Sunday, October 21, 2007

Local Politics: Distant Thunder

It has been a very strange political season here on Grubb Street. There are no immediate local-local races, no lawn signs at every intersection, no push polls and telemarketed messages. Even the farmer at the end of the road, who can be trusted to hang out a huge poster for whatever GOP candidate is going to going down in flames, is strangely quiet. To paraphrase the Book of Matthew, I hear of war and the rumors of war.

So I've been slow to react, even when the Voter's Pamphlet showed up a few weeks back, and now the absentee ballots are already going out and so any advice given may be after the fact. And there are a couple issues I need to address. But despite the distance I feel from this year's election, there is more than enough weirdness going on, so you might as well hang about as I say nice things about Republicans, cheese of the Sierra Club, reveal suspicions about reformers, and talk about candidates flying under false flags.

Me saying nice things about Republicans? Surely that's a sign of the End Times if there ever was one.

Let me start out on that one, with a race that I can't even vote in - King County Council District 6. I don't live there, but the Monkey King does and he's been feeding me the fliers from his neck of the woods.

King County Council is often pretty quiet, and even moreso this year in the 6th (Bellevue and the surroundings) where the GOP incumbent (Jane Hague) didn't even get a regular Democrat opponent. The local Dems missed the signing date, and her opponent ended up a long-time candidate, Richard Pope, who switched parties for the run. And let me digress to point out that the same party bosses that get their knickers in a twist when the voters are allowed to vote for whoever they want in the primaries are oddly quiet when it comes to people jumping party lines to RUN, but that's another matter.

Richard Pope has run for various offices and gets the tag "Perennial Candidate" hung around his neck. He also has gotten zero support from the state Dems, nor any support from former GOP mates. He has no chance. That's been the conventional wisdom. But it ignores the fact that one thing that Mr. Pope does well is research - he is comfortable with official records and campaign finance law to a wonky degree, and plays to that strength. One reason that Mr. Pope has little official support is that over the years he has afflicted the comfortable on both sides of the political fence, Dems and Gops alike, with an ability to excavate and illuminate the darker corners of the political spectrum.

But still, the feeling was that incumbent Hague could ignore challenger Pope, who had negative baggage, a worn shelf date, and no cash. Then Ms. Hague was pulled over for driving drunk. This was followed by several changes in story (similar to what happened to Mike McGavick back a few years ago). Then everyone was reminded that Ms. Hague had ANOTHER accident a few years back that also did not reflect well on her (she hit a bus). Then there were some irregularities in her campaign finances. Which reminded everyone that for a few years back, there were OTHER irregularities in her finances. And then there was the fact that she claimed to have graduated college when in fact she did not. Each of these is a faux pas, a problem for a candidate, and when taken together, suddenly casts the candidate in a different light.

Then a friendly pro tem judge pushed the date of the Hague's trial for the arrest back past the election. Then it turns out that the original judge was pulled to put in this more pliable judge, who has his OWN baggage in the matter, who then had to be pulled as well. At this point the stench just settled on the entire process.

And at each stage of revelation, the information was unearthed and presented by Mr. Pope, who pulled off a marvelous bit of political stagecraft. Lacking funds, he suddenly was running his campaign on Page 1 of the Local section of the Seattle Times. More questions come up. More questions don't get answered immediately and directly, and suddenly there is a race.

And that's strange and a little sad, because Ms. Hague has an Outstanding rating from the Municipal league, and is a Big D (as in Development) Republican, pushing hard to get the 405 expansion on the Roads and Transit Initiative. Yet with the weirdness of a political comedy, she suddenly finds herself on the defensive, because any actions promotes the underfinanced Pope (Muni League - "Not Qualified") even more.

So finally the GOP struck back, with a web site unearthing all of Pope's baggage in hopes of turning the tide (since promoting the virtues of their own candidate really wasn't working). And in a first as far as I know, the Seattle Times ran a story on THAT, addressing the charges (which may be a first time for that). The general analysis was that there was enough true about Pope's past to give concern, but there were also some stretchers and a fearmongering tone in it all (and all the "articles" are by "TOP STAFF REPORTERS" (TOP = Truth on Pope - heh)).

And I got some of the fliers as well (all from Hague's side - remember, Pope has no money). The positive version extols how even Democrats like Hague (or at least prefer her), while the negative ones roll out the "Real Richard Pope" - you know the drill - photo badly digitalized, screaming headers, bright font color to make you scared. A by the numbers hit piece from the political Photoshop.

Which is kind of a pity. Yes, Ms. Hague has a lot running against her, but just because one candidate has a lot of personal negative marks does not in and of itself mean that the opposing candidate is better. I don't have a vote here, but I recommend voting for Jane Hague this time out, then getting a better candidate (Democrat, Republican, or both) for the next election.

Though it is kinda fun watching to Republicans beat each other up.

More later,