Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Local Politics - First Pitch of the Season

Gracious, we're seven months out and I’m already behind the curve.

Yeah, that sounds weird, but the movers and shakers and shakey movers and movey shakers have all been working behind the scenes, so that by the time you’re asked to make any decisions as a voter, a lot of the decisions have already been made. Here's where we stand, seven months out.

US Senator - this is the marquee event, and has already turned strange. The incumbent is Maria Cantwell, who has served out her freshman term as a bit of policy wonk - doing her job well, but not making enough waves to really call attention to herself. In political terms, that makes her supposedly vulnerable. The GOP cleared the field in favor of executive Mike McGavick, who resigned from his gig at Safeco with a large "have fun storming the castle" departure package, and should have been able to close the gap, in the GOP tradition of laying low about one's own backing and intentions while combing over your opponent's record. (His initial pitch was to make Washington more polite, I suppose by removing ALL non-Republicans)

And then the odd thing happened. The Senator of Alaska, Ted Stevens, whose porcine-cylindrical-container habits exceed those of Mr. Byrd of West Virginia, got into a spitting match with Ms. Cantwell over, among other things, drilling in Alaska. And Big Ted lost, in the process showing Maria to be of sterner stuff than it had previously seemed. So Ted is now a big booster of Mr. McGavick, going so far as to campaign and fundraise for him. Because, you know, Alaska doesn’t get enough porkbarrel already - it really needs a third senator to handle all the boodle.

So as a result of this, McGavick looks like an Alaskan handpuppet, but Cantwell is far from healthy, in part because of her support of the war. Or rather, not being sufficiently AGAINST the war, which has peeved off our extreme liberal wing just at the same time Mike is cleaving mightily to his party's conservative wing. So the left is edgy about her, even though she has come through time and again on other progressive issues. Now add into the mix a protest candidate from the Greens (who desite their name, don't seem to care as much about the environment as they once did), and you have a potential mess.

Stay tuned. This has nowhere to go but down.

House of Representatives -– The Undercard is just as interesting in the 8th district, my home town. Here the freshman is Dave Reichert, and the challenger a grass-roots progressive named Darcy Burner who got in early and swept most of the establishment Dems aside. Mind you, her early work was at a time when no one even thought the Eighth was going to competitive. The Stranger, of all people, does a nice writeup on her here for those locals who want to know who’s going after the new sherrif.

And for his part, Reichert has been like Cantwell - the new kid, though he's been much better at getting out the press releases when he's done good. And I think he has fulfilled the First Commandment”that every voter asks of an elected official: For Gods Sake, Don't Embarrass Us. Yet his nice-guy demeanor and strong homeland security approach is hampered by the fact that he is in a party that thinks government consists of shoving huge amounts of cash down your pants. He's the rookie cop who is asked to wait outside while his veteran partners shake down the bookie for their weekly taste. It's gotta hurt.

You've met people in Reichert's position before –- he's the nice guy with the psycho fiance. You're sitting in the bar with him, and he's telling you about how good the relationship is and how they both respect each other's space. Then his cell phone rings, and he says "hello", and you can hear the screaming on the other end from four feet way. And he says "uh-huh" and you hear more screaming. And he says "OK" and folds up the phone, lets out a deep sigh, and says "Well, I gotta go. She needs me to go approve drilling in Alaska".

Our much-disliked, trigger-happy Veep came out to campaign for candidates in Washington State (thanks to the rest of the nation for footing the bill for his trip, but, sadly, we're sending him back). That put Reichert in the nasty position of either cheesing off the GOP stalwarts by snubbing the shindig, or cheesing off the rest of the population by supporting an incredibly unpopular party leader. He showed up (good for him), but I haven't seen any photos of the two together yet.

State Supreme Court - This is usually pretty quiet, but we already we have a jump on this one. The same conservative business interests that installed Jim Johnson are now putting up my former state senator Stephen Johnson for Supreme Court, based on the triple whammy of a) he's not scary looking, b) he does what he's told, and c) his last name is Johnson. How can they lose?

State Senator - but with Johnson running for supreme, we have a hole in the 47th district. And finally we get to the stage where the candidates are not selected in advance. Dave Reichert's younger brother was considering the run, but bowed out (pity - if he's the one I spoke with on the phone, he seems like a nice guy). So the rumors are afoot that my State Representitive Geoff Simpson (who has been excellent in his job) may take on the position. Which, I suppose, means we have to find a new State Rep, but more on that as it plays out.

And THEN we have the clown car which are state initiatives. These are still in the sig-gathering stage, but I see on the list here, there is a Tim Eyeman-sponsored initiative to keep car tabs at 30 bucks, an Tim Eyeman-sponsored initiative to open carpool lanes, and a couple other Tim Eyeman-sponsored initiatives geared to make state government more like Tim Eyeman. More on these as they develop as well.

And finally, on the national level, the President of China was in town today, meeting with the most important man in America, our Chief Executive. After leaving Microsoft, he'll meet with President Bush.

More later,