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State's top election official wants presidential primary changes

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Kim Wyman

Secretary of State Kim Wyman.

The state’s top election official wants to raise the profile of Washington’s presidential primary, despite primary reform failing in the Legislature this year.

Secretary of State Kim Wyman, in a visit with The Daily News on Friday, said she still hopes to move up the date of the presidential primary in part to get more candidates to pay attention to Washington.

“I would like to see presidential candidates come to our state and actually talk about our state’s issues,” she said. “Because right now, pretty much they come here as an ATM. They go to Seattle or Bellevue, have a fundraiser and get out of Dodge.”

Wyman is gathering a group of nine legislators and party chairs to decide by September whether to move the primary to March 8, up from late May. Six of the nine will have to vote yes to change the date.

That would place Washington’s primary a week after “Super Tuesday,” when a slew of other states have theirs.

Right now, the state’s presidential primary takes place long after the candidate pool has thinned and contenders are often content to forgo intensive campaigning.

Even if the primary moves up, however, the $11.5 million election itself is still an exercise in futility — political parties in the state rely on caucus results, not primary tallies, in determining whom the state’s delegates nominate.

“I’ve had a lot of legislators ... who said, ‘Why would we waste that kind of money?’ “ Wyman said. “I think people expect to be able to choose their nominee for president, but most voters do not enjoy going to a caucus.”

She said that’s due in part to the need to publicly declare affiliation with a party and attend in person.

“The primary has 10 times the engagement and allows our military and overseas residents to be part of the process,” Wyman said.

The state’s presidential primary was started by the Legislature in 1989.

Wyman’s plan to reform it would have required some delegates to be allocated based on primary results.

Contact Daily News reporter Brooks Johnson at 360-577-7828 or


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