Related topics

Christian Conservative, Seattle Liberals Favored in Gov. Primaries

September 13, 1996

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) _ Seven months after Gov. Mike Lowry bailed out of his re-election bid amid sexual harassment allegations, the race to succeed him could come down to a contest between a minority Democrat and a conservative Christian woman who vows to hire only ``wise and godly″ people.

In a tight and volatile race, the apparent front-runner on the Republican side is Ellen Craswell, leader of the state’s Christian conservative movement. And the liberal leaders of Washington’s biggest city and county appear to be ahead on the Democratic side.

If she wins the GOP nomination, Craswell, the first woman leader of the state Senate, will probably end up facing Norm Rice, Seattle’s black mayor, or King County Executive Gary Locke, a son of Chinese immigrants, in the general election.

Lowry, a liberal Democrat, abandoned his re-election campaign in February after the allegations from a top female aide sent his poll numbers into the basement. His departure left a gaping hole in the political picture leading up to Tuesday’s primary elections.

The state, with an 89 percent white population, has never elected a minority to statewide office. While women have won many other statewide offices, only Dixy Lee Ray became governor, losing her 1980 bid for a second four-year term.

Craswell, a 16-year veteran of the Legislature and the state’s foremost opponent of abortion, has waged an unusual low-tech, low-budget campaign. She eschewed media advertising in favor of thousands of huge roadside signs, a letter-writing campaign and networking among evangelical churches.

Craswell claims 13,000 active volunteers in what she calls a biblically inspired grassroots campaign. The effort has a hierarchy _ including a prayer chairman _ in each legislative district.

Most polls have shown her in the lead for the GOP nomination against Norm Maleng, the King County prosecutor who has twice lost statewide races; state House Majority Leader Dale Foreman, a Harvard-educated lawyer and orchardist; and Jim Waldo, a Tacoma attorney making his first bid for office after directing the U.S. Senate campaigns of Slade Gorton and Dan Evans.

Waldo accused Craswell earlier this month of blurring the line between church and state and objected to her vow to hire only ``wise and godly″ people. She replied that she would have no religious litmus test for her administration but would pick people who were moral and ``godly with a small G.″

Craswell has proposed deep spending cuts and a rollback of the state’s business and property taxes. She said she doesn’t mind being called a radical: ``It’s going to take someone who’s willing to rock the boat.″

Rice and Locke, well-known after years in Seattle politics, quickly jumped into the Democratic race after Lowry’s surprise decision. Former Rep. Jay Inslee, running as a not-from-Seattle moderate, Seattle business owner Bryan Zetlen and Ephrata physician Mohammad Said also seek the nomination.

Locke and Rice have similar left-of-center views and identical campaign themes of fighting crime, improving schools and boosting jobs. Lowry has not endorsed either man, but his 1992 campaign manager is directing Rice’s effort.

Rice is the immediate past president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and sat with Hillary Rodham Clinton when the president gave his State of the Union Address this year. Since 1989, he has been mayor of a city that regularly appears on lists of the most livable cities.

In Washington, voters do not register by party and may vote for any person on the ballot.

Tuesday’s primary is one of the latest of the season and gives nominees just seven weeks to run an all-out general election campaign.

Voters also are picking the Democratic challengers for the state’s six Republican freshmen in Congress, a group that includes George Nethercutt, who knocked off House Speaker Tom Foley in the GOP landslide two years ago.

Update hourly