"Top-two" primary means longer race for Sen. Prentice
Two Democratic political newcomers — Juan Martinez and Scott McKay — are taking on longtime state legislator Margarita Prentice for her Senate seat in the 11th Legislative District.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Juan Martinez, Democrat
Residence: Beacon Hill
Family: single, no children
Education: culinary-arts degree, South Seattle Community College; bachelor's in nonprofit-fundraising management, The Evergreen State College; master's degree in public administration, Seattle University
Occupation: Most recently worked as interim co-director for the Washington Tax Fairness Coalition. Also worked as a case manager for state Department of Social Health Services, as an aide to U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, and as a chef.
Campaign Web site: www.juanforsenate.com
Scott McKay, Democrat
Residence: South Park
Family: married, one grown daughter
Education: bachelor's degree, University of Washington; law degree, University of Southern California Law School
Occupation: attorney specializing in employee rights
Margarita Prentice, Democrat
Family: three grown children
Education: nursing degree, St. Joseph's Hospital School of Nursing, Phoenix, Ariz.; also attended the University of Washington
Political experience: Appointed to the state House of Representatives, 1988. Served two terms in the House. Elected to the state Senate in 1992. Currently chair of Senate Ways and Means Committee.
Campaign Web site: www.margaritaprentice.com
In her 20 years in the state Legislature, Sen. Margarita Prentice has racked up more than a few political allies: unions, tribes, the state Democratic Party, major state business groups.
The Renton Democrat chairs the powerful Ways and Means Committee. In 2004, she gave away almost all of her campaign contributions — and still won re-election with 65 percent of the vote.
She's the kind of powerhouse that political hopefuls usually avoid taking on, figuring that any challenge will end in their defeat.
But this year, two members of her own party have filed to run against her. Both have active campaigns, and one has raised more than $30,000.
They say Prentice is out of touch with her constituents, and they point in particular to her support of payday-lending companies and of a failed attempt to finance a new Sonics stadium in Renton.
"If you're a working-class district, represent those values. Represent those people," said Juan Martinez, one of her opponents.
The 11th District includes part of South Seattle, Burien, Tukwila, Sea-Tac and the southern part of Renton. There is no Republican on the ballot, but under the new "top-two" primary in August, the two Democrats with the most votes will face each other in November.
Martinez's door-to-door campaign has proved to him that Prentice is vulnerable, he said. Martinez, 38, is a former pastry chef who was born in the Bronx and grew up in a military family, mostly in Germany and Texas. He graduated from high school in Tacoma and stayed in the area.
After culinary school and several years working as a chef, he went back to school to learn to work with homeless families and on social-policy issues. He has a master's degree in public administration and a bachelor's degree in nonprofit-fundraising management.
Prentice's other opponent is Scott McKay, 52, a trial lawyer who lives in South Park.
Both are new to politics and acknowledge their positions as the underdogs.
"People say, 'You're crazy. You're going to lose and you're going to ruin your political career,' " Martinez said. "I'm a positive guy, but I'm not crazy. ... She has a lot of supporters and allies, but I have my supporters and allies. I know it's an uphill battle."
McKay isn't raising money for his campaign; Martinez has about $30,000, mostly from individuals. Prentice has raised more than $130,000, nearly three-quarters of it from corporations who gave as much as they were allowed under campaign-finance rules.
Donations from individuals who live in the 11th District make up only about 1 percent of what Prentice has raised so far, according to an analysis by the Business Institute of Washington, a nonpartisan, pro-business group.
Prentice said she gets money from business groups because she supports a robust economy — and her legislative work reflects that. She's not averse to giving tax breaks, she said. Helping businesses helps workers, she said, and that means the "lunch-bucket Democrats" in her district.
"You learn how to cut a deal, and that was one of the early things I learned," she said. "You have to learn to work well with others."
McKay said he's troubled by Prentice's corporate campaign contributions and the legislation she's championed.
"I would characterize her as being the traditional, old-fashioned, pork-barrel politics where you accept contributions from big-money interests and have a lesser focus on the big picture," he said.
His big issue: Prentice's support for a ban on online gambling, which the Legislature approved in May 2006. Prentice said the ban simply brought state law into compliance with federal law. But McKay sees online gambling as an opportunity for the state to bring in more revenue by taxing the winnings.
Martinez is particularly passionate about increasing restrictions on payday-lending companies. Prentice has voted to impose some regulations, but Martinez says she hasn't gone far enough. He would like to see strict limits on the high interest rates lenders charge.
Prentice says payday-loan critics claim the industry preys on minority communities. But she says that's a "racist" view because it implies that "brown-skinned people" aren't smart enough to decide for themselves whether to borrow money and from whom.
Prentice also stands by her support of a now-defunct plan to publicly finance a Sonics stadium in Renton, which she says would have provided jobs.
Martinez said voters have other priorities for their tax money.
Mainstream Democratic groups have thrown their support behind Prentice. The 11th District Democrats voted in April to endorse her and in May to grant her the party's official nomination.
That group's vice chair, Jay Hollingsworth, said her experience and powerful position as head of the Senate Ways and Means Committee made her the obvious choice.
She does get a lot of corporate money, he said, but "she also got a $50 check from me."
With the top-two primary system, Prentice expects a tougher campaign for the general election than in past cycles. But she's confident her track record will help — not harm — her chances.
"I have a long history," she said. "I've chaired some big committees. I'm the chair of Ways and Means, and for somebody to come into my district and say I haven't related to my district means they haven't related to my district."
Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
NEW - 07:13 AM
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is writing memoir
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.