The Seattle Times is unhappy with the choice King County Council District 6 voters have between gadfly Richard Pope and barfly Jane!™ Hague. And typically, they blame the Dems:
State Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz or King County Democratic Party Chairwoman Susan Sheary failed voters in a significant way.
Even before the June 2 driving incident, both knew that although Hague was a leader on the county budget, she was not the most compelling councilmember. They knew, too, that her campaign office had difficulties with contributions and that her district is turning more Democratic every day. Where were these two when there was a chance to mount a strong challenge against her?
Truth is, I haven’t been shy about criticizing my party for failing to be in a position to take advantage of this opportunity, and have openly ridiculed the hopeless primary write-in campaign. But in all fairness, the blame deserves to be spread more broadly, and shared not just by the party leadership but also by the unimaginative field of potential challengers who refused to take a fly at the unimpressive if well-funded Hague.
The most heavily recruited challenger was state Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48), who might have decided to run had he received a little encouragement from key Dems on the council who rightly perceived him as a threat to their ambitions for the executive’s office. Not that it would have mattered, as his relapse of lymphoma would have pulled Hunter out of the race well before the filing deadline. I also know that an effort was made to recruit Darcy Burner, who surely would have kicked Hague’s drunken ass, with or without the public scandal… that is, if Burner wasn’t already running for Congress, and, um, you know, if she actually lived in the district.
Those are the only names I know for sure, but I can think of at least three or four state legislators who stood a decent shot at winning, while risking little damage to their careers in a loss. It would have been nice to see somebody like, say… Rodney Tom take one for the team. But not a single Dem stepped up to the plate.
That said, there is a choice in this election, and I hope both the Times and my fellow Dems eventually focus back on this race with a fresh perspective. Richard Pope may be more than a little odd, but he’s smart, well-informed, and he doesn’t drink let alone drive drunk. If you actually sit down and talk with Pope about the kind of issues that routinely come before the council, he does generally come across as both reasonable and a Democrat, and his personal experience fighting for an education for his autistic daughter should make him a powerful advocate for adequate state funding of our schools.
I don’t expect the Democratic Party to embrace or support Pope, but I do strongly encourage my fellow Dems not to work against him. I’ve heard some talk of launching a write-in campaign in the general, to which I say “show me the money,” for unless Dems come up with a few hundred thousand dollars and a compelling candidate, any such effort would be counterproductive. Instead, I suggest the party and its surrogates focus all their efforts on attacking Hague, and educating voters on her blatant disrespect of both the law and our law enforcement officers.
And if we somehow stumble into Bizarro World and Pope actually wins an election, what’s the downside for Democrats? Nobody is going to blame the Dems if Pope’s antics cause embarrassment, and what would the Dems rather face in 2011, a general election battle with Jane Hague (or more likely, her incumbent, appointed replacement,) or a primary battle against Richard Pope? I’d choose the latter.
Of course, there is the Doomsday scenario: Pope not only wins, he turns out to be no worse than your average councilmember. Now that would be an embarrassment to both parties, and to the many journalists, editorialists and bloggers who have had so much fun poking fun at Pope over the years.