Obama to arrive with primary

President Barack Obama walks with Commerce Secretary Gary Locke at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2010, prior to boarding Air Force One en route to Seattle.  (AP Photo)
President Barack Obama walks with Commerce Secretary Gary Locke at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2010, prior to boarding Air Force One en route to Seattle. (AP Photo) Associated Press

Today's Election Day visit from President Barack Obama will be a good reminder to procrastinating voters to mail in their ballots or stop by the polls.

Mainly, though, Obama is in Seattle to headline a pair of fundraisers expected to add hundreds of thousands of dollars to U.S. Sen. Patty Murray’s already sizable campaign war chest.

The presidential appearance underlines the national implications of today’s results.

Republicans in Washington, D.C., hope voters will send Dino Rossi to the Nov. 2 ballot and help their chances of eroding – or even ending – Democrats’ majority in the Senate, which they have wielded to overhaul health care and financial industry rules, confirm two Supreme Court justices and pass a $787 billion economic stimulus.

The stimulus and Democrats’ other efforts to kick-start the job market will be Obama and Murray’s emphasis this morning as they meet with three Washington state business owners who have success stories.

The visit is unlikely to have much effect on today’s “top-two” primary, which determines the pair of candidates that will advance to the November ballot. Ballots must be postmarked by today or returned to a county’s election office or its drop box by 8 p.m.

Secretary of State Sam Reed predicts a 38 percent voter turnout for the election.

Among the contests:

 • Two state Supreme Court seats are up for grabs, including at least one that will be decided today, as Stan Rumbaugh challenges Justice Jim Johnson.

 • In a six-way race for an open seat in the 3rd Congressional District, the most intriguing subcontest is the one between Republicans Jaime Herrera and David Castillo, one of whom could end up facing Democrat Denny Heck. Farther north, the results could show how much U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, has to worry about being unseated by Democrat Suzan DelBene, the most prominent of eight challengers.

 • Incumbents in the Legislature will be trying to keep their jobs, but many of the races to watch in the South Sound tonight are those without an incumbent. Departures that have left open seats include Tacoma Democrats Sen. Rosa Franklin, Rep. Dennis Flannigan and Rep. Steve Conway, plus Reps. Dan Roach, R-Bonney Lake, Skip Priest, R-Federal Way, and Brendan Williams, D-Olympia.

By tonight, campaign workers and party operatives will be trying to spin the results.

Murray easily won a majority of primary votes cast the last time she ran for re-election, in 2004. If that doesn’t happen this time, look for Republicans to pounce, and Democrats to say the poorer showing is less a sign of her unpopularity than of GOP interest in the three-way race between Republicans Rossi, Clint Didier and Paul Akers.

“I just don’t think you’re going to be able to draw a lot of conclusions from this ballot,” state Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz said.

And even if Rossi is able to best his rivals and advance, Democrats will still point out with glee if he receives fewer votes than Murray, while Republicans will say their vote was split by voters who will now rally around whoever’s challenging Murray.

“It’s clear that no one of the Republicans is going to gather as many votes as Patty will,” state Republican Party Chairman Luke Esser said. “My guess is, when you add the Republican votes together, that’s going to be a very strong showing.”

Polls have shown Rossi and Murray far ahead in the pack of 15 candidates. Tea-party candidate Didier is hoping last-minute phone calls to voters from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin turn the tide in his favor.

For his talk with business owners, Obama will have Murray and Commerce Secretary and former Gov. Gary Locke, at his side. Then he’ll head to a $500 to $1,000-per-plate luncheon at the Westin Seattle Hotel and a more exclusive $10,000-per-person fundraiser at the Seattle-area home of Real Networks founder Rob Glaser.

Republican Esser said the presidential visit would tie Murray in voters’ minds with Washington, D.C., and its problems – an excess of taxes and spending, according to the GOP. Democrat Pelz said Murray stands on her own record of using her influence in the nation’s capital to help her state, in contrast to Rossi who has pledged to forego earmarks.

“I think Patty Murray’s proud to be associated with the president of the United States,” Pelz said.

Jordan Schrader: 360-786-1826 jordan.schrader@thenewstribune.com