Vote for Gary Locke(D)

The consensus among Olympia's Seattle Dems is that their leader, Democratic Governor Gary Locke, is a bust. "Missing in action for the last four years," says one lefty legislator. Unfortunately, Locke's the only candidate the Stranger Death Squad can endorse. His four challengers range from tax-reform goofball Democrat Meta Heller to Libertarian Christian state senator Harold "the Good Book" Hochstatter. So we're going with Locke, crossing our fingers we won't have a repeat of the last four years. Here's what that term looked like: Locke failed to give teachers anywhere near the 15 percent raise they demanded. He disappointed Dems in the state legislature when he signed on to welfare reform. He gutted the state's social-services department. He had to be dragged to the table when gays and lesbians demanded equal benefits for state employees. And, to top off this dismal bio, Locke is pro death penalty and supports a charter-school initiative that would steer money away from public schools. However, despite the flaws, Locke has a good side. He deserves an environmental pat for hiking up fines to deter water pollution. He went to bat for public schools--increasing the education budget by $1.7 billion during his four-year term. And the state expanded job training programs for poor people under his watch. It's an iffy record of "achievement," but given the other choices, it's all we've got.

Don't Vote for John Carlson (R)

The Stranger Death Squad was creeped out last week by Locke's most serious rival, Republican John Carlson. It wasn't Carlson's horrendous politics that were so chilling, though (Carlson's previous initiative campaigns--including the stupid I-200--gave us a heads up about that). It was Carlson's ability to mask his politics with a disarming sweetness. "We are creating walking time bombs by not getting [mentally ill] people the care they need," he cooed to the Stranger Death Squad. But his solution gives him away: Lock them up. Big surprise. The 41-year-old former government-bashing radio talk show host pushed two ass-backwards "tough on crime" laws, and effectively ended affirmative action in the state.

What would he do as governor? To save the state money, he wants to privatize government jobs by contracting out to the lowest bidder, therefore circumventing pesky union regulations. He also wants to kill the state property tax. This would mean schools lose $1.3 billion from the current budget.

Thankfully, Carlson's own polling shows he's got just 50 percent name recognition in the state, and he's 16 points behind Locke in the polls. The scary thing is that it's only 16 points.

For the following State Offices: Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, State Treasurer, State Auditor, Attorney General, Commissioner of Public Lands, Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Insurance Commissioner, please see our handy Stranger Cheat Sheet on page 17.