Monday, June 05, 2006

Local Politics - Nice Guy

So earlier I mentioned Rep. Reichert's challenger, Darcy Burner in the coming mashup over the 8th House District. The other big race is US Senator, with incumbent Maria Cantwell versus Republican challenger Mike McGavick, who gets his own "meet the candidate" article in Seattle Metropolitan. Unfortunately, the Metro site doesn't maintain archive files, so you have to get the review strained through the coffee filter that is this journal.

I sort of expect the Metropolitan to go easy on McGavick, since the magazine itself is a vector for resturant ads and nostalgia (cover story - "150 People Who Shaped Seattle") - aimed at that civic-minded, upscale, mildly suburban but wants to engage with the city, boosterish, centerish voter. Too old for clubs, too young to sit around and complain how everything has gone to hell since the Californians starting moving up here. So its a good fit for an introductory article - a safe venue.

And how does it do? Well, it's a little weird. Praising McGavick with faint damns. Bringing up some problems with the candidate but never really dealing with them. Keeping to the message ("He's a Nice Guy") but pointing to some disturbing storm clouds.

The article kicks off with 1988, when McGavick was campaign manager for Republican Slade Gorton and torpedoed his opponent by turning an story in a student newspaper into an accusasion that the Democrat would want to legalize pot - a charge that stuck well enough to give Gorton the election. However, now McGavick is runing as a "Nice Guy" who can mend the partisan divisions in Washington. Indeed, this seems to be the heart of the campaign - Nice guy. Not threatening. Won't make waves.

OK, politicians are not always a good fit from between what they say and what they do. That's nothing new. But the article surprisingly points out a slew of this behavior. He wants to protect the environment, but is getting heavy support from the Alaskan GOP who want to drill in ANWAR (To the point of Republican relic Ted Stevens is actively fundraising for McGavick). He disdains negative ads while admitting he used to make them. He is creditted with making Safeco solvent by laying off 15% of their work force. "No fun," he says - though for his job-killing he walked away from the company with a tidy little bonus package he's using to run for office. He claims to be a moderate, but it feels like he'll be a Reichert moderate - one that supports the Conservatives most of the time, with a few show votes to keep his indy cred going. It ties him to McCain at a time when McCain himself is doing that delicate tapdance of pandering to the right.

So the end result is neither hard-hitting journalism nor gumdrop-draped love note, but an odd starting point for the candidate. It does feel like we're dealing with another reborn politician, who once engaged in all the sin and evil of hardball politics, but now that it is expedient, is suddenly "washed in the blood of the lamb" and expects a free ride from the media. And may get it as well.

Speaking of the local press, I continue to be amused to see how the papers cover the Cantwell/McGavick race and the Reichert/Burner race, since each is incumbent/challenger, but one has a Dem incumbent and the other a GOP incumbent. The storyline seems to be that the Republican incumbent apparently shows his independence by not always voting with his more extreme conservative membership, while the Democratic incumbent's failure to toe the Progressive line reveals "deep divisions in her support".

No conclusions there - just an observation.

More later,