Jamie Pedersen is campaigning as a champion of marriage equality in the 43rd District. But all the other candidates in the race—Dick Kelley, Lynne Dodson, Stephanie Pure, Bill Sherman, Jim Street—are supporters of marriage equality, so Pedersen's appeals on the issue may not put him over the top.
Pedersen is, however, the only gay candidate in the race to replace openly gay State Representative Ed Murray, who is headed for the state senate.
Unlike the federal battles over gay marriage, the debate in Washington State isn't an election-year distraction. A state supreme court decision is imminent, and the court could punt the issue to the legislature. Even if the court grants full marriage rights to same-sex couples the legislature could still get involved, stepping in to put the issue on the ballot in the form of a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
But if supporters of gay rights in Seattle want to get worked up about a state race they should be looking to the 48th Legislative District (Bellevue), not the 43rd. In the 48th District, newly minted Democrat Rodney Tom is challenging Republican incumbent State Senator Luke Esser.
Esser is the chief antigay bigot in Olympia. Esser fought the gay rights bill and supports state and federal constitutional amendments banning gay marriage. Esser gets a near-perfect score—91 out of 100—from the Washington Conservative Union. Tom, in contrast, is the former Republican state representative who switched parties earlier this year. For four years in a row Tom voted for the state gay civil rights bill. By helping to replace Esser with Tom—a goal that is within reach (John Kerry won the 48th district in 2004)—supporters of gay rights would be replacing an antigay state senator and a guaranteed "no" vote on gay marriage with a pro-gay state senator who is likelier to vote their way on gay marriage.
And when it comes to gay issues, the state senate is where the action is. "The senate always seemed to be the problem in the past with gay-friendly legislation," says openly gay State Representative Jim Moeller (D-49, Vancouver), one of four openly gay state house representatives. "Having Ed in the senate and Rodney Tom, having a gay and a gay-friendly senator, would improve our chances for seeing the things we want accomplished, and more importantly, blocking some of the things we don't want done."
Moeller is mystified that there isn't more interest in the Esser/Tom race in Seattle.
"Here's a wonderful opportunity to help this former Republican who has been a friend of ours [and] replace an enemy to our community in the senate. And instead we're all worried about which gay-friendly candidate is going to take Ed Murray's place," says Moeller, who hasn't made an endorsement in the 43rd District primary. Neither has Murray. (Gay State Representative Dave Upthegrove (D-33, Sea-Tac) has endorsed Pedersen, the gay candidate in the 43rd, "because he's a friend.")
It's revealing that neither Murray nor Moeller have endorsed Pedersen. If gay rights or marriage equality were threatened by a pro-gay-rights/pro-gay-marriage heterosexual taking Murray's house seat, Murray and Moeller would no doubt have endorsed Pedersen.
But they haven't. Murray and Moeller have, however, endorsed Tom in the 48th—and so has Upthegrove. If you support gay rights, then it looks like Tom's your candidate.