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Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - Page updated at 01:14 A.M.

McKenna wins, Senn leading in attorney general campaigns

By Beth Kaiman
Seattle Times staff reporter

Democrat Deborah Senn, a candidate for attorney general, does last-minute campaigning during rush hour in South Seattle.
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Metropolitan King County Councilman Rob McKenna easily defeated attorney Michael Vaska for the Republican nomination for attorney general last night, while Democrat Deborah Senn was well ahead of Mark Sidran.

"I'm cautiously optimistic, but getting increasingly enthusiastic," said Senn.

In the contest to replace three-term Attorney General Christine Gregoire, both Senn, a former state insurance commissioner, and Sidran, a former Seattle city attorney, were attempting comebacks. McKenna, the front-runner in his race from the start, has been seen as a GOP star ready to establish a statewide profile.

"The numbers are very good. We're gratified," McKenna said last night as it became clear he was trouncing Vaska. "But we have work ahead."

McKenna said the race to replace Gregoire will be a sprint: seven weeks until Election Day, only four weeks until absentee ballots are mailed.

Rob McKenna, a GOP candidate for attorney general, waves to supporters yesterday in Bellevue.
Senn, 55, was trying to bounce back from a sizable defeat to Maria Cantwell in the 2000 U.S. Senate Democratic primary.

She was expected to do well across the state and finish ahead of Sidran in much of Eastern Washington. Sidran was counting on big numbers in King County, where he was slightly ahead last night.

Senn's reputation as being unfriendly to business during her time as insurance commissioner led the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to contribute an unprecedented $1.5 million for a TV ad campaign criticizing Senn's tenure as insurance commissioner.

The resulting publicity for Senn's candidacy, Sidran said last night, proved challenging for his campaign.

"The biggest challenge in the last part of the campaign was convincing people I was more than a footnote in the controversy," Sidran said.

Said Senn, "People were offended by the smear tactics."

Democrat Mark Sidran, running for attorney general, dips and kisses his wife, Anais Winant, at his campaign headquarters in Seattle before heading to his primary-election party. Early returns showed Sidran trailing in the race.
Though often criticized as uncompromising and abrasive, Senn has continued to embrace the image of feisty consumer advocate.

She promised voters she would build on her work as insurance commissioner, an office she had held from 1993 to 2001, by fighting for lower prescription-drug prices, lower gas prices and affordable health care.

Like Senn, Sidran, 53, pledged to fight for consumers, and he emphasized his expertise as the only candidate with experience as a prosecutor.

Sidran was a deputy King County prosecutor and later served three terms as city attorney, where he gained a law-and-order reputation by supporting so-called "civility laws" and a car-impound policy.

He narrowly lost the Seattle mayoral race in 2001.

Like the other candidates, McKenna, 41, is little-known outside King County, but in winning three County Council terms, he established party connections and campaign experience.

On the council, McKenna has pushed for lower taxes and criticized Sound Transit's light-rail plan.

As attorney general, McKenna said, he would support tort reform and better risk management.

Vaska, 43, played up his 18 years of legal experience and sought to appeal to moderates.

Green candidate Paul Richmond is also running, while Libertarian J. Bradley Gibson will make the ballot if he wins 1 percent of the primary vote.

Beth Kaiman: 206-464-2441 or

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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