mail: email@example.com .
Web site: www.akersforussenate.com .
Occupation: Business leader.
Civic experience: Eagle Scout, 1974; major donor to many charities across the country; WookLINKS USA - board; pastor, Glassel Park Baptist, Los Angeles, CA; youth pastor, Temple Baptist, La Habra, CA.
Education: Bachelor’s degree, education, Biola University (Calif.); teaching certification, UCLA.
Public statement: “I am running for the US Senate because I love my country. Our current leaders have taken us to the financial brink. We need leaders with records of creating jobs and living within their means to restore America to greatness. I am the only candidate who is actually creating manufacturing jobs in Washington and is actually eliminating waste. I am a bold, independent leader who innovates and solve problems. Vote Paul Akers for US Senate.”
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Web site: http://www.charlesallen2010 .com.
Occupation: Sales representative.
Civic experience: This is my first time running for public office.
Education: Bachelor of Science, management, United States Air Force Academy, 2002; Master of Arts, organizational leadership, Gonzaga University, 2005.
Public statement: “Today I’m asking you to make a choice. A choice between the broken politics of yesterday, and the open, bold politics of tomorrow. A choice between empty rhetoric and political posturing, or a new voice who is willing to listen. A choice between hidden agendas, loss of liberty, and no accountability, or a genuine care and desire to see our nation flourish, our communities connect, and our economy grow. I humbly ask for your vote.”
E-mail: Bobburr@comcast.net .
Web site: http://www.bobburr4senate .com.
Occupation: Retired executive and small-business owner.
Civic experience: Much outdated experience. Currently, an activist for many causes including renewable energy, Medicare For All, fiscal responsibility, adherence to the Constitution and Bill of Rights, an end to wars that create more terrorists than they kill, and election, campaign, political and government reform. I define an activist as a lobbyist for the people.
Education: A.B. with academic distinction in psychology from University Of California (1962) followed by postgraduate studies at the Claremont Graduate School. FLMI (1968); CLU (1972).
Public statement: “Our government is broken. It is corrupt. Power rests not with We The People; it rests with large corporations and the very wealthy. Special interests rule the roost. To change this, we need to get private money out of politics. I accept none. People of all parties and backgrounds strongly want public financing of elections. Incumbents don’t. I will lead the charge for publicly financed elections to reform. Send a message. Vote for Bob Burr.”
E-mail: email@example.com .
Web site: www.clintdidier.org .
Civic experience: Member, Washington State Farm Bureau; Fighting Children’s Cancer (Host annual golf tournament fundraiser).
Education: Columbia Basin Community College, 1978; associate degree; Portland State University, 1980; bachelor’s degree, political science.
Public statement: “I am running to preserve the freedoms we have enjoyed in this country for our children and grandchildren. I had a chance to live the American Dream. I grew up on a farm and played football in the NFL. While I was with the Washington Redskins, I appeared in three Super Bowls. After leaving football, I returned to farming with my wife and four children. I want them to enjoy the same opportunities I had.”
Party: Democratic Party.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Web site: http://colonizespace.blogspot .com.
Civic experience: Ten times the voters have rejected me, Goodspaceguy, and my wonderful programs such as (1) Employment for Everyone Who Wants Work; (2) Rejuvenation Research; (3) The Improving Of Our US Space Program. (We should already have over 200 privately owned space habitats in Earth and Lunar Orbit. You have already spent the required money, but we have space stagnation instead.) My many programs are taken from experience and books of economics and science.
Education: I, Goodspaceguy, born in Minnesota, studied at Universities in Germany, Sweden, and America. I earned a bachelor’s degree and then a master’s degree, which two business degrees included two important minors in the science of economics. In America, I was educated primarily in the states of Minnesota, Maryland, and Washington. I have gained a good understanding of our Spaceship Earth. In solving world problems, please think of our Earth as one spaceship.
Public statement: “I, Goodspaceguy, say that our economy is like a truck. I want my fellow sheeple to learn how to repair and operate our economic truck, which can then deliver many more jobs and goods. Also please think of us workers as the crew of our Spaceship Earth. Let’s build a job wealth prosperous Spaceship Earth. Study economics. Stop destroying. We should now have more than 200 privately owned space habitats in orbit.”
Residence: Des Moines.
E-mail: Mike@Mike4senate.net .
Web site: Mike4senate.net.
Occupation: Retired ironworker.
Civic experience: None.
Education: 4 years of college.
Public statement: “God has given me a Vision of our nation will rising up and become a brilliant light and the world coming to us as example. The Lord has shown me four major changes, he would have our nation make. Stop the homosexual agenda being pushed forward as an acceptable lifestyle, put restrictions on the pornography that is invading our lives, and give the Bible, prayer, and Jesus their rightful place in our schools.”
Party: No Party.
E-mail: email@example.com .
Web site: www.schalk4senate.org .
Occupation: Retired Navy JAG, small-businessman.
Civic experience: Recently retired after career of service as U.S. Navy Judge Advocate (JAG) officer.
Education: Law degree, University of Washington School of Law, 1990; B.A., University of Maryland University College, 1984; A.A., Tacoma Community College, 1980.
Public statement: “My name is Schalk Leonard. My family has lived in the Tacoma area for over 100 years. I know Washington values and as a retired Navy JAG officer, I know the U.S. Constitution, the military, and a strict code of ethics. I need your support. I will accept no free handouts - I will beg for no donations. We must trim the federal government, empower the states, and innovate American jobs to compete – today!”
JAMES (SKIP) MERCER
E-mail: committee@mercerforsenate .com.
Web site: mercerforsenate.com .
Civic experience: Volunteer, New Horizons Street Program; volunteer, CMIA orphanages in Kenya.
Education: B.S., physics, University of Washington, 1968; Ph.D., geophysics, University of Washington, 1983.
Public statement: “I am not a politician or a lawyer. I am a professor at the University of Washington in the Department of Earth and Space Sciences and a Principal Physicist at the Applied Physics Laboratory. For over 40 years I have conducted applied research for the US Navy in underwater acoustics and surveillance, and basic research in ocean physics. This experience and my studies in history have prepared me for the challenges that face our nation.”
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Web site: pattymurray.com .
Occupation: United States senator.
Civic experience: Shoreline School District Board of Directors (1985-1989), Washington state Senate (1989-1993), and United States Senate (1993-present).
Education: Bachelor of Arts degree from Washington State University in 1972.
Public statement: “As your U.S. Senator, I’ve always put Washington state’s families first. That’s why I’ve worked to create jobs, help local businesses grow, and meet the South Sound’s growing needs. I’m working to cut taxes for the middle class, train our workers and help families pay for college. I’ll continue to fight to ensure our veterans have the healthcare, housing and jobs they need. I ask for your vote to continue helping people and solving problems.”
E-mail: email@example.com .
Web site: www.DinoRossi.com .
Occupation: Self-employed businessman.
Civic experience: State senator representing Washington’s 5th District in East King County from 1996 to 2003. Currently on the board for the Special Olympics for Washington. Currently on the Dean’s Advisory Board for School of Business at Seattle University.
Education: B.A. in business management from Seattle University, 1982.
Public statement: “Our country is in trouble. Congress has mortgaged America’s future by passing trillion dollar budget deficits, wasteful stimulus packages, and Wall Street bailouts. I know America’s best days are ahead of us, if only we unleash the energy and talent of the American people and get government back to its proper, more limited role. That will be my mission as your Senator. I ask for your vote on Election Day.”
DID NOT RESPOND
William Chovil, Norma Gruber, Mohammad Said, Mike The Mover.