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National crises loom large in Washington state's August primary

Ballots and voter guides arrive in mailboxes this week. The primary election is Aug. 4.

It is arguably one of the most unusual primary elections ever in Washington State, happening in the midst of competing crises.

Then factor in a president who is polling nationally, and statewide, at historic lows.

It is all pretext as ballots and voters guides arrive in mailboxes this week.

"We're not that focused on the polls, we're focused on the voters and getting our message to the voters," said Washington Republican party chair Caleb Heimlich on Thursday.

Outside his Bellevue office, the GOP chair said he sees vulnerabilities for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who is seeking his third term.

"(Inslee's) abject failures when it comes to managing the unemployment insurance department where we sent $650 million to Nigerian scammers and for weeks (thousands) of Washingtonians couldn't get the benefits that they'd paid into," Heimlich said.

He said he also believes Inslee should have followed the will of the voters on Initiative 976, which was last year's $30 car-tab ballot measure, and that Inslee should have done something about the CHOP in Seattle.

Yet, who will be able to challenge Inslee? Statewide polls suggest the incumbent is well ahead, and that it's anyone's race to lock up a spot to challenge him in the fall.

Fundraising totals also show Inslee has a multimillion-dollar war chest, far outnumbering any Republican challenger.

While 976 sponsor and political provocateur Tim Eyman has garnered attention, former Bothell Mayor Joshua Freed has raised the most money.

Republic Police Chief Loren Culp and State Senator Phil Fortunato have also registered support.

Yakima Doctor Raul Garcia, who filed very late in the process, has garnered multiple endorsements from moderate, old school Republicans like Secretary of State Sam Reed, Former Gov. Dan Evans, and former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton, to name a few.

"Look, what flavor of Trumpism are they trying to sell with the different candidates that the Republicans have for governor?" said Washington Democratic Party Chair Tina Podlodowski on Thursday.

Podlodowski called Eyman a "con man" and said Freed was making "inappropriate real estate favors."

Podlodowski also acknowledged that Garcia may have earned some moderate support but "doesn't have name recognition" and won't be a factor, in her mind, and "in many ways that's sad."

"I think up and down the ballot, what you've seen with the Washington Republican Party is that the candidates that they're picking and candidates that they're working for are people that are not loyal to what you could have called the Republican platform in previous years," she said.

It's clear Podlodowski will use the President's public opinion ratings in other races, particularly in the 10th district, where multiple Democrats are filing to fill Rep. Denny Heck's seat.

Heck retired before deciding to make his own run for Lt. Governor, a seat being vacated by incumbent Cyrus Habib.

It is quite possible two well funded Democrats could advance out of the South Sound district, depending on the anti-Trump sentiment.

Other races worth watching include the 8th Congressional District.

The area, which includes parts of King and Pierce counties, along with Eastern Washington, was considered a swing state in 2018. Republican Dave Reichert stepped down to open up the seat two years ago. Millions of dollars were poured into the race, won by Kim Schrier in a tight race against Dino Rossi.

This time around, Schrier has raised more than $2 million, and her closest challenger, Republican Jesse Jensen, has raised a little more than $100,000.

Secretary of State Kim Wyman, who is one of the highest-ranking statewide elected Republicans on the West Coast, is also up for re-election.

Wyman has championed vote-by-mail at a time with President Donald Trump has criticized the idea.

She is being challenged by Seattle Democrat Gael Tarleton, in what could both be a vote on the strength of Republicans statewide and the likeability of Seattle politicians by the rest of the electorate.

But again, this is a campaign like no other, and based on the circumstances, fundraising and advertising has been impacted.

Yet, Heimlich says he can also cite history as his guide.

"We elected a Republican Governor in this state with Dan Evans, in the year when Barry Goldwater was running on the Republican ticket for President 1964. It was a historic landslide for the Democrats and Washington State still flipped and elected a Republican governor. So anything is possible, regardless of what's happening."

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