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Wednesday, September 16, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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State Races -- Known Names Take State Spots

Here's a quiz for you voters: Didn't that Jeanne Dixon you saw on your ballot sound familiar?

Haven't you read her astrology predictions in the newspaper?

Those answering yes offer a clue as to why Dixon, a Seattle real-estate agent, wound up winning the Democratic nomination for secretary of state while spending less than $1,000 and putting up nary a campaign yard sign.

Dixon, who will face three-term Republican incumbent Ralph Munro in the general election, is but the latest example of the importance of name familiarity - particularly in those races where the public is paying little attention. Dixon handily beat her more active rival, Juanita Garrison, stepdaughter of the late and legendary U.S. Sen. Warren Magnsuon.

"Your name has a lot to do with it," said Munro of Dixon's primary victory. "It shows you never want to take anything for granted. I've got a fund-raiser scheduled for tomorrow."

Once they win , though, holders of the state's more obscure offices - lieutenant governor, treasurer, insurance commissioner, auditor and secretary of state - generally can take things for granted.

The reason? Why, name familiarity, of course.

Many, such as 16-year incumbent Insurance Commissioner Dick Marquardt, have turned their elected posts into careers. Voters seldom force them into unemployment.

As he seeks his fifth term, Marquardt will face aggressive opposition in November from Democrat Deborah Senn, who wants the office to play a more prominent role in the debate over health-care reform. Senn, a regulatory attorney and lobbyist, beat out Gig Harbor insurance broker Marji Wilkerson. The two Democrats totaled nearly as many votes as Marquardt, which Senn was trumpeting as a hopeful sign.

"The Democrats have never done that well against him in a primary, so it's going to be very close" in the general election, she predicted.

Complicating Senn's efforts will be the independent candidacy of Brian McCulloch, a Bothell insurance consultant. He gathered enough votes to qualify for a spot on the general-election ballot.

Lt. Gov. Joel Pritchard, seeking a second term, captured more than half the total votes yesterday. He had no Republican primary foes. Leading the field of four Democratic contenders was Richard Kelley, president of a Seattle low-income-housing organization.

Absolutely Nobody, who changed his name from David Powers to underscore his belief that the office of lieutenant governor should be abolished, captured more votes as an independent than everyone but Kelley and Pritchard. Nobody, who recently was hospitalized for complications stemming from AIDS, even made headlines in the New York Times.

The race to succeed state Auditor Bob Graham, who is stepping down after 28 years, attracted a large field. Pierce County Auditor Brian Sonntag emerged with a slight lead over Spokane accountant Nina Becker and former state budget analyst Robin Hunt. On the Republican slate, Thurston County Auditor Sam Reed was unopposed.

Neither incumbent state Treasurer Dan Grimm, a Democrat, nor his Republican challenger, Claude Oliver, were opposed in the primary. Oliver, the Benton County treasurer who is trying to pin the blame for problems in the state's pension fund on Grimm, trailed the incumbent in the total primary vote count.

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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