Last November we were told that changing to nonpartisan races in King County would be good for Democracy. So the filing deadline passed last week, and for the executive race there’s going to be some heated competition. But look at the situation in the rest of the King County races:
Sheriff Sue Rahr and County Councilmembers Bob Ferguson, Kathy Lambert, Julia Patterson and Pete von Reichbauer will be unopposed. Councilmember Reagan Dunn will face Party of Commons candidate Mark Greene and financial-services trainer Beverly Harison Tonda.
Woo, feel the white hot heat of competition. 1 race where there’s any contest at all, and I’ve never heard of Greene or Tonda (not saying they aren’t pillars of their community, but as a Seattle boy with North King County and Vashon roots, I don’t know anything about either of them). Now, in a year when none of the incumbents left, there wasn’t going to be a bumper crop of candidates. Still I think there are a few recent developments that heighten the power of incumbency:
We’re a 1 paper town now. As much as the blogs and weeklies and the online Pig’s Eye are picking up some slack, in many ways if the Times doesn’t cover a story, that story doesn’t happen. If you’re an aspiring candidate trying to break news that a lot of people are going to see, you have the TV, or the Times, and neither is probably going to be particularly good at in depth coverage of County Council races.
But more interesting to me, as a partisan hack is that the parties have less of a dog in these fights. Oh sure, we all know whose the Democrat in nonpartisan races and whose the Republican, and will long after the people elected with letters after their names have left office. Still, there’s less institutional incentive for the Republicans to find some suburban business person to take on Ferguson or for the Democrats to find someone to fight the good fight on the Eastside. For all the bashing of parties that we do here in Washington and in the West, they play a vital role in recruiting and supporting candidates, and I wish in King County we hadn’t decided to pretend otherwise.