Republican candidates running for public office in Thurston County are a vanishing breed. Remarkably not a single Republican filed for any of the eight county government seats on the ballot in 2018.
But a couple of few candidates supported by Republican donors did file for county office as Independents.
We’ve seen this trend of fewer Republicans and more Independents running for county government seats over the past decade, coinciding with a Republican brand that tanked in blue-leaning Thurston County and many other West Coast areas.
President Trump is surely adding headwinds for GOP hopefuls in 2018.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
This year Stuart Holmes, an Independent with visible GOP support, is running for auditor against Mary Hall, a Democrat.
Holmes works for the Office of the Secretary of State and previously worked for the Benton County auditor. His early campaign contributors include prominent Republicans Secretary of State Kim Wyman and her predecessors, Sam Reed and Ralph Munro.
The trend-setter for local Independents may have been Sheriff John Snaza. He was elected twice under the Independent label and drew no challenger at all this year.
County Commissioner Bud Blake, a conservative, was elected four years ago as an Independent, upsetting a Democratic incumbent. This time, Blake drew two Democratic challengers, Melissa Denton and Tye Menser, and one fellow Independent, Jed Haney.
Several Democratic incumbents – Assessor Steve Drew, Clerk Linda Enlow, Coroner Gary Warnock and Treasurer Jeff Gadman – are unopposed.
The incumbent prosecutor, Democrat Jon Tunheim, drew a Democratic challenger, Victor Minjares.
So what makes an independent? Over the summer, Independents will have to explain what that means.
In past decades it’s been someone who did not identify with the Republican, Democratic, Libertarian or Green Party and did not vote consistently for candidates from a single ticket
But given Trump’s standing, it’s hard to argue with anyone wanting to put daylight between themselves and the president.
By contrast, legislative candidates in South Sound are mostly sticking with traditional party labels. One exception is that Rep. Beth Doglio, an Olympia Democrat in the 22nd drew a challenge from a Libertarian, Allen Acosta.
And C Davis, an Independent, is running against first-term Rep. Laurie Dolan, D-Olympia, in the 22nd Legislative District. Davis reported contributions from Sara and Kevin Marks, both officers in the Thurston County GOP.
Three other mostly rural legislative districts overlap Thurston County. All of these have Republicans running.
But for urban Thurston County, “Independent” candidacies look like the way of the future for conservatives in the Age of Trump.