Opinion

Top Two

Secretary of State Sam Reed dropped by my town the other day and he was practically burping canary feathers.

"We won," he said. "We won, we won."

Well, he didn't say it three times in a row, but he obviously was basking in the glow of having won the state's case in the U.S. Supreme Court that releases Washington voters from having to disclose their political leanings when they vote in primary elections. We're back to the smorgasbord primary, where we just pick the candidate we like the best in each partisan election, instead of being restricted to selecting finalists only for the Democrats, the Republicans or any of the lesser parties.

Once again, you can pick a Republican for governor, a Democrat for lieutenant governor and so forth. Which is the way my late mother always voted. She alternated political parties down the ballot. That way, she said, they could check on each other.

But. And this is a big but. When all is said and done, instead of the top vote getters in the two major political parties and qualifying third party candidates facing off in November, it will be the top two vote getters in each partisan slate.

Which is why they call it the Top Two primary and why I have opposed it from the beginning.

If Top Two bad been in effect in 1980, the finalists would have been Gov. Dixy Lee Ray and Sen. Jim McDermott, both Democrats. Republican John Spellman ran third in votes so he wouldn't have even been in the general election, which, of course, he won.

In 1996, Republican Ellen Craswell ran third to Democrats Norm Rice and Gary Locke and would have been wiped out in the primary instead of stomped by Locke in November. In 2000, there would have been two Democrats in the finals in the 6th and 22nd legislative districts and no Republican. Two Republicans topped the 12th, 14th and 45th districts with no Democrat. In the 38th, a Democrat and a Reform Party candidate outpolled a second Democrat and a Libertarian. No Republican filed there.

The only good thing about a Top Two primary is that it virtually eliminates third party candidates, except in such rare cases as the aforementioned 38th district race. That suits me just fine. If there hadn't been a third party candidate in the U.S. Senate race in 2000, Slade Gorton might still be there today. He lost by only 2,229 votes to Maria Cantwell. The third party candidate, Libertarian Jeff Jared, got 64,734.

The party leaders don't like the Top Two system because it takes the authority to nominate away from them. If you want to run for something this year, you will file a declaration of candidacy with either the Secretary of State or your County Auditor and you may list your party preference, which will appear on the ballot with your name. But that doesn't mean that party endorses you. The parties will have to let everybody know which candidates are their favorites by advertising same or sending mailings to voters.

Could it happen this year? Well, King County Executive Ron Sims has long been hungry for higher office. Suppose he decides that Gov. Gregoire is vulnerable this year as McDermott did with Dixy in 1980. Gregoire and Sims could wind up the Top Two. They don't call this the Left Coast for nothing.

Gregoire doesn't mind raising taxes except when she's up for election, which is why the 2008 Legislature put over funding so much heavy stuff until 2009 when she hopes to be in the first of four more years. Sims never saw a tax he didn't like.

What we need is Dino Rossi. He got a no tax budget passed as a legislator. At least he knows how to do it.

Adele Ferguson can be reached at P.O. Box 69, Hansville, WA, 98340.

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