Race: President

Candidates: John Kerry (D) vs. George W. Bush (R)

The Issues: It's the war, stupid. With the "liberated" Iraqis firebombing us daily, how the fuck do we fix it now? Kerry has a plan, though it's not that different from what Bush is belatedly trying. Still, Kerry would never have gotten us into this mess in the first place. On the economy, we've had three-plus years of job losses, salary declines, ballooning deficits, and irresponsible tax cuts.

What's at Stake: Everything. In the wake of the presidential selection of 2000, in which a Republican-stacked Supreme Court handed the presidency to its man, liberals are desperate to win. While it's not true that jack-booted brownshirts will bang down your door and haul you away during a second Bush term--as many otherwise reasonable people on the left seem to believe--this administration is peopled with right-wing ideologues: John Ashcroft, in love with the civil-liberties-destroying PATRIOT Act; Dick Cheney, full of bloodlust for war; Donald Rumsfeld winking at torture.

What to Watch For: The big question is, will the Iraq mess turn into a complete catastrophe or can Bush stabilize things enough to get himself reelected?

If Bush Wins: Bush is already insufferably full of himself. Can you imagine how much MORE smirky and self-satisfied he'll be if he gets reelected?

GET INVOLVED: Wanna help put John Kerry in the White House? Contact Kerry's local campaign office at 206-281-9124

Race: U.S. Senate

Candidates: Patty Murray (D) vs. (almost certainly) George Nethercutt (R) or (yeah, right) Reed Davis (R)

The Issues: The ideological division is summed up by the fact that Murray is, for better or worse, closely tied to the Democratic establishment and a reliable vote for the party, while Nethercutt was urged to run by Karl Rove and votes as a party-line conservative. Murray did have the guts to vote against the Iraq fiasco; Nethercutt supported it. Murray is pro-environment; Nethercutt is pro-development. In other words, Murray may not be perfect, but she's way better than her rival.

The Vulnerabilities: Be afraid, because Murray, who hails from the Oprah wing of the Democratic Party, seems like she might be too soft in a post-9/11 era where toughness is prized. She's leading, but her poll numbers are less than stellar. Nethercutt, though, hails from Eastern Washington, and no one from that side of the state has won a Senate race since, like, 1688.

The Knock: Murray got blitzed in 2002 sounding like she was praising bin Laden as a philanthropist; Nethercutt got tagged "the Weasel King" in 2000 for violating his 1994 promise to not serve more than three terms.

What's at Stake: If Democrats hope to regain the Senate, they must hold this seat.

GET INVOLVED: Wanna help keep Patty Murray in the U.S. Senate? Get in touch with her local campaign office at 206-286-9199.

Race: Attorney General

Candidates: Democrats Mark Sidran and Deborah Senn square off in the primary; Republican Rob McKenna faces Mike Vaska

The Issues: The AG, besides defending state agencies against lawsuits, is supposed to be the people's lawyer. For the Dems, that means activism--think New York AG Eliot Spitzer, who has become a star crusading against Wall Street rip-off artists. Senn is way more liberal (and activist) than Sidran on issues like identity theft and policing corporate malfeasance. The Republicans see the job as a way to get the government off people's backs by cutting regulations and aiding their buddies in their disputes with the state. Vaska is more moderate than McKenna, who, unfortunately, is the heavy favorite.

The Scary Part: McKenna is a charming politician who is raising tons of money--almost $490,000 through May (the Dems have each raised only about $350,000)--while the Dems battle it out. There's a real chance McKenna could win.

If McKenna Wins: Kiss any chance for gay marriage goodbye, and as the state's highest legal officer, who knows what an anti-choice guy like McKenna might do.

GET INVOLVED: Protect abortion rights and marriage rights by helping to defeat Rob McKenna. To get involved with Democrat Mark Sidran's campaign--no, really--call 206-217-2004. To work for the more liberal Senn, contact her campaign office at 206-568-3310.

Race: Governor

Candidates: Either Attorney General Christine Gregoire or King County Exec Ron Sims (both Dems) vs. former state senator Dino Rossi (R)

The Issues: Gregoire has campaigned as a wishy-washy centrist, while Sims is running as a liberal firebrand. They differ over tax reform, gay marriage, and support for a sales tax increase to boost education funding (Sims for, Gregoire against). Either would be better than Rossi.

The Big Surprise: Be afraid. Rossi, who was the state Republicans' fourth choice, has turned out to be a charismatic campaigner who is raising big bucks and firing up suburban Republicans with a compassionate-conservative message (even though it belies his actual record as a state senator: Last year he cut 40,000 kids off of health care as part of his no-new-taxes budget). Republicans are hungry after having been shut out of the governor's mansion for 20 years, and Rossi's looking like the salesman who can pull it off.

The Vulnerabilities: Gregoire, the frontrunner, is not exactly lighting fires on the campaign trial. Her ultra-cautious campaign makes her look like the second coming of Gary Locke.

If Rossi Wins: Rossi will eviscerate state government and hand his corporate buddies the keys to the candy store.

GET INVOLVED: To help put Sims in the Governor's Mansion, call his campaign at 206-624-1152. To help get Gregoire the top job Olympia, contact her campaign at 206-328-2969.

RACE: Congress, 8th Congressional District

Candidates: This is a dogfight on both sides. Three Dems are running: KIRO radio talker Dave Ross, retired executive Alex Alben, and fourth-time candidate Heidi Behrens-Benedict. There are also a bunch of Republicans running, but the guy to beat is King County Sheriff Dave Reichert.

The Issues: Same as the other fed races, Dems are progressive on the environment and the economy and oppose the Iraq war. The Republicans are pushing each other further right, professing their love for Bush and their anti-choice stands. Why You Should Care: This is a high-profile race nationally for an open seat that was held by Republicans in a Democrat-leaning district. The Dems need to win this one if they hope to take back Congress from the right wing.

The Scary Part: Reichert is being touted as a rock star after his department (finally) caught the Green River killer. With all the warm, glowing praise that's been showered on him, it'll be tough to beat the sheriff--especially when the southern part of this district likes a man in a uniform.

If Reichert Wins: The Eastside will remain in conservative hands, and Dems will lose a historic opportunity to push the Republicans into rubeville where they belong.

GET INVOLVED: Help take this critical U.S. House seat for the Democrats. To work for Ross' campaign, email info@ daveross2004.com; to work for Alben's campaign, call 425-454-3100; to work for Behrens-Benedict, call 425-746-8502.