To be clear, I don’t intend to use my occasional posts here on HA to closely cover local elections. I’m mostly done with that. But I couldn’t pass by the recent buzz over Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat’s professed non-candidacy for city council without mentioning that the Democratic establishment has already apparently recruited a challenger to Socialist incumbent Kshama Sawant: former Equal Rights Washington executive director Rod Hearne. At least, that’s what I’ve been hearing.
Before their separation last year, Hearne and his former partner, high-priced PR flack Roger Nyhus, were a bit of a Capitol Hill power couple, hosting numerous political fundraisers at what Dom once described as their “swank mansion.” I’ve no idea what Hearne has been doing since—I emailed him yesterday to give him the chance to confirm, deny, or hedge on the rumors of his candidacy, but he’s yet to reply
(hence the question mark in the headline).
I suppose part of the logic behind Hearne’s recruitment is that his leadership in the LGBTQ community will earn him the lion’s share of the LGBTQ vote. Or something. Sawant can’t really help herself that she’s attracted to the opposite sex (she was born that way!), but she’s a pretty fierce advocate for LGBTQ issues too. So it’s hard to see this sort of identity politics playing a decisive role in the race. And while Hearne is no doubt capable of raising a ton of money, Sawant will raise more than enough to get her message out—$200,000-plus wouldn’t surprise me—so it’s not like she can be dramatically outspent. Hearne would also garner a bunch of establishment endorsements, but that didn’t help Richard Conlin all that much in 2013. And this time around organized labor and human services organizations would be crazy not to line up behind Sawant.
And those are Hearne’s known strengths. On the other side of the ledger the “swank mansion” thing makes Hearne an imperfect challenger to diffuse Sawant’s powerful message of economic populism.
I’ve bumped into Hearne from time to time through political circles, and he seems like a nice enough guy. And who knows: Perhaps he’ll turn out to be a dynamite campaigner? But as an unapologetic Sawant partisan, I can’t say I’m all that concerned.
UPDATE: Last night Hearne confirmed to me that he is indeed running against Sawant in Seattle’s 3rd council district. So I’ve removed the question mark from the headline.