Next month's state primary election may show that constituents are satisfied with their legislators' performance -- or how daunting it is to take on an incumbent lawmaker.
Of the 121 seats in the Legislature up for election this year, there are primary races for only 18 of them, according to the secretary of state. Half of those are to fill open seats due to retirement or resignation.
Of the remaining nine races, only four involve incumbents being challenged within their own party. Thirty-seven incumbents are assured a free ride in both the primary and general elections.
Seattle incumbents avoid primary challenges in swath districts, including Reps. Zack Hudgins and Bob Hasegawa in the 11th District, Reps. Maralyn Chase and Ruth Kagi in the 32nd, Sen. Erik Poulsen and Reps. Eileen Cody and Joe McDermott in the 34th, Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles and Reps. Helen Sommers and Mary Lou Dickerson in the 36th, Sen. Adam Kline and Reps. Sharon Tomiko Santos and Eric Pettigrew in the 37th, House veteran turned Senate candidate Ed Murray and Rep. Frank Chopp in the 43rd, Sen. Ken Jacobsen and Reps. Jim McIntire and Phyllis Kenney in the 46th.
Poulsen, Cody, Kohl-Welles, Sommers, Dickerson, Kline, Santos, McIntire and Kenney face no opponents in the general election, either.
We're back to the pick-a-party system. No more crossover voting. The party stalwarts most likely to participate don't figure to be big change agents. It works to the incumbents' and parties' advantage.
Should we rethink -- or even abandon -- the political primary?
Voters already are fed up with the state's major political parties' suing to do away with the beloved "blanket" primary. Does it still make sense for the taxpayers to foot the bill for this election?
Should we consider a non-partisan system, where the debate can be over issues and qualifications, not party affiliation?
Should we drop the primary altogether and run a single "instant runoff" election in which voters rank their choices in candidates 1-2-3? The Pierce County Charter Review Commission voted to put an instant runoff vote amendment on November's ballot.
The electoral process, after all, belongs to voters, not to politicians.