So it begins. Armed with my Voter's Pamphlet (the link will take you to the electronic version), I press on into the darkness.
Starting at the top, we have the campaign for US Senator, Democrat flavor. Maria Cantwell is the incumbent, a freshman senator who has in the past year emerged from Senior Senator Patty Murray's shadow. A bit of a policy wonk, Cantwell makes strong points on the environment and women's rights, but has swerved into moderate-conservative territory with initial support of the Iraq invasion, voting for the PATRIOT Act (twice) and has voting against both Supreme Court Justice Alito but ALSO against the cloture vote that would have prevented that vote from happening (it's a fine point, but should be noted). So she's not lockstepping with us dad-blum liberals in Seattle, but as the incumbent she is the Democrat's anointed one. She's hardly the Lieberman some have made her out to be (she lacks the public scolding personality and regular presence on FOX news), but she's definitely more of a centrist, and is catching it from the left as a result.
And her Voter's Guide profile is a little punchier than I expected (most incumbents do the "It has been my pleasure to serve the people of Washington" routine). She rattles off a string of topics that she's been engaged in - Strong foreign policy, fighting drugs at a local level, protect education, protect seniors, and a nod towards biofuels. If anything, her profile needs a little tightening up, a little MORE focus than it currently has. It feels like they had a page worthy of achievements and tried to edit it back. So she's the front runner, the likely candidate, and the one getting most of the Democratic largesse.
And looking at her competition in the primary, you can see why. Most of these guys seem to know that this is their big moment, their chance to shine in the sun, where their finances and political approaches really deny them a viable opportunity otherwise. Take Mike Goodspaceguy Nelson, whose solution to the problems we are facing is to go into space. No, I'm not kidding. His writeup reads like very old school Asimov/Bester/Clarke sci-fi. And like the scifi I enjoyed as a lad, all the answers to other issues come back to the same solution - let's go into space! Pollution? Space! Wars? Space! Trade imbalance? Space!
perennial candidate Mike the Mover is here as well, with a scatter-shot listing of solutions that include: Putting Saddam back in charge of Iraq (since we've screwed up so badly), declaring war against Canada over Victoria dumping untreated wastewater into the Straits of Juan de Fuca, and challenging ancient Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens to a bare-knuckles brawl at Key Arena. Yep, this approach will get him some votes, and he may outdraw Mike Goodspaceguy Nelson.
And then there is Mohammad H. Said medical doctor from Ephrata and former candidate for President of the Palestinian Authority. He starts off well with listing all the problems besetting the country, then takes a very, very sharp left-hand turn into laying it all at the feet of American support of Israel. Healthcare? Israel! By the time he's blaming our foreign policy on the 1948 election, you have to ask yourself which of these three guys you'd LEAST want to be trapped in the elevator with.
And lastly, there is Hong Tran, who is running not only as the anti-war candidate but as the anti-PATRIOT act candidate and the "not Maria Cantwell" candidate, and doing a pretty job at all three. While it is easy to view this as quixotic quest, Ms. Tran actually comes across as a real person whose life has led to this moment and who actually has something to contribute to the political dialog, and who would actually be capable of serving in the office she is running for. Her biggest problem (as noted in her web site) is that she is being frozen out by the Democratic party mainstream, who have backed up behind Cantwell and will not brook any discussion and dissent. Which is a pity because I think she has something worth saying.
So I'm not making any endorsements, but I think we'll see Cantwell as the overwhelming victor, Tran making a solid enough of a showing to make people nervous, and everyone realizing that one thing you don't do is cheese off Mike the Mover.
Big Bend National Park: East Side Trails - For the remainder of our stay at Big Bend, we pushed toward the distant eastern side of the national park. As we drove toward Rio Grande Village, we cros...
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