If there’s any lesson to learn from Washington state’s bucking of the Big Red Tide, it’s that a strong ground game may not be sexy, but it still can win, even in the face of overwhelming odds. And so while few journalists pay much attention to what goes on at the local party level, it’s a helluva lot more important than you might think.
That’s why next month’s election of a new King County Democratic Party chair is ultimately so important. And while I don’t generally like to get involved in intra-party politics, I would be remiss if I didn’t at least say a few words in support of one of the candidates, Steve Zemke.
I’ve long described myself as an “accidental activist” having stumbled onto the local political scene with my satirical initiative to proclaim Tim Eyman a horse’s ass, and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that I knew absolutely nothing about how local politics worked, and had absolutely no connections to the players involved. But Steve did, and so I was very fortunate to have him take me under his wing almost from the start, and serve as a kinda tutor, if not a mentor, during my first couple years of activism.
It was Steve who explained to me how initiatives worked (and how they didn’t), and who first took me down to Olympia to lobby and finagle and implore elected officials and their staff. It was with Steve who I somehow found myself in a conference room in the Fall of 2003, sitting across the table from Frank Chopp and Jim McIntyre… totally oblivious to how remarkable it was for him to have managed to secure us an hour to talk tax restructuring with the Speaker of the House and the Chair of the Finance Committee. And remember… this was before I started blogging… when I was just some crackpot with a joke initiative.
Steve simply knows how things work, knows how to get things done, and sometimes seems to know absolutely everybody in Washington state Democratic political circles. And on the local level, where the ground game is so damn important, I can’t help but feel that that’s the kind of chair we need leading the county party: somebody who will focus on building infrastructure.
Nothing against Steve’s opponent Karl de Jong; he’s a great guy with great values. But Steve, well, he’s kind of a savant when it comes to organizing and running campaigns. So if I were a Democratic PCO, he’d have my vote.
That said, I couldn’t end this post without saying a big thank you to current chair Suzie Sheary, who is retiring after holding the post, well, forever (“forever” being defined as, since I started paying attention to county politics). She was perhaps the first local Democratic official to recognize the role local bloggers like me could play in promoting a progressive message, and I’ve long counted her as a political ally and friend. You’ll be missed, Suzie.