National, state, county positions will be contested

By Marcy Stamper

2018 is a big election year, with many local and state long-term office-holders up for re-election.

On the county level, Okanogan County Commissioner Jim DeTro is seeking a third four-year term. DeTro, a Republican, already has one opponent — independent Salley Bull of Oroville.

Most county department heads, including the auditor, the sheriff, the treasurer and the assessor — all partisan positions — are up for re-election. Auditor Laurie Thomas and County Clerk Charleen Groomes have already filed for re-election.

Okanogan County Prosecutor Branden Platter, who was appointed last year to replace Karl Sloan, must get confirmation from voters to stay in his post. Arian Noma, an attorney based in Pateros, is challenging Platter for the job. Platter is a Democrat and Noma is a Republican.

Both Okanogan County district court judges, Charles Short and Robert Grim, will also be on the ballot.

In the state Legislature, Rep. Cary Condotta (R-Wenatchee), first elected in 2002, is being challenged by independent Ann Diamond of Mazama. Mike Steele (R-Chelan) is seeking a second two-year term.

Two members of Congress must also get the nod again from voters — three-term Sen. Maria Cantwell and two-term Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-4th district). Cantwell has seven opponents — two Democrats, one Republican, and four from other parties. Newhouse already has one opponent, former TV news anchor and broadcast executive Christine Brown from the Tri-Cities and Yakima areas.

Bill Colyar, appointed last year to replace a retiring Okanogan County Public Utility District commissioner, also must go before the voters.

Official filing week is May 14 to 18, but candidates can submit declarations by mail starting April 30. There is a special filing period from May 23 to 25 if no one files for a particular office.

The primary is Aug. 7.

Precinct committee officers

All precinct committee officers (PCOs) for Okanogan County’s 247 precincts are also up for election. In the last election, only 32 people ran for the seats, according to Jessica Maher, deputy auditor for voter registration and elections for Okanogan County.

The PCO spots only appear on the ballot if at least two candidates file for the same post, said Maher. PCOs serve for two years.

The Okanogan County Democrats have made a big push since the beginning of 2017 to recruit PCOs for all precincts. Starting with four in 2017, they have appointed about 50 acting PCOs since then, according to party chair Michael Sarratt. Anyone who has been appointed must file for candidacy and stand for election to remain in the slot permanently. There is no filing fee for PCOs.

Democrat PCOs must swear allegiance to the party and must reside in the precinct to hold a permanent position. Acting PCOs can represent a precinct even if they don’t live in that precinct, said Sarratt.

Democrat PCOs receive training from the party about meeting with voters, regardless of party affiliation, in their district. They start out by going door-to-door to do a listening canvass about issues of concern. They follow up with people who have shown an interest in Democratic candidates and issues, and ultimately conduct get-out-the-vote activities.

Anyone interested in being a PCO for the Democrat Party should visit www.okanogan.wa-democrats.net for information about the responsibilities of a PCO, contact information, and upcoming meeting dates.

The Republican Party takes a similar approach to PCOs. There are currently some 45 Republican PCOs, up from about 30 a couple of years ago, according to Kit Arbuckle, chair of the Okanogan County Republican Party.

The Republican Party will appoint a PCO to a neighboring precinct, but people can only be elected to the district they reside in, said Arbuckle. “We can appoint them to serve in the interim. There are immediate and long-term opportunities to be involved,” he said.

The main job of Republican PCOs is to be in touch with their neighbors — to pass out literature and get out the vote — but they also help the party decide on endorsements, said Arbuckle. PCOs typically have a specific survey and literature when they visit households in the precinct. They focus on Republicans, independents and undecided voters, said Arbuckle.

People interested in being a Republican PCO can simply file as a candidate. While they don’t need approval from the party, the party recommends prospective PCOs contact Arbuckle to learn more about the responsibilities. He can be reached at (509) 826-2409.

PCO candidates are automatically elected if they are unopposed after filing week. They are assigned as of Dec. 1 but can be appointed by the party chair to serve right away.

Top-two primary

Under Washington’s top-two primary system, candidates for partisan offices declare a party preference (or no preference), which does not indicate nomination or endorsement by a party. All partisan offices appear on the primary ballot, and the top-two vote-getters, regardless of party preference, advance to the general election as long as they receive at least 1 percent of the votes. The two candidates with the most votes for nonpartisan offices also advance to the general-election ballot.

Offices with only two candidates will be on the ballot, but the primary won’t be used to narrow those races, as both will advance to the general election.

Voters can register for the primary by mail or online until July 9. In-person registrants have until July 30. Online registration is at MyVote.WA.gov. For more information, call the county auditor at (509) 422-7240 or the Secretary of State at 1-800-448-4881.