Washington State, known for its dynamic and varied political landscape, presents exciting opportunities for independent candidates in the upcoming 2024 elections. With a history that leans Democratic in federal elections and a more nuanced political scene at the state and local levels, Washington's political environment is primed for independents who offer fresh perspectives and challenge the status quo.
Our goal is to provide potential independent candidates with insights into why Washington State is a fertile ground for non-partisan campaigns and discuss what it takes to launch a successful bid for an elected position in the Evergreen State.
Washington State has a complex political history. Federally, it leans Democratic, particularly in presidential races. The western part of the state, including Seattle and its suburbs, is also a stronghold for the Democratic Party. However, eastern portions tend to support Republican candidates.
This divide creates a diverse political environment that’s conducive to independent candidates, especially those focusing on regional issues or who adopt more centrist positions.
In recent years, Washington State has seen a growing interest in independent candidates, reflecting a broader national trend of dissatisfaction with the two-party system. Coming out of the eastern suburbs of the Seattle-Tacoma metro area, Chris Vance, a former Washington State Republican Party chair, recently ran for state Senate as an independent.
His candidacy is part of a growing trend of unaffiliated candidates who are challenging the traditional two-party system at state and federal levels. Vance's shift from a Republican background to an independent stance reflects a broader political trend where candidates are seeking to distance themselves from establishment party extremes.
On the other side of the political spectrum, Julie Anderson, a nonpartisan candidate, went head-to-head with Democrat Steve Hobbs for the position of Washington Secretary of State in 2022. Previously, she successfully campaigned for nonpartisan local offices, including city council and county auditor positions.
One of her campaign goals was to make the Secretary of State office nonpartisan, a change that would require legislative action. Her campaigns and positions reflect a focus on local governance and the desire for non-partisan administration in state roles.
These candidates are part of a small but significant movement of unaffiliated candidates in Washington State. Read on to learn about a few other notable independents who are making an impact on politics in Washington State.
While breaking through the entrenched two-party system is undoubtedly challenging, independent campaigns demonstrate the potential for candidates to make competitive runs for state or federal office that are free from the constraints of party politics.
The following individuals highlight the diverse range of independent political activity in Washington State. Ideologically, they range from mainstream political involvement to more radical and controversial figures:
Amy Holmes: Born in Lusaka, Zambia, and raised in Seattle, Washington, Holmes is a conservative independent who has been active in political commentary and analysis.
Jim Mattis: Born in Pullman, Washington, Mattis is an independent who served as the 26th United States Secretary of Defense from January 2017 to January 2019 under President Donald Trump.
Krist Novoselic: Best known as the bassist and co-founder of the rock band Nirvana, Novoselic has always been active in political and social activism. He has served on the board of the electoral reform organization FairVote and as its chair. He later became the board chair of Zócalo Public Square and joined the Forward Party in 2023, becoming its leader in Washington.
Charles Royer: A journalist and politician, Royer served three terms as the mayor of Seattle. He is a political independent and frequent op-ed writer who also directed Harvard’s Institute of Politics.
Howard Schultz: The former CEO of Starbucks, Schultz explored a presidential run as an independent in 2019. He has since decided to invest his resources elsewhere, but is determined to help break the two-party stranglehold on our political system.
Shirley Hankins: A GOP state Representative, Hankins briefly went independent in 2002.
In addition to these independents, there are currently nonpartisan office holders acting as commissioners or directors of:
Labor and Industries
Utilities and Transportation
The Superintendent of Public Education is a nonpartisan office as well.
As you can see, Washington is a favorable state to launch an independent campaign. If the previous list of indy politicians wasn’t enough inspiration, here are 10 good reasons to consider running for office in Washington State in 2024:
The mix of urban, suburban, and rural areas in Washington State offers unique opportunities for independent candidates. This diversity allows for a wide range of political views and a receptive audience for non-traditional candidates.
Washingtonians are known for their high level of civic engagement and voter turnout. This engaged electorate is more likely to be receptive to new ideas and candidates outside the traditional two-party system.
Washington State employs a top-two primary system, where all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, appear on the same primary ballot. The top two vote-getters advance to the general election, providing a level playing field for independents.
Washington has a significant number of progressive and liberal voters, particularly in urban areas like Seattle. Independent candidates with progressive platforms can tap into this voter base.
Independent candidates can focus on local issues that may be overlooked by national parties. Issues like environmental policy, tech industry impact, and local economic development often resonate with Washington State voters.
As a tech hub, Washington's electorate is tech-savvy and open to digital campaigning. Tools like Good Party’s AI Campaign Manager can be a cost-effective way for independent candidates to reach voters through digital means.
The state has a history of supporting independent and third-party candidates, showing a willingness to deviate from the two-party norm.
Like many parts of the country, there is a growing discontent in Washington with hyper-partisanship. This provides a fertile ground for candidates who can rise above party politics and focus on real issues.
Washington's strong environmentalist culture offers an avenue for independents who are passionate about climate change and environmental issues. These problems often go unaddressed by the major parties.
A successful independent campaign can inspire more non-partisan candidates and change the political dynamics in Washington. This encourages a more issues-focused political discourse.
There are a number of ways that an aspiring independent politician can get involved in local, state, and national politics. Here are a few offices that are up for grabs in the Evergreen State in 2024:
At the federal and state level, there are U.S. Senate and House seats available. Non-partisan candidates could also run for statewide executive offices. Residents of Washington State are looking for a new governor and lieutenant governor as well as most other executive positions at the state level.
Local offices looking for new people to fill them are also plentiful in the state of Washington. In King County, for instance, Position One on the Board of Supervisors is up for grabs. Kitsap County is looking for a new commissioner in District 2. They’re also looking for qualified nonpartisan individuals for their Supreme, Superior, and Court of Appeals.
If you’re looking to run for office in Washington in 2024, here are some important deadlines you need to know. The time period in which to file your candidacy is from May 6, 2024 - May 10, 2024. The final day to withdraw from the race is on May 13, 2024. Primaries are held on August 6, 2024, and the General Election is on November 5, 2024.
For more information, you can visit your local election office or visit the Secretary of State website.
Independent candidates have the benefit of freedom from politics as usual. However, they often struggle to gain awareness and reach, which can hinder their campaigns.
In order to successfully run for office in Washington State, independents should:
Utilize grassroots strategies and digital campaigning for maximum reach and cost-effectiveness.
Highlight local issues and concerns that resonate with Washingtonians.
Leverage the advantages of the open primary system for increased exposure.
Engage with both the progressive base and centrist/independent voters.
The most successful campaigns focus on the issues that matter to voters in their area. In Washington, several issues of importance to voters in 2024 have been identified that span a range of policy areas.
During its last session, Washington's legislature passed over 450 bills. Notable laws taking effect include restrictions on marijuana testing for workers, a 10-day waiting period for firearm purchases, enhanced voting rights, and harsher penalties for street racing. However, there are a number of pressing issues that still need to be addressed going forward.
For example, the Cap-and-Trade Program is a dominant issue in the legislature. It focuses on how carbon auction money is spent and its impact on fuel costs and the oil industry. Efforts are being made to adjust the program, with discussions around making it more palatable for farmers, offsetting higher fuel costs for the public, and potentially linking with California and Quebec's systems.
Speaking of oil industry regulation, Governor Inslee and Democratic leaders are considering a new division to study and regulate the oil industry, aiming for more transparency in fuel pricing and profit margins. Meanwhile, conservative groups are pushing for ballot measures on issues like the carbon capture law, police pursuit regulations, and a capital-gains tax repeal.
These issues reflect a broad spectrum of voter concerns in Washington, ranging from social policies and public safety to environmental regulations and fiscal matters.
It's time to shake up the political status quo! If you're ready to bring fresh ideas and a new perspective to Washington State politics, join Good Party Academy and get ready to launch your campaign for elected office.
Our platform empowers independent candidates like you to make a difference. Whether you're targeting a seat in local government or a state office, we're here to help every step of the way. Don't miss your chance to be part of the change Washington needs.