This Washington

2010's Defining State House Race

By Josh Feit October 14, 2010

This post originally ran in June, when we flagged this Eastside Seattle suburban race as this year's bellwether state-level contest. It's Democratic state house finance chair, Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48, Medina), the Democrats' budget guru, vs. former state GOP chair, Diane Tebelius.

It's our own Reid vs. Angle. No, Hunter isn't the Democratic leader like Sen. Reid. And no, Tebelius isn't a radical kook-a-saurus like Angle. But the warfare over the Democrats' 2010 Olympia budget—Hunter commandeered it and stands by overturning I-960 to do so— is as defining in Washington State as the Tea Party  vs. Obama themes (in the Reid race) are nationally.

Today, the state house Republicans announced they have a poll showing a tie race. Their press release, however, did not include the poll.

Hunter, a former Microsoft exec, has raised $164,000 with $42,000 on hand. Tebelius, a former federal prosecuter and U.S. congress budget staffer, has raised $178,000 with $39,000 on hand.

We're republishing the post and accompanying video interviews with Hunter and Tebelius today because the race is still, in our estimation, a defining one—taking place in the swing-turf battleground for control of Olympia.


In a year when the state Republicans are committed to exploiting the anti-incumbent zeitgeist (and the potential anti-Obama backlash) so they can retake what was once theirs, the Eastside Seattle burbs, there isn't a more dramatic contest than this one: Former Washington State Republican Party Chair, Diane Tebelius (who saw the Republicans lose the turf under her watch) vs. Democratic incumbent Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48), one of the Eastside Democrats who led the blue wave in the 2000s. Now, as the House Finance Chair, Hunter is perhaps the Democrat who's most responsible for this year's controversial budget.

While the 2010 budget does do some cool stuff, such as gutting tax loopholes (Hunter's main contribution), it's controversial nonetheless, thanks to a series of high-profile taxes on beer, gum, pop, and bottled water. (The tax increases, about $757 million worth— actually pale in comparison to the billions in budget cuts—amounting to less than 10 percent of the shortfall fix), but that's probably too much nuance for angry voters.

Hunter and Tebelius are two unusually strong candidates for the state legislature (sorry, state legislature) and this battle is one to watch for both the political significance noted above and for the sheer drama of seeing two heavy hitters go at it.

Hunter has pulled slightly ahead in fundraising with $31,000 cash on hand to about $18,000 for Tebelius.

Two footnotes on Camden's he said/she said video:

1) Former Microsoft exec Hunter's claim about slashing out-of-state tax breaks is accurate, but comes with a major addendum: Microsoft's licensing division is in Nevada, giving the local company an estimated $100 million annual out from licensing and royalty taxes.

2) Hunter was indeed a leader on education reform, particularly in the 2009 session, when he stood up to the teachers union and passed a bill that expanded the definition of basic education. However, like most reformers on the Democratic side of the aisle, he tempered his commitment to big changes this election year and the 2010 follow-up bill did not track the Obama education reform model that, ironically, GOPer Tebelius praises here.
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