Republican runs as a Democrat

Here’s a twist: Republican runs as a Democrat

Jim Camden The Spokesman-Review

The state of Washington’s two political parties complained for years about “cross-overs” in the state’s old blanket primary.

It’s a phenomenon of undocumented proportion in which Democrats vote for a Republican candidate they think would be weaker in the general election, and vice versa.

That could be a thing of the past, depending on what happens to the state’s primary system. But now Eastern Washington voters apparently are being offered something even more bizarre. A cross- over candidate.

Craig Sullivan has set up a Web site proclaiming a Democratic run for the open 5th Congressional District in Eastern Washington. Scott McKetrick, who claims to be the treasurer for a group called Citizen Congress, sent out an e-mail touting Sullivan and his volunteer- driven campaign. It would be run without donations or personal funds, with the noble goal of spending only one term in the office.

Setting aside the fact that it’s ridiculous to run a campaign with no money whatsoever, and questionable to say you will serve but a single term in office, there’s something else about the announcement that’s fishy.

Sullivan is a Republican precinct committee officer in the Whitworth area. Of course, it could be that the GOP primary is already so crowded that he decided he had a better chance against the sole Democrat, Don Barbieri. Sullivan hasn’t called back, so we can’t say for sure.

Plenty of legal opinions out there

Speaking of the end of the blanket primary, former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton has some thoughts on the popular but unconstitutional system’s possible replacement. He believes the parties’ promise to sue over the so-called Top Two system is a hollow threat.

Gorton was in Spokane last week for Cathy McMorris’ congressional campaign kickoff. He said he also doubts the parties can make good on their plans to control the use of Republican or Democrat next to a candidate’s name on the ballot.

The Top Two, or Cajun-style, primary – named for the Louisiana system that puts all names on a primary ballot and sends the top two vote-getters to the general, regardless of party – is specifically mentioned by Justice Antonin Scalia in the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that voided the blanket primary, Gorton said. And it’s not a nominating primary that selects a party’s candidate for the general election, it’s a qualifying primary that allows a candidate to move on to the next election, added the state’s former three-term attorney general.

Told of Gorton’s comments, State GOP Chairman Chris Vance showed no signs of changing strategy: “Our lawyers think Slade’s wrong.”

If the parties do get to control who gets the party designation next to their names on the ballot, they’re prepared to hold some sort of nominating convention. That won’t keep the unblessed candidates from running, just from running as a D or an R.

So the question arises: If Locke doesn’t veto the Top Two primary, and the nominating conventions go forward, what happens if the candidate who gets blessed with a party’s designation finishes out of the money? Would the Republicans, for example, give an R to a candidate who survived the primary and had good party credentials? (The 5th Congressional District race comes to mind. It’s got four candidates who have good GOPedigrees.) Or make them run against a designated Democrat as just an independent?

“We really think that’s unlikely,” said Vance, who’s convinced Locke will veto that system or the courts will strike it down.

OK, but if not? “I don’t know how we would handle it. We have not prepared for that eventuality.”

Keep those letters coming in

Locke has to sign or veto the bill for the new primary by the end of the month, and the betting in Olympia is he’ll do it – whatever it he decides – early this week. In the meantime, he’s getting letters from his brethren (and sistren?) elected officials with suggestions on what to do. Most members of Washington’s U.S. House delegation sent him a letter urging him to veto the Top Two primary, which would leave a system similar to the one Montana has – individual ballots for each party, pick one and vote for only that party’s nominees.

Many elected statewide officials – including the state’s top elections officer, Republican Secretary of State Sam Reed, and his official stand-in, Democratic Lt. Gov. Brad Owens – wrote to say he should sign the Top Two primary.

At least he’s got bipartisanship among his penpals.

So long, Bill

Not that many people noticed, but Bill McGaughey dropped out of the Democratic presidential race last week. Who?

A retired accountant from Minnesota who advocated tariffs to end the loss of jobs to overseas competitors, McGaughey bypassed the Washington and Idaho caucuses but made a big play – in the sense that he actually went there – for votes in Louisiana.

Where he finished fifth. With 2 percent of the vote. Behind Howard Dean and Wesley Clark, who were already out of the race.

Consolation: He finished ahead of Dennis Kucinich and Lyndon LaRouche, who are still in – more or less.

Copyright 2004 Cowles Publishing Company

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