Friday, September 10, 2004

Electoral Storm - Democratic A.G.

When I started this series of entries on the statewide elections, I particularly singled out the race for attorney general on the Democrat side between Deborah Senn and Mark Sidran as being potentially acrimonious (and thereby entertaining). Its good to be right occasionally, though not precisely the way I thought it would be.

Senn has a reputation as being tough-as-nails in her former role as state insurance commisioner. Sidran for his part has a reputation as being tough-as-nails as former city attorney in the pursuit of Seattle "civility laws" of the last decade. Senn has come off as willing to play Chicago hardball, Sidran as being bit stiffer and more lawyerly.

So it was a bit of surprise when the first anti-Senn commercial came not from Sidran, but a mysterious group known as the Voters Education Committee, with a well-produced and terribly negative ad. It had the hallmarks of classic negative advertising - taking the worst picture ever of the opposing candidate, and as you make the picture darker and more sinister you extol a laundry lists of sins against the candidate - horrible decisions, actions which hurt the state, actions which hurt people, killing kittens, keeping flying monkeys in her castle. By the end of which you've painted a picture of the individual which even that individual would not vote for. But as I said, this was a professional hit backed up by major money.

So who is the Voters Education Committee? Not Sidran (his ads, as noted before, are a jaw-droppingly homespun with a Jeopardy parody where all the answers are "Mark Sidran!" (and which feature a wincing cameo by Governor Locke)), but rather a Republican operation. To be more clear, the VEC shares it lawyer, John White, with the state GOP, as well as sharing several director-level positions with United for Washington, a pro-business group. The VEC's director, Bruce Boram, in addition to being executive director of UfW, was also spokesman, strategists, and key fund-raisers for . . . Republican Candidate Dave Reichert. Reichert, if you will remember, is the "star candidate" for the GOP for the 8th district, who was going to bring a fresh breeze and a new broom to the race. Boram has stepped down from the Reichert campaign, unfortunately not the first departure from the organization under a cloud.

But who is funding these ads, spending more money than the Senn and Sidran campaigns combined? Unofficially, the assumption is insurance and business interests that Senn cheesed off when she was in power last time. Officially, the group has refused to reveal their donors, declaring the ads to be "issue ads" which "educate the voters" (The "issue" being Senn's abilities and the "education" being that Senn lusts after ruby slippers and is afraid of water). The VEC has refused to identify its donors, and the various stations have pulled them from circulation.

So who benefits from this this kerfuffle? Reichert's establishment opponents in the 8th - since his campaign gets spattered with mud from this most recent set-to. Sidran, of course, because he benefits from Senn getting attacked without having to do the attacking (Does the VEC think Sidran more pliable to their interests, or merely more beatable by the GOP candidate?). And lastly, I'll say Senn herself - not the most cuddly candidate in the world, she shows herself battle-tough, which is pretty much what you want in an AG.

More later,