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Originally published Monday, September 17, 2012 at 9:09 PM

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Write-in candidate makes it onto ballot in state treasurer's race

Republican state treasurer hopeful Sharon Hanek is one of nine candidates for legislative, judicial or statewide office who got enough votes as write-ins in the August primary to move on to the November general election. She faces incumbent Democrat Jim McIntire.

The Olympian

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Sharon Hanek has our vote! MORE
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OLYMPIA — For several months, Democrat Jim McIntire appeared to have a free ride to re-election to a second term as state treasurer this year, because no one filed against him.

Look again: Conservative Republican Sharon Hanek kicked off a write-in campaign not long before the Aug. 7 primary. And in a result that state election officials don't remember seeing in at least three decades for a statewide political campaign, the self-styled "education watchdog mom" from Bonney Lake, Pierce County, qualified for the Nov. 6 ballot.

"I do plan to do my best," Hanek said, acknowledging that she faces an uphill fight against McIntire, who is well known around the state after one term and who already has raised $136,000. "I also feel Republicans in general don't do well in raising money, so it is not going to be a situation where I can match him."

But Hanek, a social conservative who has spoken to tea-party groups and once testified against a sex-education bill in the Legislature, is going to raise money for yard signs and mailers.

"I'm seriously in a campaign mode," she said. "I'm not doing this to make a statement and walk away."

Although Hanek's 3.4 percent of the vote against McIntire wasn't anywhere near the number of votes that Linda Smith received in 1994, she is taking a bit of inspiration from Smith's legendary write-in primary campaign. Smith defeated two Republicans in the primary and then unseated Democratic U.S. Rep. Jolene Unsoeld of Olympia.

That might be hard to do against McIntire — at the time of Smith's victory, she was a state legislator and was coming off two successful campaigns to limit state spending and restrict campaign-donation limits.

But McIntire, a several-term lawmaker before he won his first term as treasurer in 2008, said he plans to restart his campaign. He said he had shut down his fundraising in May but now will do some.

"I'll hire a campaign manager, and I'll be getting around the state," he said. "I'm going to run just like it's any other opponent. The reality is there have been people that have run campaigns like this for county treasurer and got elected. I need to consider it a race."

Sheryl Moss, certification and training-program manager in the state elections arm of the Office of the Secretary of State, said she doesn't recall seeing a write-in candidate qualify for the general election for a statewide race in the three-plus decades she has worked in elections.

The bar, however, is not very high.

"A write-in candidate in the primary has to receive 1 percent of the total votes cast and be one of the top two vote-getters," Moss explained.

Hanek is one of nine candidates for legislative, judicial or statewide office who got enough votes in this year's primary to move on to the general election.

Seven others are running for the Legislature — including Socialist Alternative Party candidate Kshama Sawant, who is challenging House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle.

One big reason so many people are filing as write-ins is the state's "top-two" primary.

Because the primary is a runoff that no longer guarantees any party a candidate on the November ballot, the major political parties no longer have the right to appoint someone to run if no one has filed from their party during filing week.

That's led to even more vacant seats than one might have seen in years past when the parties had three days after the primary to appoint a candidate. This year, about two dozen House incumbents alone didn't draw a challenger during filing week — providing an opening for write-in campaigns.

Another factor is the relative lack of competitive races in the state, because of redistricting and the power of incumbency.

With campaign costs rising, fewer challengers are willing to get in, and political parties appear less willing to recruit a candidate for every race on the ballot.

Hanek she said she was too busy with college and high-school graduations for two of her three children to file in May. But after she went to the state party convention, supporters suggested she consider running for treasurer.

She was known to some party activists because of her background as an accountant and her work managing campaign-finance reports for other candidates.

Hanek says she is running to make government in Olympia "accountable" with better transparency. In an interview she called herself a Christian conservative.

As an activist watching the legislative process, she has opposed the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, preferring other standardized tests. And she testified against a sex-education bill at the Capitol and raised questions to lawmakers about how they were spending money for technology in schools.

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