Freedom to pick party labels is part of new primary process

Officials of the Republican and Democratic parties don't like it, but they have nobody to blame but themselves.

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The weeklong period in which candidates can declare their intentions to run for office is over. The Silly Season has officially begun.

And some of the silliest stuff occurs when the candidates file for office. It starts with what party label each candidate chooses.

Officials of the Democratic and Republican parties are irked that Washington law allows candidates to declare their party preference. This came about because the major parties took legal action to force the state to allow them to control who voted in the primary election. The state, under the leadership of Secretary of State Sam Reed, fought back and has put in place a primary system that pushes the political parties aside.

So, under Washington's top-two primary system - approved by the voters - the two candidates with the most votes, regardless of political party affiliation, move on to the November general election. Since there is no mandate to have one Republican and one Democrat in the final, candidates are free to pick their party or make one up. The Washington State Grange, which filed the initiative to put this system in place, sees party labels as a freedom of speech issue.

It's also made filing entertaining.

The Tacoma News Tribune reported candidates across the state have become inventive in their party labels. Candidates have declared themselves members of the Lower Taxes Party and the Problemfixer Party even though those parties technically don't exist.

Others, the newspaper reported, like to use different labels for the two major parties. State Rep. Christopher Hurst of Enumclaw stands for re-election this year as an "Independent Dem." while others run under the banner of the GOP, the Republican nickname, according to the News Tribune.

Two years ago Dino Rossi challenged Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat, as candidate who "prefers GOP Party."

Democrats had a fit. They filed a lawsuit. The nonsensical challenge went nowhere.

Rossi, by the way, had a reasonable explanation for why he opted to use GOP Party. He said all of his campaign signs from 2004 had GOP on them. He said if he stuck with that on the ballot it would serve as a way of branding his campaign, plus he could reuse some of the material.

The only thing that seems odd was adding party after GOP. It's redundant. Prefers GOP Party means Rossi preferred the Grand Old Party Party.

Yet, Democrats were prepared to do battle if Rossi used prefers GOP Party when he filed to challenge Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

Crisis averted.

Rossi filed as a Republican on Thursday. The Rossi for governor signs won't do him much good in the Senate race.

Nevertheless, the party officials still don't approve of candidates having the freedom to make up party names. Too bad. They have only themselves to blame. Had they not tried take control of the primary election system, party labels wouldn't be a concern.

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