Sunday, February 01, 2004

Local Politics

Things have been moving along in the Sound. Here are three things that I want to comment on that have evolved in the past week.

1. Nethercutt to Eastern WA: Sod Off! Nethercutt (R-Malaprop), if you remember, was the plucky lad who ran for Representative on a platform for term limits, then ditched the idea when it was time for him to step down (he's on his 5th term). He became a lightning rod for complaining about coverage of all those caskets (sorry, Tranport Tubes) coming back from Iraq when there was so much GOOD news coming out of Babylon. Well, now he's running for Senator, and to that end he's officially moved to Bellevue, the supposed center of GOP money in the Sound.

Its a pretty lame move - he's getting a "spartan one-bedroom" that he'll be using as a base. Its akin to Texan Dick Cheney suddenly changing his mailing address to Wyoming so he could cowboy up with George for the last Presidential Campaign (and indeed, Dick has emerged from his spider hole, um, "secure location" to campaign for brother-in-arms Nethercutt). But it allows the Congressman to portray himself as "one of the locals" to people of the Sound, and get him away from those in Eastern Washington who actually know his record and his abilities.

This is nothing new - Rick Santorum of PA lived on my parent's street briefly when he first ran for Congress. He blasted the incumbent for not even having a home in Pennsylvania. When he won, Rick moved immediately to Washington, and we haven't seen him in the neighborhood since. As a result of this, my dear conservative mother refers to him with her ultimate curse - she calls him "Stinky" (She usually reserves this name for TV weathermen, by the way).

So Nethercutt is pulling one out of the standard playbook here, and hoping that the Western Washington votes he pulls in with the move outweighs those of the people he's deserted. Though it begs the question - if he really is leaving his old grounds, does that mean he's no longer representing his former district? Or is he going Pam Roach on us, moving from place to place depending on the political winds. Should he forget about the apartment and just get a Winnebago?

2. Red Meat Democrat: I also got a mailing from Geoff Simpson, our State Rep for the 47th District, which pretty much sizzles in the mailbox. Geoff puts forward his action plan for the upcoming sessions - Schools, Jobs, Traffic, and Healthcare. He's in favor of simple majorities for school levies - right now you need 60% to carry one forward, or as he puts is "Why can a politician claim a 55 percent of the vote is a landslide but 59% is a failure if it's a school levy?" He's against government contracts with job-exporters, and identifying when your on-line help is coming out of New Delhi. He's for bringing out medicine costs down to, say, Canadian levels. He's up against the bigs - big pharmacy, big insurance, big business.

But what impressed me about this mailing was not only his passion and the level of detail. There are real proposals in her along with bon-mots and rallying cries. There's a feeling of common sense and reasonability. In an environment of dour-faced reductions of services and ideological fanatics, this guys seems both sane and passionate.

And compared to the crud that Roach and Fortunato used to send out, this is a breath of fresh air.

3. Consider it Dunn: And the big sudden news is that Congressperson Jennifer Dunn (R-Bellevue - really - she lived there before there was a Bellevue), has decided to retire from political life. When a politician steps down to "spend more time with the family" you usually are looking for some horrible scandal involving kickbacks, nubile young men, and video camera, but all that is amazingly absent in Dunn's case. Instead, I really believe that she's on the level and straightforward here, since for most of her career she has been.

Dunn is a Big-D (as in Development) Republican. While maddening conservative on a local level with environmental issues (she dutifully supports the idea of clear-cutting to reduce forest fires), she opposed expanded drilling in Alaska. She's about a pro-Choice as you can get in today's Republican party without getting lynched by the fanatics (that would be legal but no government support). She supports the majority of traditional Repub beliefs - repeal of estate taxes, privatizing Medicare, fewer controls on big business - but can hardly be considered dogmatic on all points.

Whenever the Repubs needed a female face to deliver their message (such as the Republican response to the SotU in 99), they turned to her, and her name was floated around for various positions in the current administration. Of course, when she ran for House majority leader she got smoked, but that was the glass ceiling in her party. And to be frank, she probably would have done a better job than the guy they got, but would be a lot quieter.

Dunn is no bomb-thrower, and did not embarrass her constituants (Nethercutt take note). She played within the system, and accomplished her goals without having to maim the opposition. In this way, she was the most dangerous of political opponents - a competant one. Perhaps she's hoping for a position in the Current Administration's second term (Lord knows enough people currently there are prepping resumes), or it may that at 62 she wants to pass the reins on to the next generation and take it easy.

So, now all of sudden everyone is looking at this new job opening. Did I mention that Pam Roach is already being mentioned for the job?

More later,