Take Back the Blight!
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Mon, 11 May 98 16:08:12 -0700
Subject: Take Back the Blight!
[This may be of more interest to Washington State Fun_People (than to other
Fun_People), but I'm always intrigued to hear some of the nitty gritty of
other people's political areas, so I'll let you choose whether to learn
something about politics in the upper left corner... -psl]
Forwarded-by: Albert Kaufman <email@example.com>
Take Back the Blight!
Last week's $4.9 million fine of Thomas Stewart for illegal campaign
donations revealed an awful lot about what's wrong with state politics.
The fine will be paid mostly by a Stewart business, Food Services of
America, and is best understood as a business expense. Stewart has donated
some $2 million in the last decade to influence policy; that amount isn't
how much he can afford or how much he'll profit, but the market price at
which sympathetic politicians can be bought. It's a good bet that Stewart's
companies have benefitted quite a bit more than $2 million--or, including
the fine, $7 million--by his investments in lawmaking.
How much are such antics central to Olympia's legislative culture? Consider
the P-I headline: "Party faithful rally round colleague." Note the word
"colleague." Like Stewart is right on the State Senate floor, voting on
and introducing bills. Typical is this quote from state GOP head (and
long-time legislator) Dale Foreman: "He made a mistake, he admitted he made
a mistake, and I don't see any reason he shouldn't participate in politics
in the future."
This from the party that passed so many tough-on-crime bills this year the
cops begged them to stop. If a kid stole $30 to support his habit, Foreman
would demand a life sentence. We now know that Republicans, recognizing
human frailties and mistakes, have compassion for people inadvertantly
caught up in the justice system. If they own helicopters.
Government by auction has gotten particularly ugly in Olympia in the past
two years, as Republicans controlled both legislative chambers and were
only occasionally derailed by Gov. Republican Lite, Gary Locke. An overview
of the atrocities of the Oly class of '96 is unrelentingly grim.
But it ain't all Republicans' doing. Health care reform, for example, was
mostly dismantled before 1996, with a split-party legislature, a Democrat
(Deborah Senn) as Insurance Commissioner, and the great liberal Gov. Mike
Lowry presiding. As I mentioned earlier this month, Dems could well retake
the State Senate this fall, and stem the hemorhhaging of human decency.
Or, a party change could simply mean the Thomas Stewarts among us must
spread their money more widely to get the same service they've come to
expect. Which will it be?
The Democrats need only gain two seats to retake the State Senate. Their
seats in Seattle are utterly safe. However, at least six Republican seats
appear vulnerable to strong challenges:
In the 21st District, around Lynnwood, the Dem candidate is Paul Shinn, a
state legislator until he ran for Congress in 1994 and lost. He's a private
businessman now, still well-connected (especially in the Korean community),
and opposed by the relatively moderate Jeanette Wood in a prototypical
In the 26th District, covering the southern part of Kitsap County and Gig
Harbor, incumbent Bob Oke is one of those dinosaurs who helps his opponent
whenever he opens his mouth before his handlers can get to the duct tape;
he was elected in '94 primarily due to his party and his eagerness to
please corporate donors. The challenger, Beth Wilson, isn't exactly a
centrist either; she's mostly known for enviro advocacy and is on the board
of 1,000 Friends of Washington. In '96 she ran for Kitsap County
Commissioner, and lost by fewer than 10 votes.
In the 30th District, in Federal Way with parts of Auburn and Tacoma,
normally a fairly conservative district, the excesses of incumbent Ray
Schow may finally sink him. Schow's fondness for laws-for-cash was
particularly notable this term around the tobacco industry (trying to make
it easier to sell to minors), legislative attacks on Native American gaming
(on behalf of Longacres), and his helping to pass the buck on a state
transportation plan in an area (like many suburban districts) where traffic
is rapidly becoming a nightmare. He, and other suburban GOPers, also face
local officials of both parties annoyed with Oly's passing numerous
mandates for local government, especially crime bills, without providing
any funding. Schow's opponent is Tracy Eide; she's an aide to Adam Smith
and a former state legislator (1992-94).
In the 38th District, based in Everett, incumbent Gary Strannigan faces
Dem. incumbent Pat Scott, trying to move up from her House seat.
In the 42nd District, in Whatcom County (Bellingham), long-time R incumbent
Anne Anderson (who had a failed bid for Lt. Governor in 1996), may retire.
If she does, it's a wide open seat in a moderate district.
In the 47th District, a once solidly Democratic area in and east of Kent,
the incumbent, Steve Johnson, makes much of his Christianity--and makes
use of widespread business support. The challenger is a young housewife
named Rebecca Clark who, on her kitchen table, last year essentially
launched Covington's successful incorporation drive and has served on the
new city's council since. She'll have an uphill battle in fundraising and
name familiarity outside Covington, but is well positioned to talk about
the misery Johnson's party is causing small businesses and local
governments in the name of big business and being tough on crime.
It's not enough to hope some of these challengers win. They must win not
because they have name recognition or are good at knocking on doors or
calling donors, but because they are appalled at Oly's recent direction.
They must run hard on accessible health care, fairer taxes, campaign
reform, environmental protection, local control, and other issues with
strong support among moderate voters. They must run on inclusion,
repudiating fear and hate.
Many of the state's Democratic donors and volunteers are in Seattle itself.
Anyone here who cares about having an electoral impact needs to ignore safe
Seattle seats and forget about Patty Murray and Jim McDermott (Boeing will
take care of them). Send your time and money to the suburbs. Attach
meaningful policy conditions to it. That's how, and where, the future of
state government will be won or lost by those of us who don't own
helicopters or elected officials.
© 1998 Peter Langston