Camden: Two election seasons are on our radar after Labor Day

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Jim Camden is a columnist with the Spokesman-Review in Spokane. Email: jimc@spokesman.com.

Labor Day weekend is the point in the calendar when average folks start paying attention to this year’s elections. It’s also the point when political junkies start getting serious about next year’s elections.

There was a time when all elections, even the presidential race, stayed relatively quiet until the fall before the voting started. That’s gone by the wayside, as anyone following this summer’s daily Trump-athon can attest. But for down-ticket races, Labor Day plus one is about the earliest you can get anyone other than the big money sources to pay attention.

This week, Republican Chris Vance announced he’ll run against Democrat Patty Murray, who next year will seek her fifth term in the U.S. Senate. The GOP, which in 1992 was dismissive of the young legislator’s prospects of moving from Olympia to Washington, D.C., has discovered nearly a quarter-century later that folks aren’t standing in line to take her on.

In the past, she has dispatched Republican opponents who looked strong, at least on paper. For Reps. Rod Chandler, Linda Smith and George Nethercutt and former gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi, the loss wasn’t quite “a one-way ticket to Palookaville,” but it wasn’t a r?sum? builder, either.

Vance, on paper, seems an interesting match. A former state Republican chairman, he was also a state legislator and a King County councilman. These days he’s a lobbyist and a “usual suspect” rounded up for political commentary and insight on a fairly regular basis.

Democrats didn’t even wait for him to announce, sending out quotes from the past decade in which Vance was supporting certain policies of George W. Bush — as if the state Republican chairman would wax poetic about what a great guy Democratic nominee John Kerry was.

In their quiver, however, are arrows that may be more damaging: examples of times when Vance opined that Murray was a skilled lawmaker who worked behind the scenes to get important things like a budget deal done.

Changes in Olympia

Also planning a campaign for 2016 is state Sen. Pam Roach, who announced last month that she will run for a seat opening up on the Pierce County Council.

She’s not up for re-election to her seat next year, so she won’t have to give up one to seek the other. She also wouldn’t necessarily have to step down from the Senate to serve on the county board, and isn’t saying if she would. Sen. Tim Sheldon, of Potlatch, a Democrat who caucuses with Roach and other Republicans, also serves on the Mason County Commission, although it could be argued the workload in Pierce County is heavier than Mason County.

So Roach will be in the Legislature next year, but two senior Democrats will not. Rep. Ross Hunter, of Medina, was named last week by Gov. Jay Inslee to be the director of the Department of Early Learning. As chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Hunter is the main Democrat in that chamber on the budget and spending.

Sen. Brian Hatfield, of Raymond, was named as Inslee’s lead staffer on rural economic development. Hatfield spent 20 years in the House and nine in the Senate, plus a two-year stint as Lt. Gov. Brad Owen’s legislative liaison.

Error

Last week’s column about the error rate of the state system that scans license plates and generates bills for people using toll roads and bridges had an error of its own. The state Department of Transportation said the rate was one-thousandth of 1 percent. When multiplying the number of toll transactions, which was 35 million in 2014, I used 0.001. But that left out two zeros behind the decimal point, to account for the 1 percent, which, as most fifth-graders can tell you, is 0.01.

So, I should have multiplied by 0.00001, which means the number of mistakes would be in the range of 350. So hundreds, not thousands of drivers a year who could, like me, get a bill for someone else’s toll.