YAKIMA, Wash. — The leaves are turning, phones are ringing, signs are out and someone, yet again, is knocking at your door.
It’s the rustling of leaves mixed with the grating of teeth. It’s November in a presidential election year that coincides with the most competitive governor’s race in the nation.
“Our volunteers have been going day and night,” Yakima County Republicans chairman Max Golladay said. “They’ve put in a lot of hours.”
Offices of both the local Republican and Democratic parties have been buzzing with volunteers and candidates the last few weeks. If they’re not making cold calls to voters, they’re in neighborhoods knocking on doors or waving signs on street corners.
It’s the storm before the calm.
“You have to take a break every once in a while” to stay motivated, Yakima County Democrats chairwoman Mary Stephenson said. “Frankly when I hear Romney speak, I get excited about campaigning again for Obama.”
Golladay said Republican volunteers in the committee’s office are staying energized with a heavy dose of positive encouragement from statewide candidates. Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna dropped in last Tuesday, and Republican U.S. Senate challenger Michael Baumgartner helped with phone banking Saturday.
“We’ve got a bunch of people we’re trying to keep from suffering burn out,” Golladay said.
Yakima County Republicans even announced on their Facebook page Friday they would pay $10 an hour to anyone willing to knock on doors today and Tuesday to get out the vote for McKenna.
U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell held a rally for Democratic candidates such as herself and gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee at the Democrats’ downtown office Oct. 24. Currently, staff for the Inslee and Barack Obama campaigns are sharing the office with advocates in favor of Referendum 74, the same-sex marriage law, to get out the vote.
“The Obama campaign is focusing on sporadic voters,” Stephenson said. “They’re people who we think are Democrats but maybe don’t vote as frequently.”
Voter turnout in Yakima County was at 41 percent Friday morning, according to the county elections office, which is already greater than the 33 percent turnout from the August primary. Yakima County Auditor Corky Mattingly has projected an 80 percent turnout for the county, which issued 106,633 ballots in this election.
In the latest Washington Poll, a nonpartisan academic poll conducted Oct. 18 by the University of Washington and the Seattle-based public broadcasting affiliate KCTS 9, Inslee was leading McKenna 47.9 percent to 44.7 percent. The vote is also expected to be close on initiatives to create charter schools, legalize marijuana and to maintain a two-thirds vote requirement for the Legislature to approve new taxes, all of which are leading among voters, according to the poll.
Local races don’t offer as much intrigue as the races farther up the ballot with two incumbent county commissioners running unopposed and Republican incumbent legislators holding large fundraising leads over their Democratic opponents in the 14th and 15th districts.
The 13th District race between Central Washington University professor Matt Manweller, a Republican, and Moses Lake general contractor Kaj Selmann, a Democrat, could be interesting. Manweller is still dealing with fallout over recently revealed sexual harassment allegations by a student from six years ago, and his opponents recently picketed at a McKenna rally in Ellensburg to draw attention to the report.
The university in a statement said it “did not determine the allegations were substantiated,” in part because of the time lapse between when the accusations were made in 2006 and when the investigation was begun in September of this year.
For Union Gap Mayor Jim Lemon, a year of lawsuits and a City Hall full of black mold could be the deciding factors in whether to dissolve the city’s current form of government. Voters there will decide on a proposition filed by City Councilman Dan Olson to change the city’s government from a strong-mayor to a council/manager format similar to that of Yakima.
What’s more, voters may not know all the outcomes of the state races Tuesday night. Dave Ammons, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office, said the tight polling in the governor’s race suggests they may need more time as ballots continue to pour in until they can declare a winner.
About 60 percent of ballots are expected to be ready to count by Tuesday, but it won’t be until the end of the week that elections offices expect to have at least 90 percent of ballots, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. State law only requires ballots be postmarked by election day.
“Unless the undecideds break strongly for one of the candidates at the end, I’d say it’s a pretty good likelihood we’ll have to wait until later in the week to know definitely,” Ammons said in an email.