Continuing our series examining the closely fought battle for the Washington State Senate, here is a another guest post from The Legislative Junkie.
The Legislative Junkie has volunteered to give us some inside scoop on this pivotal race and while he shares my pithy writing style, he is one of the four regular guest contributors to this blog. You can read more guest posts by using the menu on the right.
The 31st Legislative District
Pam Roach (R) vs. Cathy Dahlquist (R) vs. Lynda Messner (“D”)
The 31st LD comprises exurban and rural Pierce and King Counties, nestled in the foothills of Mount Rainier. The district includes Enumclaw, Buckley, and Bonney Lake. It’s a conservative district – the only Democrat currently representing the 31st in Olympia is Representative Christopher Hurst, a conservative “Roadkill” Democrat.
The voters of the 31st seem to like their Senators like I like my candy bars – the nuttier the better. Senator Pam Roach, the incumbent in the race, is made of crazy. If you haven’t been following the continuing Pam Roach saga, then, well, I envy the journey of discovery ahead of you*. Roach has served in the state Senate since 1991, getting comfortably reelected because her politics (pro-gun, pro-law enforcement, anti-tax) match those of her district.
Additionally, Roach has regularly received the support of the Washington State Labor Council (she supports front-line state workers over middle management, and has consistently fought to fund the Rainier School for developmentally disabled adults).
Despite her political popularity, Roach is so difficult to work with that Representative Cathy Dahlquist (a decidedly un-crazy, likable, apparently reasonable Republican) is giving up her safe seat in the House to challenge Roach for the Senate. Dahlquist announced her candidacy by throwing some unambiguous shade at Roach: “I will be the voice for the people of my district that has been missing in the Senate for too long.”
As if the contest between Dahlquist and Roach weren’t interesting enough, there is a third candidate in the race, Lynda Messner, who claims to be a Democrat. Messner is a tax preparer from Bonney Lake who doesn’t have a campaign website, hasn’t raised any money, and waited until the last day of filing week to file. Messner seems to have posted on conservative websites (as Lynda Dabson) comments skeptical of President Barack Obama’s citizenship (“We need to focus on the big fix and have Obama removed as ineligible to hold office because he is not a citizen”), among other, uh, heterodox views.
These comments have inspired Representative Hurst to call shenanigans, accusing Roach of recruiting Messner to run and squeeze out viable Democratic candidates (another Democratic candidate, Lane Walthers, withdrew from the race after Messner filed). Hurst, who has donated heavily to Dahlquist, admits he has no evidence, but Roach has been accused of similar hijinks in the past.
Predicting which two candidates make it past the August 5 primary depends on how highly primary voters value the “D” next to Messner’s name. Assuming Messner doesn’t mount a real campaign, her stated preference for the Democratic party will certainly be enough to win her some votes from low-information and/or die-hard Democratic voters.
There won’t be a lot of those in such a quiet election year, especially in a district as conservative as the 31st (for example – in the 2010 primary, incumbent U.S. Senator Patty Murray took less than 40% of the vote in the 31st, while Republicans Dino Rossi and Clint Didier combined for about 50% of the total). Both Roach and Dahlquist have raised more than $100,000, both are popular in the district, and both have cross-over appeal to any Democrats who aren’t convinced by Messner (Roach because of her union support, Dahlquist because she isn’t Pam Roach).
Regardless of the outcome of the primary, this seat will remain safely in Republican hands after the general election in November. This is one of those races best watched with a tub of popcorn close at hand.
*Kicked out of her own caucus for abusing staff. Allowed back in exchange for her vote on a budget. And don’t even think about moving her flowers (link plays sound, be careful). Note from Riley – I covered some of her unusual behavior here.