Rep. White's New Hazard
By Ceci Connolly
If New Mexico's two latest special elections are any guide, Rep. Rick A. White (R-Wash.) has one more reason to worry about his reelection prospects this fall. Bruce Craswell, a well-known former Republican activist in Washington's 1st District, has decided to run as the American Heritage Party's candidate.
Last year and again last month, Republicans won special elections in two New Mexico districts thanks in part to strong showings by Green Party candidates who put a dent in Democratic support. Washington state Democrats hope Craswell will siphon conservative votes from White and bring former Democratic representative Jay Inslee back to Congress.
Although Craswell has not held elected office, his wife Ellen is a veteran state lawmaker and came within 4 percentage points of Democrat Gary Locke in the 1996 gubernatorial campaign. Both Craswells are popular with the politically active religious right in the state and are aggressively challenging White on the abortion issue.
"It's easy to write these people off because they are so [far] to the right, but they have an incredible following," said Inslee campaign manager Joby Shimomura. "They have good name ID, they know how to turn their people out. This could be the margin."
Washington state holds open primaries in September in which residents may vote for any candidate, and the top vote-getters in each party assuming they win at least 1 percent move on to the general election. Most observers predict Craswell will clear that hurdle and appear on the November ballot.
White said Craswell may pick up protest votes in the September primary but predicted "people won't want to waste their vote a second time in the general."
Even before Craswell entered the race, White was looking at a difficult campaign. After running as a "family values" candidate, the second-term Republican has endured a bitter divorce. He also has been criticized by several powerful constituencies in the Puget Sound district, including unions and environmental activists.
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