Folks around these parts sure do love the illusion of nonpartisanship, but as demonstrated by yesterday’s Mercer Island mayoral brouhaha, it is in practice exactly that.
The putatively nonpartisan Mercer Island City Council met yesterday to select a new mayor, and under much pressure, the council split on party lines to elect not-so-secret Democrat Jim Pearman to another term. Everybody knows who the four Democrats and three Republicans are, so the outcome should not have been a surprise, but not-so-secret Democrat Dan Grausz, unhappy with Pearman’s performance in office, had strongly signaled that he was planning to vote for not-so-secret Republican Steve Litzow.
It’s not like the mayor does all that much other than chair city council meetings, so one wouldn’t think such a fit of party line crossing would be such a big deal. But the mayorship has proven a valuable bullet point on one’s political resume, and a reliable steppingstone to higher office. Both state Sen. Fred Jarrett and state Rep. Judy Clibborn are former Mercer Island mayors, as have been other past 41st District legislators. And Litzow clearly has his heart set on higher office.
So the biggest issue before the city council yesterday was not really about who would get to chair the meetings over the next two years, as it was about whether they would give Litzow a big leg up in his campaign this November. Last year, Litzow ran as a Republican against freshman Rep. Marcie Maxwell for her seat, and this year he is widely expected to pursue the open senate seat Jarrett is vacating. However disappointed Grausz was with the way Pearman runs the meetings, did he really want to be responsible for potentially helping Republicans pick up a seat in the state senate?
Apparently not. And as much as some might bemoan the incursion of partisan politics into the deliberations of a nonpartisan council, well, welcome to the real world.
Politics is an adversarial process. Deal with it.