If, as is expected, state Representative Ed Murray (D-43, Capitol Hill, U-District, Madison Park, Wallingford) tries to ride the wave of his recent successes on transportation and gay civil rights straight into the state senate seat held by Pat Thibaudeau (D-43), an aging legislator who hasn't made a whole lot of noise in recent years, the race for Murray's open state house seat—rather than the tussle between Murray and Thibaudeau—will become one of the most exciting political brawls of the season.

One sign of how eager people are for an official announcement from Murray (expected after the session ends March 9) is that most of those interested in taking his current job aren't waiting for any announcements from him before they start raising money.

According to recent Public Disclosure Commission reports, big-shot lawyer and gay rights activist Jamie Pedersen is in the lead, having already raised $23,000. Behind him: former city Council Member James Street, who has $17,739; Democratic activist Lynn Dodson, with $16,459.34; King County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Bill Sherman, with $10,327.73; 43rd District Democratic Party chair Richard Kelley, with $6,710; perennial candidate Linde Knighton, with $6,110.91; and Peter Steinbrueck's legislative aide Stephanie Pure, who has not yet had to file a report. ELI SANDERS

Contested Seat

National Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean showed up at the Washington State Democrats' annual crab feed in Lacey on Monday, thrilling the record-breaking crowd of over 1,200 with a speech that sounded, at times, like the beginnings of the "Contract with America"–style platform for Democrats.

Responding to recent news reports that have cast the Democrats as bereft of a compelling message, Dean said he could sum up the party's message "in 25 seconds." Democrats, he said, are for restoring honesty and integrity to the White House, will promote "a strong national defense that depends on telling the truth," hope to generate more jobs by creating a new industry surrounding energy conservation, and will continue to focus on improving health care and the public school system.

Dean also discussed his 50-state strategy for picking up more seats in Congress, and made special mention of Darcy Burner, who is challenging freshman Republican U.S. Congressman Dave Reichert in the Eastside's 8th District. Burner, a former air force brat who joined the Civil Air Patrol as a teenager before studying at Harvard and working at Microsoft, clearly had the most supporters at the event, and perhaps as a sign of the national party's interest in her race, seemed to get more mentions in Dean's speech than any other candidate—even Senator Maria Cantwell. ELI SANDERS