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When Democrats Have Zero Options

Hastings is retiring. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Hastings is retiring. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Democrats in Washington’s 4th District don’t have much of a choice on their ballot: a Republican, or another Republican.  

The Evergreen State’s primary allows the top two vote recipients to proceed to the general election, regardless of party affiliation. In the open-seat race to succeed Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., Republicans won the top two slots for general election’s mail-in ballot.  

So what’s a Democrat to do?  

“I haven’t decided yet. I have my ballot in my purse,” laughed Mary Baechler, a Democrat who challenged Hastings in 2012. “You want to help me out with that?”
The large district in central Washington isn’t exactly a political battleground. A 10-term Republican, Hastings won the re-election with more than 60 percent of the vote each cycle since 1998.  

But for Democrats, the two Republicans on the ballot do have some differences. Some view former state Rep. Dan Newhouse, the former director of the Washington Department of Agriculture, as a more palatable moderate Republican who worked across the aisle in Olympia. The other Republican, former Washington Redskins player Clint Didier, is backed by the tea party.  

“There’s one school of thought, which is to vote for Didier because it will make it easier to vote for a Democrat next time,” Baechler added. “Most people are voting for Newhouse because he’s very well liked in this district.”  

Dany Adolf, the Yakima County Democratic Party chairman, said he is encouraging other Democrats to vote for Newhouse.  

In the early August primary, Didier came in first place, defeating Newhouse by 5 points. The two Republicans had decisive leads over the 10 more candidates in the field, including a duo of Democrats and two independent candidates. Combined, all the votes for the Democrats would not have surpassed Newhouse’s total.  

Democrats cracked 40 percent once in the past decade. But at least they’re usually on the ballot.  

“I think what occurred here is reflective of what happened nationally,” said Estakio Beltran, the Democrat who came in third in the primary and who was endorsed by the local Democratic Party. “On a national level, I think Democrats stayed in.”  

Instead, Beltran is writing in his own name on his ballot this year. But even if he had a shot, that wouldn’t work, either.  

Beltran isn’t eligible because Washington State law stipulates primary losers can’t run  as write-in candidates.  

“I couldn’t see myself voting in good conscious for either of the candidates,” Beltran said.  

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