Commentary: Is It Too Early to Talk About the 2024 Election in Washington State? How About 2022?


May 2021 is a bit early to talk seriously of the 2022 elections, let alone those in 2024, so take the following with a grain of salt.

Gov. Jay Inslee is signaling he will try to do something no other governor in Washington has done — and we're not talking about telling people when they do or don't need to wear face masks or stay home from work.

Inslee has filed with the state's Public Disclosure Commission as a potential candidate to run in 2024 for a fourth term. This is not an official notification of running, because many candidates file with the PDC at the end of one election cycle to account for the money that continues to flow in after the ballots are all counted. A candidate doesn't officially file for office until May of the specific election year.

Lt. Gov. Denny Heck, Secretary of State Kim Wyman, Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz have also filed their PDC paperwork for 2024. The big difference is that, while they have relatively modest expenditures, Inslee's files show some $781,000 in spending this year, for such things as advertising, fundraising fees, strategy consulting and digital media consulting, which are things one is more apt to see from a candidate in the spring of an election year than an incumbent in the first five months of a new term.

Washington doesn't have term limits, but if Inslee runs and is elected — admittedly some big "ifs" nearly 3 1/2  years from an election — he'd be the first to be elected to four terms. But he would not be the first person to run for the office in four consecutive elections.

Arthur Langlie ran four times in a row, from 1940 to 1952. He lost his first re-election campaign in 1944, but came back for a rematch with Mon Wallgren in 1948 and won, and was re-elected in 1952. He was on the ballot in 1956, but not for governor. He ran for the U.S. Senate, but was steamrollered by Warren G. Magnuson.

But speaking of elections

Inslee's Republican opponent in last year's election, Loren Culp, continues to take occasional shots at the governor, even though he has set his sights on a different office, Central Washington's 4th District Congressional seat, in next year's election.

That likely means running against Rep. Dan Newhouse, the incumbent and fellow Republican who, like Culp, has his paperwork in to the Federal Elections Commission. Because Newhouse was one of just 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach Donald Trump earlier this year, he's expected to face a challenge from the MAGA wing of the party.

Of the three GOP challengers, Culp could lay claim to being the Trumpiest, considering he campaigned for governor much like the former president campaigned for the White House, including the frequent use of rallies and sales of merch. He has a large Twitter following that he often stirs with jabs at President Joe Biden, Democrats and Republicans with whom he has issues, such as Wyman and U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney.

Like Trump, he also challenged the results of his 2020 loss by alleging widespread irregularities and fraud, although he backed out of the lawsuit in the face of possible sanctions for making what the state contended were baseless claims.

Culp and former campaign manager Chris Gergen, a former Trump campaign aide from 2016, have registered a new political action committee with the PDC called the New Patriot PAC.

The 4th is a predominantly Republican district and it's possible that two GOP candidates could survive the primary, although less likely if they split the vote four ways and the Democrats only come up with a single candidate.

A Culp-Newhouse matchup in the general election might be good for political reporters, but tough on the GOP.

A parting thought, apropos of nothing in particular

Western Washington sports fans are waiting eagerly for the start of the 2021 NHL season and the debut of the new hockey team, the Seattle Kraken. (Note: It's pronounced "crack-en". Just add it to the long list of hard-to-pronounce West Side names.)

Teams have all manner of sponsorships and branding deals, so it wasn't a surprise when social media feeds began to fill up with ads proclaiming an official beer of the Seattle Kraken. The surprise was that the official beer is, um, Coors Light.

Seriously? In a state with roughly one microbrewery for every 25 adults and that grows much of the nation's boutique hop varieties, the new hockey team is linked to a light beer based in Colorado?