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posted Friday, August 20, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 34
Washington election update: Five races you should care about
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Washington election update: Five races you should care about

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

While all the ballots in Washington state's primary election have not been counted yet, and the final results will not be certified by the Secretary of State till September 1, the outcome of the election is pretty clear.

Five races look to be of special concern to the LGBT community.

U.S. Senate: Murray v. Rossi
At the top of the ballot, the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Democrat Patty Murray and Republican challenger Dino Rossi went as expected.

Both candidates performed as pre-poll pundits said they should to demonstrate credible candidacies for the November general election, Murray scoring in the mid-40s and Rossi in the mid-30s.

Sarah Palin-endorsed Tea Party Republican Clint Didier did a little better than polling suggested he would, with over 12% of the vote.

Murray was first elected to the Senate in 1992, in the wake of a sex scandal that discredited incumbent Brock Adams. She won reelection in 1998 against far-right Republican Linda Smith, and 2004 against Congressman George Nethercutt.

As senator, Murray voted for DOMA in 1996 - a vote she later said was a mistake. She co-sponsored the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act in 2009, and has consistently voted for federal HIV/AIDS programs.

Murray is a co-sponsor of a number of pending bills of interest to the LGBT community:

o ENDA (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act), to prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity;

o the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell;

o the Uniting American Families Act, to enable foreign-born partners of US citizens to live legally in the U.S.;

o the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, to offer benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees equal to those given to married spouses;

o REAL (the Responsible Education About Life bill) to provide scientifically-based sex education;

o ETHA (the Early Treatment of HIV Act), providing additional federal funding for HIV treatment.

Rossi supports none of these measures.

A veteran of seven years in the state senate and two unsuccessful runs for governor (2004 and 2008), Rossi is solidly on the right. As a state senator, he co-sponsored this state's DOMA in 1998.

He opposed both the Anderson-Murray Civil Rights bill and the state's domestic partnership laws, although he was already out of the legislature when these finally passed.

Rossi is also against reproductive choice.

Congress: Larsen v. Koster
This year's race in the 2nd Congressional District - which takes in Snohomish, Skagit, Whatcom, and Island Counties, and a piece of northeast King County - will be a reprise of the 2000 election.

Incumbent Democrat Rick Larsen once again takes on right-wing Republican John Koster. In 2000, Larsen beat Koster by only four points. As primary votes continue to be counted, Larsen is currently running two points ahead of Koster.

Larsen has staked out a position as a centrist Democrat, but he is a co-sponsor of ENDA and the Uniting American Families Act. He has been a consistent supporter of federal HIV/AIDS programs and of reproductive choice. As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, his co-sponsorship of DADT repeal is particularly important.

Koster, on the other hand, is a consistent enemy of LGBT rights. He also opposes abortion under any circumstances - even in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the mother's life.

Koster's campaign manager is none other than Larry Stickney, one-time president of the Washington Values Alliance and one of the leaders of the Referendum 71 campaign to repeal domestic partnership rights.

Koster is currently a Snohomish County Council member. On the Council he has endorsed religious displays on public property, and he once tried to cancel county funding for a holiday concert featuring the Seattle Men's Chorus.

Koster has been endorsed by Sarah Palin's SarahPAC, Team America PAC - an anti-immigrant group headed by Tom Tancredo and Bay Buchanan - Human Life of Washington, the Christian Homeschool Network, and the Washington State Eagle Forum.

State Legislature: Jinkins v. Fey and Liias v. Scott
Because of the state's top-two primary system, openly Lesbian Laurie Jinkins will probably face a fellow Democrat in Tacoma's 27th Legislative District.

A longtime activist, Jinkins is now deputy director of the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. She has also worked for the state Health Department and been an assistant attorney general.

In 2009, Jinkins co-chaired the successful Approve Referendum 71 campaign to defend the state's domestic partnership laws. She also chaired Tacoma United for Fairness, and served on the board of Hands Off Washington.

Her likely opponent, Jake Fey, also a Democrat, is a Tacoma City Council member and deputy mayor.

Fey is currently leading the third-place candidate, Independent Ken Nichols, by only 136 votes. Nichols supports the Tim Eyman-inspired legislative supermajority for tax bills and opposes reproductive choice.

In the 21st Legislative District, incumbent Democrat Marko Liias will face Republican challenger Elizabeth Scott in the general election.

Liias, who is openly Gay, was the prime sponsor of HB 2801, the state's improved anti-bullying bill which unanimously passed both houses of the legislature in March.

Liias earned praise for both political leadership and diplomatic skill in working with colleagues of both parties and achieving a unanimous vote on the measure.

Liias has also sponsored consumer protection legislation and a bill to extend the same tax credits and incentives granted to Boeing to smaller aerospace companies.

His Republican opponent, political novice Elizabeth Scott, describes herself as "a midwest farm girl," and "a member of the Washington State Farm Bureau, the Snohomish County Chapter of the Citizens' Alliance for Property Rights, the National Rifle Association, and Evergreen Freedom Foundation's Citizen Action Network."

Supreme Court: Wiggins v. Sanders
Attorney and former judge Charlie Wiggins has mounted an unexpectedly tough challenge to incumbent Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders.

Wiggins won almost 40% of the vote against Sanders' 48%. Third-place finisher Brian Chushcoff, who will not advance to the November general election, got almost 13%.

While Wiggins believes the Supreme Court decision in Andersen v. King County, upholding the state's DOMA, was "reasonable," he is sharply critical of many of Sanders' anti-Gay legal opinions.

Sanders joined his colleague Jim Johnson in several opinions hostile to LGBT rights, including a concurring opinion in Andersen that went far beyond the majority view, claiming that same-sex couples cannot be married because the main purpose of marriage is procreation.

Sanders has also written minority opinions that cities may not offer domestic partner benefits to their employees, and that non-biological parents in same-sex relationships are not entitled to visitation rights to their children in the event the couples separate.

In other races&
Apart from Larsen, all the state's congressional incumbents appear to be heading for easy victories in November. Seattle's own Jim McDermott (D-7) polled nearly 80% of the vote against five challengers.

In the state legislature, several Democratic incumbents running in swing districts seem to be in trouble - including Sens. Eric Oemig (D-45) and Claudia Kaufman (D-47), and Reps. Roger Goodman (D-45) and Geoff Simpson (D-47).

Currently Democrats hold a 31-18 majority in the state Senate and a 61-37 advantage in the House.

Openly Gay Sen. Ed Murray (D-43) and Reps. Dave Upthegrove (D-33), and Jamie Pedersen (D-43) ran unopposed.

Gay incumbent Jim Moeller (D-49) held a comfortable 54-46% lead over his Republican opponent, Craig Riley. Riley has pledged to "uphold the values of faith and family."

Gay state Sen. Joe McDermott (D-34) is leaving the legislature to run for the County Council seat vacated by new County Executive Dow Constantine.

McDermott won 59% of the votes in his 8th Council District. Diana Toledo, the second-place candidate who will face McDermott in November's general election, won less than 20%.

Right-wing Supreme Court Justice James Johnson trounced his opponent, Stan Rumbaugh, with 62.55% of the vote. Rumbaugh was backed by Equal Rights Washington.

Barbara Madsen, the author of the main opinion in Andersen v. King County upholding this state's DOMA, ran unopposed.

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