Tag: election 2012 (Page 1 of 4)

James Watkins Enters Race for State Auditor, Promises to be Citizens’ ‘Watchdog’ in Olympia

Since last week, NW Daily Marker has reported on early signs of an imminent announcement from business consultant and recent congressional candidate James Watkins about a run for Washington State Auditor, the seat left open this year by the retirement of Democratic State Auditor Brian Sonntag. On Tuesday, Watkins made his official declaration, joining State Sen. Craig Pridemore (D-Vancouver) and State Rep. Mark Miloscia (D-Federal Way) in the race.

“Today I’m officially declaring my candidacy for State Auditor,” Watkins said in an email statement to supporters and the press. “In our state, the independently elected Auditor serves as the eyes and ears for all citizens and I pledge to be “Your Watchdog in Olympia!”

“I’m running to continue and strengthen the dedication to government accountability, fiscal responsibility and open, effective government championed by outgoing State Auditor Brian Sonntag,” continued Watkins.  “With our state government mired in an ongoing financial crisis, maintaining an independent, effective State Auditor is a top priority for voters.”

Watkins also laid out his top three priorities, if elected: strengthening the performance audit program enacted by Initiative 900, utilizing audits and whistleblower laws to find fraud and abuse and championing open government policies and practices.

In addition to being the only Republican in the race, Watkins is also the only candidate with a background in conducting performance audits. In the 1990s, Watkins worked within the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to shrink the size of a then-bloated organization without sacrificing the performance of a vital financial safety net.

Watkins also has the distinction of being the only non-legislator in the race, and his lack of Olympia baggage after the raucous 2012 session could be a tipping factor, among both rank and file voters and those with special interest in protecting the state auditor’s office as a watchdog over government.

Gov. Christine Gregoire and Democrats in the State Legislature have made several subtle attempts to gut and neuter Sonntag’s office, a cause that would be made easier with the election of a soft auditor.

A large component in Sonntag’s successful campaign to fend off those assaults has been his popularity among voters, a bond founded on his independence from the interests he investigates—a vital characteristic in a watchdog auditor.

Both Miloscia and Pridemore will carry into the race a history of connections with special interest groups, a past that voters may see as reason enough to question whether they will advocate for taxpayers. The endorsements Miloscia has already gathered—a long list of unions and local government officials (just the sort who stand to gain from the election of a weak auditor)—could come across to voters as a red flag.

Watkins may also start out his fundraising with a nest egg left over from his recent congressional campaign. Federal Elections Commission records show his congressional campaign fund repaid more than $29,000 in loans Watkins made to the campaign, money one might conceive can now be used to launch his campaign for auditor. If so, Watkins could quickly catch up to the rest of the field in terms of cash on hand to wage an effective campaign.

According to Public Disclosure Commission reports through January 2012, Miloscia only has a little more than $18,000 cash on hand and Pridemore has less than $11,000, but also shows debts of $5,500 that bring his coffers dangerously close to empty. Both have been held back from raising funds during the legislative session, and the entry of a Republican in the race could stimulate more interests from Democratic donors. Sonntag spent more than $81,000 on his successful re-election in 2008.


[photo courtesy of y James Watkins for Auditor]

FINAL: Romney Wins Washington State Presidential Straw Poll, Paul Grabs Second Place

It’s official. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is the winner of Washington State’s Republican presidential straw poll, a 13-point victory that does not award any of the Evergreen State’s 43 delegates, but that could send a strong psychological message to Super Tuesday’s voters.

Despite making two campaign swings through Washington, Santorum’s third-place finish behind Paul represents a major backslide from his recent lead in polls. His future in the race now depends more than ever on a strong performance in socially conservative Midwest states, but Romney’s five-state win streak seems to be creating momentum.

The first Rasmussen poll on the Tennessee primary was released today and now shows Santorum with a 4-point lead over Romney, while previous polls had shown him with a high double-digit lead. Rasmussen also finds Santorum with a slim 2-point advantage in the Ohio primary, a remarkable drop over the past two weeks from an 18-point lead.

The final count as reported by the Washington State Republican Party is as follows:

Candidate Votes Percentage
Mitt Romney 19,111 37.65%
Ron Paul 12,594 24.81%
Rick Santorum 12,089 23.81%
Newt Gingrich 5,221 10.28%
Undecided/Other 1,749 3.44%

Those results were released last night at close to 11:00 p.m., coming after county party officials and volunteers across the state spent a long day collating, reconciling, and counting the votes of more than 50,000 Republicans.

State Republican Party Chair Kirby Wilbur made the follow statement about the results:

“I am excited with the record turnout of Republican voters to the caucus. I predicted around 50,000 people would attend the caucus and we had 50,764 vote in the straw poll.

“Not only were these attendees excited to have a voice in the Republican nomination process, but they were sending a clear message that President Obama’s lack of economic recovery and disregard of the impact that his extremely high gas prices has on the average Washington working family, or non-working family because of his failed economic policies, will not be tolerated.”


Washington Straw Poll Update: Romney Holding Lead, Paul and Santorum Jockey for Second

A new set of numbers was released at WSRP headquarters and a larger lead for Mitt Romney in Washington State’s presidential straw poll.

With 28 counties fully reported and partial counts beginning to trickle in from King and Pierce Counties, Romney’s total has jumped to 37.21%, and Paul and Santorum are jockeying in a very tight race for second 13 points behind the frontrunner. Gingrich continues to bring up the rear with 11.39%.

In early counting, Santorum held a razor-thin edge over Paul, but now Paul holds a narrow advantage with 24.08% compared to Santorum’s 23.87%.

In King County, the 1st, 31st, 47th and 48th legislative districts came in at 64% for Romney, a very strong showing, but one that could be balanced by votes from Seattle precincts that many feel are more likely to support a candidate like Paul because of his libertarian positions on foreign affairs and drug policy.

Still, there are very few votes in from Pierce, plenty more to count in King County, and Spokane County has yet to report any numbers.


Updated: First Results from Washington State Caucus Have Romney in Early Lead

BELLEVUE — Former governor and Republican candidate for president Mitt Romney has a healthy early lead in the straw poll taken at caucuses held across Washington State Saturday, according to a count just released by the Washington State Republican Party.

So far, with 15 counties reporting, Romney has 31.53% of all votes. Congressman Ron Paul is in second with 26.90%, with former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum close behind at 24.38%. Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich trails all others with 12.87%.


UPDATE (4:43 p.m.): New numbers just given to me by the Washington State Republican Party now show Romney extending his lead and taking 36.34% of votes counted. The new counts are as follows:

Romney      36.34%
Santorum   24.46%
Paul              24.14%
Gingrich     11.87%
Undecided 3.14%
Other            0

Those figures represent the counts of 23 counties, but does not yet include counts from the most populous counties in the state–Spokane, King, Snohomish and Pierce–according to State Party Chair Kirby Wilbur. The chairman has said he expects those counts to come in within the hour.


UPDATE (5:00 p.m.): Further analysis of the numbers show a remarkable turnout with more than 17,000 votes already tallied in the presidential straw poll.

Though Romney currently has a strong advantage, that could evaporate when the larger counties turn in their votes. The Ron Paul campaign has been extremely active in King and Snohomish counties, particularly in engaging younger voters, held two rallies in Western Washington, and two east of the Cascades, appearances that have the potential to pay big dividends.





James Watkins Entry into State Auditor Race Appears Likely

Former Republican congressional candidate James Watkins appears to be gearing up to run for Washington State Auditor, based on changes noted Thursday evening on his  Facebook page and the establishment of a campaign website.

Republicans have yet to field a candidate for state auditor and since Watkins’ withdrawal in January from the First District Congressional race he has been mentioned as someone who could fill the very large shoes of retiring state auditor Brian Sonntag. All signs this evening indicate that Watkins may have made the decision to run.

Until ending his 2012 congressional bid and throwing his full support behind fellow Republican John Koster, Watkins maintained a public Facebook page for congressional campaign communications. Sometime before Thursday night, the title of the Facebook page changed to “James Watkins Auditor.” A quick Google search also discovered watkinsforauditor.com, a website still under construction but which features a front page shot of Watkins under the tagline “Your Watchdog in Olympia.”

An email was sent to Watkins for confirmation of his intentions, but this build-out of his online presence fuels an assumption that an announcement of some kind is imminent.

Though State Sen. Craig Pridemore (D-Vancouver) and State Rep. Mark Miloscia (D-Federal Way) are already campaigning to take over for Sonntag, neither has received an endorsement from an incumbent with broad electoral appeal.

Some political observers have privately speculated that Sonntag may not feel obligated to endorse a fellow Democrat, but could throw his support to the candidate most able to keep pushing for the auditor’s office to maintain its independent role and gain the ability to issue corrective orders to agencies falling short in performance audits.


Romney Schedules Free Public Appearance in Bellevue for Friday

Former Massachusetts governor and Republican candidate for president Mitt Romney has scheduled a free public appearance in Bellevue, Wash. this Friday morning, one day before Washington Republicans will hold caucuses statewide.

Romney will meet with the public at 8:00 a.m. in the Highland Community Center (14424 Bel-Red Road, Bellevue, WA), a visit that comes days after Romney achieved critical victories in the Arizona and Michigan primaries.

More information and updates regarding the event are available on the Washington State for Mitt Romney Facebook page or on the campaign’s official website.


[photo credit: davelawrence8]

McMorris Rodgers VP Buzz Getting Louder

Speculation earlier this month that Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R, WA-5) could be on the short list of possible Republican vice presidential candidates seems more prescient, following a Sunday mention on Fox News and a high position in revised VP rankings posted Saturday on a popular election blog

McMorris Rodgers—the highest ranking Republican woman in Congress—turned up at #6 in power rankings for the Republican vice presidential nomination published at Race 4 2012, behind a quintet of household names that includes Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

When McMorris Rodgers was asked on Fox & Friends Sunday morning whether she would accept a VP nomination if it was offered to her, she said, “It’s way too early for all that.”

Is it too early? Perhaps not.

If none of the four Republican candidates are able to take a commanding lead in the primary, could candidates begin to see benefits in making an early VP choice? If a close race for the top spot on the ticket appears deadlocked coming out of Super Tuesday, the selection of strong second-seater could be a critical tie-breaker, particularly if the fight for the nomination brings delegates from non-binding states (like McMorris Rodgers’ home state of Washington) into play.

For now, McMorris Rodgers said she remains “focused on being the best representative that I can be for the people of Eastern Washington,” and her immediate priority for the presidential race is to fulfill her role as the Washington State chair of Gov. Mitt Romney’s campaign.

“One thing I do know is that we need a new president come November of 2012, and I am full force doing everything I can to help get Gov. Mitt Romney elected,” told Fox News.


[photo credit: republicanconference]

Former NY Gov. Spitzer—“Client 9”—to Hold New York City Fundraiser for Inslee Campaign

Candidate for Washington State governor Congressman Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) will soon be getting a fundraising boost from none other than disgraced former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D), also known as “Client No. 9” in a federal investigation of a high-class prostitution ring, multiple news sources in New York are reporting Friday.

Spitzer’s uptown Manhattan gathering for Inslee is the first stage of a re-entry into politics. According to The New York Post:

The former governor is hosting the event at his Fifth Avenue home for Washington state gubernatorial hopeful Jay Inslee on March 5.

Inslee, currently a Democrat in the House of Representatives, shares many of Spitzer’s left-leaning political stances.

Insiders believe Spitzer’s soiree shows he’s trying to become a political mover and shaker once again — this time as a national kingmaker.

In the same New York Post article, at least one political insider is quoted as saying Spitzer’s career arc is just a case of doing what comes naturally:

“The second-oldest profession in the world is political fund raising,” a politico sniffed yesterday.

Despite the positive effect a successful cash grab for Inslee could have for Spitzer’s career rehab, one has to wonder how Inslee’s association with an admitted user of prostitutes will play among Washington State women, particularly when juxtaposed against the proactive work his opponent has done to attack the skin trade and sex slavery from a variety of angles.

In his capacity as Attorney General and while the Republican candidate for governor, Rob McKenna has been visible and vocal in efforts to create harsher punishments for human traffickers as well as joining in a national effort to force Village Voice Media to clean up its Backpage.com site, an national online classified ad service that has been cited in dozens of criminal cases as a venue where trafficking or attempted trafficking of minors occurs.

Village Voice Media publishes Seattle Weekly, a publication that also utilizes Backpage.com as a revenue source, and McKenna continues to work with the State Legislature on legislation that would force Seattle Weekly to halt a practice that facilitates child prostitution.

From a Feb. 14 Seattle Times editorial:

An independent study by Advanced Interactive Media Group estimated that Back-page.com‘s “Adult” section is expected to earn its owner, Village Voice Media, $24.8 million, accounting for more than two-thirds of the $36 million in revenue projected to be earned by all tracked online classified ads facilitating commercial sex. Village Voice Media also owns Seattle Weekly.

Dozens of cases in 15 states involve girls allegedly sold for sex on Backpage.com, according to Shared Hope International, an anti-sex-trafficking group headed by former Republican Congresswoman Linda Smith. Moreover, the Seattle Police Department has linked 22 cases of child prostitution since 2010 to girls advertised as escorts on the website.


Port Commission President Bill Bryant Subject of Email Sent by Baumgartner Supporter to Republicans

State Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R-Spokane) and Seattle Port Commission President Bill Bryant, from left to right

Seattle Port Commission President Bill Bryant is reportedly in the final stages of making a decision on running against U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), but his interest in the race has already ignited a small controversy among Eastern Washington Republicans after an email taking aim at Bryant was sent this weekend by a state legislator with ties to current U.S. Senate candidate and State Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R-Spokane).

On Saturday, State Sen. Janéa Holmquist-Newbry (R-Moses Lake) spoke at the Grant County Republican Lincoln Day Dinner as a proxy for Baumgartner, the leading declared Republican in the race to unseat Cantwell.

Before the dinner had adjourned, Holmquist sent an intrapartisan communiqué (scroll to the botttom of this article for the complete text) to an undisclosed list of Republicans, implicitly arguing Bryant’s record as nonpartisan port commissioner and a handful of political contributions to Democratic candidates and groups are serious reasons to question whether he should be running as a Republican in the U.S. Senate race.

By phone, Baumgartner told us that the email was not sanctioned by him, but that he holds Holmquist—a fellow Republican state Senator—in the highest regard. Baumgartner also told us he will reserve making any comments about Bryant until such time as he officially enters the race. An email sent to Holmquist did not receive a reply.

“Bill Bryant is campaigning under false pretenses, acting like he’s a dyed-in-the-wool Republican when his record shows otherwise,” one King County Republican strategist said. According to the same source, Bryant’s early efforts to organize support for the possible Senate bid have included squeezing off Baumgartner’s access to key donors.

With the election environment thus primed for internecine friction, it is therefore understandable that some Republicans are interpreting Holmquist’s email as a blunt strike at Bryant to assist Baumgartner—an opportunity to paint the Seattle-based politician as out of step with the conservative Republican base that the charismatic state senator from Spokane has had moderate success in developing a relationship with since jumping into the race late last year.

In contrast to the negative email, however, Democratic strategists appear ready to take Bryant seriously as a potential Republican threat to one of their incumbents. Sources close to Bryant tell us that Democrats have already assigned a tracker to shadow his public activity, an early indication that Cantwell’s friends see Bryant as an authentic Republican, despite the points in Holmquist’s appeal to others in her party.

NW Daily Marker investigated the claims made in the email and finds that while the points made are based on verifiable facts, there are details omitted that may (but may not) affect voters’ perceptions of Bryant.

Claim #1: “…[Bryant] has consistently contributed large sums to Democrat candidates including Patty Murray and Jay Inslee. He also contributed to Greg Nichols and other Seattle area Democrats, Washington Conservation Voters, and Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark. His company contributed to Chris Gregoire.”

Fact: The “large sums” Bryant gave to Murray and Inslee amount to $500 contributed to each candidate. The contribution to Inslee, specifically, occurred back in 1994. According to a source close to Bryant, the Murray check was written to gain entrance to an event Bryant needed to attend for matters relating to his personal business interests and preceded the entry of Dino Rossi into the race. FEC records corroborate that the donation was given in October 2009, well before Rossi announced he would challenge Murray.

An analysis of Bryant’s political giving overall shows that he given the majority of funds Republicans, not Democrats. By a ratio of 2-to-1, Bryant gave to Republicans in state and local races since 2000—in federal elections the balance is even more skewed to the GOP. FEC records back to 1999 show that Bryant gave $24,450 to Republicans running in federal races, compared with $1,500 to Democrats, including the Murray donation.

Claim #2: “[Bryant’s] record at the port also should give Republicans reason for concern. A Port investigator cited him for misuse of Port funds and he was forced to repay the money,” wrote Holmquist.

Fact: As reported by The Seattle Times late last year, the issue raised pertains to a $115 meal charge from Port funds while Bryant was on an official trip to Eastern Washington. Bryant had been given the green light by the Port’s legal counsel prior to making the trip to make such expenses, but a subsequent audit flagged the charges at which time Bryant promptly repaid the Port in full.

Claim #3: According to Holmquist, “In November 2009, he cast the deciding vote for the higher of two proposed Port budgets and higher taxes. In 2011, he cast the deciding vote to increase the Port CEO pay by 9 percent to $400,000.”

Fact: Holmquist’s claims are a true statement of the record. The votes were taken, and Bryant’s positions are not misrepresented. This will likely be an item for further clarification should he step into the U.S. Senate race.

The entire text of Holmquist’s email was as follows:

As you may have heard, Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant is considering entering the race for U.S. Senate against Maria Cantwell.

The surprising news is that he is apparently planning on running as a Republican. It’s odd because he has consistently contributed large sums to Democrat candidates including Patty Murray and Jay Inslee.

He also contributed to Greg Nichols and other Seattle area Democrats, Washington Conservation Voters, and Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark. His company contributed to Chris Gregoire.

His record at the port also should give Republicans reason for concern. A Port investigator cited him for misuse of Port funds and he was forced to repay the money.

In November 2009, he cast the deciding vote for the higher of two proposed Port budgets and higher taxes. In 2011, he cast the deciding vote to increase the Port CEO pay by 9 percent to $400,000.

So, he’s contributed to Democrats – including U.S. Senator Patty Murray in her last election – and he sides with Democrats on the Port Commission.

It will be interesting to hear why he is thinking of running as a Republican?

Janea Holmquist-Newbry


Second Poll of the Week Shows McKenna Extending Lead in Governor’s Race

A KING 5/SurveyUSA poll of the Washington State Governor’s race released Thursday shows Republican Rob McKenna in a 10-point lead over Democratic congressman Jay Inslee, a lead that includes a healthy advantage in the central Puget Sound.

Of the 572 registered voters statewide surveyed, 49 percent said they would vote for McKenna, 39 percent for Inslee and 12 percent remain undecided.

These recent numbers reflect a shift from the previous SurveyUSA poll taken in mid-January in which McKenna and Inslee were separated by only three percentage points—46 percent to 43 percent, respectively—a statistical dead heat.

The KING 5/SurveyUSA poll underscores the findings of an Elway Research poll released Monday that reported McKenna in a 9-point lead, a trend that may intensify a drumbeat from within Inslee’s party for him to give the race his full-time attention. Seattle Times reporter Jim Brunner wrote Tuesday:

Inslee’s continuing lag in the early polls has been worrying Democrats, who united behind the Bainbridge Island Congressman early, stifling any notion of a primary challenge.

Some Democratic operatives have been quietly agitating for Inslee to quit Congress and concentrate on campaigning full-time. Inslee has said he has no plans to do so.

One sign that the campaign schedule is stretching Inslee too thin has been a notable record of missed votes in Congress that not gone unnoticed by Inslee’s opponents. When asked by Everett Herald political writer Jerry Cornfield about his recent spotty congressional attendance, Inslee’s response belied an arrogance many observers of politics have come to expect:

Inslee said his voting record exceeds 98 percent and brushed aside the partisans’ attacks.

“I think the union will survive,” he said.


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