Ruderman Has Formidable Foe in BookspanHouse District 45, Position 2

Laura Ruderman has dropped two dress sizes and worn out several pairs of shoes in her relentless doorbelling campaign in the 45th District. She claims to have visited more than 18,000 homes — close to half of all the houses in the area.

What would prompt a two-term incumbent and rising star of the Democratic Party to campaign like an eager first-time challenger?

Part of the answer is that the district has traditionally favored Republicans and is viewed by the party as rightfully theirs to take back. Another factor may be that a novice Republican candidate from Texas came unexpectedly and uncomfortably close in the primary.

Elizabeth Bookspan, 29, polled 46.4 percent to Ruderman’s 53.6 percent. Sensing a possible upset in the Nov. 5 general election, the Republican Party has pumped more than $30,000 into Bookspan’s campaign, nearly doubling her initially modest resources.

The race has eerie parallels to Ruderman’s first campaign four years ago, when she was a 27-year-old newcomer taking on an established incumbent. Back then, the Democratic Party helped out Ruderman’s campaign with — you guessed it — $30,000.

The duel reflects the 45th’s diverse residents. The district stretches from the cafes and art galleries of Kirkland to the high-tech hub of Redmond, north to Woodinville and east to the semirural communities of Duvall and Carnation. It encompasses a rich mix of suburbanites, techies, aging hippies and old-timers.

Ruderman is putting a positive spin on the primary result — pointing out that she actually has a greater share of the vote than she did after either of her past two primary races.

But state Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance said Ruderman is in deep trouble.

“She spent nearly $100,000 on the primary, and for an incumbent to be where she is, is not good,” Vance said.

He said that Bookspan is the kind of Republican — not too abrasive, not too negative — who appeals to voters in the district. Fielding a woman against Ruderman is also probably an advantage, he added.

It was a conservative, outspoken Republican male who lost to Ruderman four years ago. Bill Backlund appeared safe with 59 percent of the vote after the primary, but Ruderman made a late charge to beat him by 746 votes.

Ruderman portrayed him as an extremist and sent out a mailing suggesting he supported a bill banning the teaching of evolution. Republicans complained that it was dirty campaigning. She again is planning some late mailings, this time targeting Bookspan’s role as an activist with tax-cutting crusaders Citizens for a Sound Economy. Ruderman will highlight the group’s stance on reforming Medicare and privatizing Social Security.

Bookspan, who moved to Kirkland three years ago, is planning mailings that attack what she claims is Ruderman’s liberal voting record and three votes to raise taxes. She is already targeting Ruderman’s voting record on her Web site under a page labeled “The Ruderman Files.”

A New York native, Ruderman worked at Microsoft for four years before turning to politics. She describes her biggest personal success in the Legislature as her work on women’s health-care issues, including access to screening and treatment of breast cancer for low-income women, and emergency contraception on request for rape victims.

Her modest town house in the Totem Lake area of Kirkland serves also as a bustling campaign headquarters, with volunteers taking shifts around the kitchen table to stuff envelopes. The walls are covered with paintings and ceramics created by her artist mom.

Bookspan’s house is larger and more serene. Her three cats rule the polished wooden floors and nothing is out of place. Both she and Ruderman have a district war-map displayed in an upstairs office.

Bookspan has little previous political experience. She serves as secretary of the Kirkland Highlands Neighborhood Association and has campaigned for the Sound Economy group.

The group portrays itself as a grass-roots lobby organization in favor of less government, lower taxes and more freedom, although opponents label it a corporate front group.

Ruderman said that most constituents she visits want more money spent on education and some kind of transportation fix. They also question government’s trustworthiness and want to know how the Legislature will deal with a $2 billion-plus budget hole.

Ruderman said she would support an expansion of gambling, a possible privatizing of the state-run liquor business and would take a hard look at other governmental sacred cows, including optional Medicaid services.

Bookspan said she would favor privatizing or contracting out certain services, including liquor sales, and would work on reducing governmental fraud and waste with strict accountability audits. She would also try to draw businesses back to the state, by replacing the business and occupation tax with more-equitable business taxes, and by making it easier to comply with ergonomic standards.

Both Ruderman and Bookspan said they favor Referendum 51.

Should the measure fail, Ruderman wants the Legislature to come up with an alternate transportation package to put before voters.

Bookspan said she would favor devising another plan then finding a way to fund it. She believes the vote should be the Legislature’s responsibility.

While not committing to a position, Ruderman said some people in her district may be willing to look to an income tax in exchange for getting rid of certain sales and property taxes. Bookspan said she is firmly opposed to an income tax.

Public Disclosure Commission records show Ruderman has raised $173,000 to date, including a recent $10,000 boost from her party. Bookspan has raised $71,000.