Washington primary ballots due today

Voters in Washington have a crowded primary ballot to decide on, choosing which candidates to advance to the general election in dozens of races ranging from governor to the state Supreme Court.

Secretary of State Sam Reed is predicting a 46 percent turnout for today's primary, though only about half the ballots are expected to be returned by election night.

Washington is a vote-by-mail state, and all of its 3.7 million voters received their ballots weeks ago. Voters must have their ballots postmarked and in the mail by today, or they can drop them off at specialized boxes throughout the state by 8 p.m.

In Benton and Franklin counties, voters are casting ballots in the 4th Congressional District, where U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, is seeking a 10th term in office. His challengers are Democrat Mary Baechler of Yakima, Republican Jamie Wheeler of Kennewick and Democrat Mohammad Said of Ephrata.

Voters living in the 8th Legislative District -- which includes Richland, West Richland and most of Kennewick -- will narrow choices for their state representative. Incumbent Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland, faces opposition from Kennewick City Councilman Bob Parks, who is running as a Republican, and Richland Democrat Richard Reuther.

Franklin County voters living in either District 1 or District 2 will vote for county commissioner candidates.

In District 1, incumbent Commissioner Brad Peck is seeking a second term with opposition from Rosie Rumsey, the county's human resources director, and Mark Faith, a county building inspector. All three are Republicans.

Incumbent Commissioner Bob Koch is seeking re-election in District 2, and is challenged by Pasco City Councilman Al Yenney, Connell City Councilman Lee Barrow, who also is a Franklin County Sheriff's deputy, and former Pasco police officer Patrick E. Barnett.

Voters living in Benton County Fire Districts 2, covering the Benton City area, and 6, covering Paterson, are voting on EMS levies.

The top statewide race that voters are considering is the campaign to replace Gov. Chris Gregoire, who is not seeking a third term. Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna and Democratic former U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee are expected to easily advance to a November matchup that likely will be one of the most competitive governor's races in the nation.

Also being decided in today's primary are several other high-profile races in which the competition for the top two places is more pitched, including a crowded ticket for the 1st Congressional District, the seat from which Inslee resigned to focus on the governor's race.

Seven people are campaigning for the seat in the newly redrawn 1st District: Democrats Suzan DelBene, Darcy Burner, state Sen. Steve Hobbs, Laura Ruderman and Darshan Rauniyar; Republican John Koster; and independent Larry Ishmael.

All but Hobbs and Ishmael also are seeking to advance in a special election for the final month of Inslee's term for his seat before redistricting.

In statewide races, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell is seeking her third term and is expected to easily advance to the November ballot, along with Republican state Sen. Michael Baumgartner.

Voters also will decide other races, including lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state auditor and three state Supreme Court seats.

In some races, the primary will be more decisive. The three seats for state Supreme Court, as well as the race for the state's top education post, are subject to special rules that allow any candidate who gets more than 50 percent of the vote to advance alone to the general election ballot.

Local ballot drop boxes

-- Benton County: Ballots can be dropped off at the courthouse in Prosser, the annex off of Canal Drive in Kennewick, the annex on Wellsian Way in Richland, Jefferson Park in Richland, West Richland City Hall and Kennewick City Hall.

-- Franklin County: Drop boxes are inside and outside the courthouse in Pasco, at the annex at Third Avenue and Clark Street in Pasco, at TRAC and the Connell PUD shop on West Clark Street.