PORT ANGELES — The 2024 election season has begun already with political musical chairs.
Several candidates have announced runs for new seats in state and federal offices, with many of those seats being vacated by the incumbent, leaving a vacuum that others are eager to fill.
Earlier this month, U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, announced he would not seek re-election for his 6th District seat covering the Olympic Peninsula and part of Tacoma. The next day, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz announced she was ending her campaign for Washington’s next governor to pursue Kilmer’s seat.
Franz announced her new campaign the day after Kilmer announced his resignation, complete with a new campaign video and a long list of endorsements, including from Kilmer himself.
That double announcement kicked off a number of candidates formally declaring or expressing interest in the 6th District seat.
State Sen. Emily Randall, D-Bremerton, has announced her congressional campaign and registered with the Federal Elections Commission, and another state senator, Drew MacEwan, R-Union, said earlier this month he was forming an exploratory committee and would be taking steps to formally run in the coming weeks.
Also expressing interest in Kilmer’s seat is Jefferson County Commissioner Kate Dean, a Democrat, who told Peninsula Daily News she’s always been interested in the position. Dean has not formally declared her candidacy but said she would take some time to seriously weigh the feasibility of running.
With Franz leaving her post as public lands commissioner, Legislative District 24’s state Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Port Angeles, announced would seek the commissioner’s seat.
The 24th District covers all of Clallam and Jefferson counties and most of Grays Harbor County.
Van De Wege faces a crowded field for public lands commissioner with seven candidates — five Democrats, Van De Wege included, and two Republicans — registered with the Washington Public Disclosure Commission.
Following Van De Wege’s announcement, State Rep. Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles, who serves in the 24th Legislative District’s Position 1 seat, said he would seek the senate seat. Chapman is so far the only candidate registered with the PDC for the 24th District’s lone Senate seat.
The Position 1 seat now held by Chapman currently has two contenders: Nate Tyler, a Neah Bay Democrat, and Matthew Roberson, a Port Angeles Republican.
Tyler, a small business owner and Makah Tribal Council member, registered with the PDC in June but didn’t formally announce his candidacy until earlier this month.
A deputy prosecutor with the Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Roberson registered his campaign with the PDC on Nov. 1.
District 24 has two representatives. Steve Tharinger, D-Port Townsend, is also registered for the 2024 election for his Position 2 seat, which he’s held since 2010. No candidates have filed to challenge Tharinger.
Under state law, candidates can use funds from their previous campaigns for re-election and are able to transfer surplus funds to a campaign for a different state position with the written permission of the donor.
That gives serving politicians an edge with fundraising. Van De Wege’s public lands commissioner campaign has raised more than $164,000, more than any other public lands commissioner candidate, but there are several other politicians running for the seat with healthy war chests and the election is still a year away.
Former U.S. Representative for Washington’s 3rd District, Jamie Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, has the next largest fund, with more than $152,000 raised.
Franz’s gubernatorial campaign has raised more than $739,000 — and spent more than $435,000 — but funds raised for state campaigns can’t be transferred to a federal campaign. According to FEC filings, Franz’s congressional campaign has no money, but spokesman Jack Sorenson said the campaign will be refunding donations to the gubernatorial campaign, per FEC rules, and soliciting donations for the congressional campaign.
Similarly, Randall’s congressional campaign shows $0, according to the FEC.
Chapman’s state senate campaign has raised more than $62,000, according to the PDC, and Tyler has raised more than $14,000.
Roberson — the most recent entry into the state legislative race — has raised $449, according to the PDC.
Candidates must file for state office with the Washington Secretary of State between May 6-10.
A state primary election in 2024 will determine the top two candidates for each race to move on to the general election, regardless of party.
Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at email@example.com.