Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy: the exception that proves the rule

Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy

Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy

I was at a party over the weekend when somebody asked me if a woman had actually been elected county executive.  I was a little confused by the question, and had to think about it for a moment, but replied yeah, Pat McCarthy had just been elected Pierce County Executive.  Well, that should have been big news, the party guest informed me, wondering why she hadn’t read anything about it in the Seattle and Everett newspapers, as that would make McCarthy the first female county executive in state history.

Actually, it makes McCarthy the second female executive in state history, though the first in Pierce County, and yes, I suppose it should have been bigger news outside of Pierce itself, considering what an exclusive men’s club the executive office has been up until now.  And McCarthy’s exception that proves the rule victory highlights a curious anomaly regarding the gender imbalance in Washington state politics.

While the percentage of women in the state Legislature has fallen in recent years—now standing at only 32%, nearly nine points off the historic high a decade ago—Washington women have had great success running for local and state legislative offices over the past few decades, especially compared to most other states.  Women have yet to achieve electoral parity, but there’s nothing remarkable about a woman running for and winning a seat in the Legislature, or on a local school board, council, or board of commissioners.  And while women have had less success at the Congressional level, both our US Senate seats have been held by women for the past eight years.

But while Washington women have done relatively well running for legislative and judicial offices, at the executive level, not so much.  Sure, there’s a smattering of female mayors throughout the state, but for the most part that has defined the height of the executive branch glass ceiling.  In addition to McCarthy being only the second woman to win a county executive race in state history, Gov. Chris Gregoire is only the second woman to win the governor’s mansion.  In fact, over the past forty years, the period during which women have made their most dramatic electoral gains, only six women have been elected to any of Washington’s nine statewide executive offices:  Gov. Dixy Lee Ray, Gov. Chris Gregoire (also AG), Commissioner of Public Lands Jennifer Belcher, Insurance Commissioner Deborah Senn, and Superintendents of Public Instruction Judith Billings and Terry Bergeson.

And as far as I know, these may have been the only Washington women to win statewide executive office, ever.

I’m not sure why there is such a disparity between the executive and the other two branches when it comes to women winning elected office, I just know that it exists.  And I don’t see many other folks paying attention to it.


  1. 1

    Michael spews:

    It’s too bad that our first female county executive in Pierce County is every bit the good old boy that the previous two county executives were.

  2. 4

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Another Piece Of Wingnut Nonsense Is Debunked

    “Virginity Pledges Don’t Work, Study Finds

    “A new analysis of federal data shows that teenagers who promise to abstain from sex until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who don’t make that pledge. …

    “Another finding: Teens who took the virginity pledge were less likely to practice safe sex than non-pledgers.

    “‘Taking a pledge doesn’t seem to make any difference at all in any sexual behavior,’ report author Janet E. Rosenbaum, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told the [Washington] Post. ‘But it does seem to make a difference in condom use and other forms of birth control that is quite striking.’

    “Proponents of comprehensive sex education said the study is a warning sign about the effectiveness of abstinence-only programs. An official with a pro-abstinence group attacked the study as ‘ideologically tainted’ and ‘inaccurate.'”

    (Quoted from AOL News under fair use.)

    Roger Rabbit Commentary: Yeah, well, I can’t wait for the announcement that this pro-abstinence group official’s daughter is pregnant and has clap. This election proved that Americans finally got fed up with ideological idiocy and want reality-based pragmatists to run things again.

  3. 5

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @3 Yeah, that’s creating a big stink in the media, as it should. The GOPers can’t pull their heads out of the 1950s. That’s why they’re going the way of tailfins and steam trains.

  4. 6

    joel connelly spews:

    The election of Pat McCarthy as Pierce County Executive was reported in the P-I’s “Strange Bedfellows” web site weeks before your filing today.
    We even included a terrible pun on the name of her Republican opponent.

  5. 7

    manoftruth spews:

    3 Yeah, that’s creating a big stink in the media, as it should. The GOPers can’t pull their heads out of the 1950s. That’s why they’re going the way of tailfins and steam trains.

    you’re right roger, i cant get my head out of the fifties. no inner city crime, no gangs, no illegal immigrants using up municipal resources, no degenerate hollywood movies, good christian people in politics, no bernie madoffs , no robert rubins, no chuck schumers, no rahm emanuels, no hank paulsons, no ben bernakes, no braney franks, no henry waxmans, no howard sterns, no adam sandlers. wow what a beautiful country it was.

  6. 8

    ArtFart spews:

    7 “what a beautiful country it was.”

    And you’re welcome to it. Please quit screwing up the real one.

  7. 9

    ArtFart spews:

    7/8 ….and in case you forgot a few goodies about the 1950’s, let’s hearken back to such delights as:

    Joe McCarthy.
    The Dulles brothers.
    The fighting in the Gaza Strip (oh, wait…)
    The constant reminders of the threat of impending nuclear incineration.
    Joe McCarthy.
    Tuesday evenings, featuring Milton Berle in drag.
    Ralph Kramden, threatening to punch his wife in the mouth.
    Pre-flouride dentists stuffing the holes in kids’ teeth with mercury.
    Joe McCarthy.
    The strange things we all ate. (Consult the “Gallery of Regrettable Food”.)
    When boys were boys and girls were “broads”.
    Three on the tree and no seat belts.
    Party lines.
    The fuzzy, black-and-white TV on which you watched “The Honeymooners” and Uncle Miltie.
    Carter’s Little “Liver” Pills.
    Coat hanger abortions.
    Back alley abortions.
    Joe McCarthy.
    Roy Cohn.
    Joe McCarthy.

  8. 10

    rhp6033 spews:

    ArtFart # 9: You forgot the Koran War, segregation, the rise of the military-industrial complex (which Eisenhower warned us about).

    MOT @ 7: No “inner city gangs”? Haven’t you at least watched “West Side Story” at least once in your life? Sure, it’s a silly musical, but it should have at least alerted you to the fact that there WERE racially-based gangs in the inner cities in the 1950’s and early 1960’s. And as for “Good Christian People in Politics”, I assume you are referring to such ardent segregationists as Strom Thurmond and George Wallace, along with a hatfull of others?

  9. 11

    Marvin Stamn spews:

    4. Roger Rabbit spews:
    Another Piece Of Wingnut Nonsense Is Debunked

    Do you believe parents should teach their children to have as much sex as possible instead of staying virgins?
    Did you ever say no to your off-spring or did you let them do whatever they wanted?

  10. 12

    Marvin Stamn spews:

    9. ArtFart spews:
    7/8 ….and in case you forgot a few goodies about the 1950’s, let’s hearken back to such delights as:

    The good old days when democrats didn’t have to hide their true feelings.
    Hey, where did headless lucy go?

  11. 13

    Marvin Stamn spews:

    10. rhp6033 spews:
    MOT @ 7: No “inner city gangs”? Haven’t you at least watched “West Side Story” at least once in your life?

    What did you learn from the wizard of oz movie about life in these united states?
    What are the democrats doing to stop the slaughter of blacks in the inner city?

  12. 14

    rhp6033 spews:

    Marvin @ # 12: Funny how you cut out the rest of my quote, which continued to say: “…Sure, it’s a silly musical, but it should have at least alerted you to the fact that there WERE racially-based gangs in the inner cities in the 1950’s and early 1960’s.”

    So, it’s your position that there were NO inner-city gangs in the U.S. in the 1950’s and 1960’s??????? Comeon, I’d like to see you try to defend that position.

  13. 15

    ArtFart spews:

    11 Well, sir, since we didn’t expect or intend to be present with our kids wherever they went, our parental advice to them included a generous dose of “if you don’t be good, be careful”.

    No unintended bundles of joy thus far. Not that it’s any of your damned business.

  14. 16

    ArtFart spews:

    12 Most of the Democrats you refer to changed their thinking rather significantly, or became Republicans.

  15. 17

    Proud To Be An Ass spews:

    @9: con’t….

    Hula Hoops
    Richard Nixon (v. 1)
    Douglas MacArthur
    mutual asurred destruction
    Checkers Speech
    Ozzie & Harriet
    “who lost China?”
    Cigarette Commercials
    Duck & Cover
    truly awful sci-fi movies
    Robert Taft
    Pat Boone
    C.B. DeMille bible epics
    Pius XII
    Donna Reed Show

  16. 19

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @7 “no inner city crime, no gangs, no illegal immigrants using up municipal resources, no degenerate hollywood movies”

    You were born when, 1990? Obviously you weren’t around for the 50s, because you don’t know what you’re talking about.

  17. 20

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @11 I believe that what parents teach their children about sex has absolutely nothing to do with how adolescents deal with their sexual urges, and never has, and never will. Which you will understand after you reach puberty.

  18. 21

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @12 Yeah, the southern racists were Democrats back then, to the everlasting shame of our party, but they’re Republicans now, to the everlasting shame of your party. Today the difference between Democrats and Republicans is that we don’t tolerate the racists and you guys welcome them.

  19. 22

    ArtFart spews:

    Actually, in more recent times, the neoconservatives have been much more colorblind: they consider poor people, defined as anyone who isn’t rich, to be detested, abused and exploited, regardless of race. The only exception to this is their efforts to propagandize different groups of non-rich people into taking out their frustrations on one another, thus to deflect the blame from themselves. The post-slavery race conflict has largely been converted to much more broadly based class warfare.

  20. 23

    sludge puppy spews:

    Sure got off topic fast. I here McCarthy doesn’t like ranked choice voting. Maybe it is a bit too complicated for her.

  21. 24

    WeBentOverTheGOP spews:

    Ah another reason why we bent over and ass-fucked the retarded right. The fools and idiots who populate the GOP think that women are for making babies and cocktails and nothing else. The GOP is as biased against women as it is biased against the African Americans. But unfortunately for these moronic fools on the right, America has R E J E C T E D their stupidity.

    Whether you righties yean for the good old days when you could steal from America without accountability, keep blacks on the back of the bus, or women in the hospital delivery room, your opinion doesn’t count. What you want doesn’t count. What you think (allegedly) doesn’t count. What you believe (allegedly) doesn’t count. Where you see America in the future doesn’t count. Who you want to see in office doesn’t count.


    But it is cute I must say to see you fools opining here as if somebody gave a fuck what you think. Quite cute indeed.

  22. 25

    rhp6033 spews:

    ArtFart @ 22: Sen. James Webb has a chapter or two on this subject in his book “Born Fighting: The History of the Scots-Irish in America”. He was perplexed that the blacks and whites in the South, and blue-collar workers generally, didn’t realize that their economic interests pretty much paralleled one another, and they should work together to get a better piece of the pie rather than to keep opposing one another. Of course, he was a Republican at first, but now is a Democrat, so I guess he finally figured out the cause of that problem (among others).

    But Webb’s early annunciations of this point tended to get bogged down in disputes over affirmative action. Hopefully under the Obama administration, we can adopt an economic policy which lifts all of the working class, regardless of race, similar to what happened during FDR’s administration.

  23. 26

    alex spews:

    Could somebody check BentOver’s meds? Enough already, come up with a new sentence.

    Besides, you think the Republicans are so powerless . . . watch them block anything from getting out of the Senate. Two years of gridlock, here we come.

  24. 27

    manoftruth spews:

    will those of you with any brains please realize its not dems vs gop. this world is run at the next level up. just realize that both bush and obama will have the exact same policy regarding the fed and treasury, which determine economic policy. they both have the exact same policy regarding the mideast . they appear to argue about the things that may matter morally (eg. abortion), but the ruling elite leave stuff like that as they manipulate the country. you’ll see, its coming.

  25. 28

    Michael spews:

    @9, 10

    My dad had to deal with black and Latino gangs while he was in the army during the Korean War (51-52).

    Teen pregnancy rates were higher in the 50’s than they are now and so were the number of teen girls dieing from back alley abortions.

  26. 29

    Michael spews:


    Had it not been for ranked-choice we’d be saying howdy to Shawn Bunney as the new county executive. As hard as I was on McCarthy in comments 1&2, I’d much rather have her than Bunney.

  27. 30

    manoftruth spews:

    @28, seriously, are you saying that gangs like the blood and the crypts are less prevelant today than in 1950? first of all you can probably just look up government estimates, and i cant believe the pregnany rate either. just about every single inner city female gets pregnant. i would agree with the back alley abortion rate though.

  28. 31

    ArtFart spews:

    “just about every single inner city female gets pregnant.”

    And the credible data upon which you base that statement is…..???

  29. 32

    rhp6033 spews:

    MOT @ 30: You need to read some history of gangs in the U.S.

    Gangs have been around since before the Civil War. Large portions of New York City during that era were controlled by one gang or another. In some areas (“Five Corners” and “Hell’s Kitchen”, the police asked for permission before entering, unless they came in very large numbers. Gangs in one form or another have continued to exist in major U.S. cities thereafter, often starting as attempts by immigrant groups to protect themselves from hostile neighbors and police.

    The gangs during the 1950’s were different than the ones now in that current gangs have wider affiliations, and are financed by drug money (most of the money coming from users driving in from the suburbs). But that doesn’t mean that the gangs didn’t exist in the 1950’s. It was considered to be a major social problem even then, and social scientist linked gangs with the newly coined term “juvenile delinquency”.

    No, really, I’m serious, you do need to do some serious reading on history, and I mean that in the best sense. A real scholar of history doesn’t just pick and choose from isolated historical items which he believes will support his or her preconceived notions. A scholar of history will read from multiple sources, many of them with conflicting themes and perspectives, to gain a wider understanding. For example, if you are studying WWII history, your study is incomplete unless you also take in British, French, German, Japanese, Chinese, and Soviet perspectives.

    At some point, you will find that your various readings reach a “critical mass”, where they start to support each other, and come into play in ways you hadn’t realized. For example, I didn’t expect that my readings some three years ago on the gangs of New York would be relevant to a discussion board which has it’s focus on Washington State politics.

    As for myself, I don’t read as much as I used to, in part because my eyes just aren’t what they used to be. I’m down to about a book a month now. Right now I’m studying on the Red River campaign during the American Civil War, and I’m prepairing a series of articles on that campaign for a history discussion board.

  30. 33

    Michael spews:


    seriously, are you saying that gangs like the blood and the crypts are less prevelant today than in 1950?

    Nope, didn’t say that. Just responding to the bullshit you posted at #7 saying:

    no inner city crime, no gangs

    and i cant believe the pregnany rate either.

    Can you believe it now?

    The teenage birth rate in the United States is the highest in the developed world, and the teenage abortion rate is also high.[3] The U.S. teenage pregnancy rate was at a high in the 1950s and has decreased since then, although there has been an increase in births out of wedlock.[12] The teenage pregnancy rate decreased significantly in the 1990s; this decline manifested across all racial groups, although teenagers of African-American and Hispanic descent retain a higher rate, in comparison to that of European-Americans and Asian-Americans. The Guttmacher Institute attributed about 25% of the decline to abstinence and 75% to the effective use of contraceptives.

  31. 34

    ArtFart spews:

    33 Hey….think of what things might be like if we’d worked harder in the last ten years to treat unwed mothers as outcasts and stigmatize their offspring as “bastards”, as Newt Gingrich was advocating during his 15 minutes of fame.

  32. 36

    correctnotright spews:

    @35: I noticed that Palin’s duaghter gave birth and she is not married yet….hmmm, looks like another out-of-wedlock birth to me.

    @30: Child of falsehoods:

    Statistics are what they are….and virginity pledges don’t work.
    That means we should encourage teenagers not to have have sex but just in case to use contraception to prevent the consequences (STDs and preganancy).

    Hope for the best but prepare for the worst. It is like going into a possible confrontation armed only with a message of peace and goodwill – I would want some backup just in case.

    Why are conservatives idealists only on the things they that believe in:

    teenagers won’t get pregnant
    Wall street can police itself and the free market will prevent any problems
    The free market will control oil prices
    Global warming can be solved by ignoring it or pretending it doesn’t exist.
    All we have to do to make peace in the middle east is to bring in democracy.

    And other falsehoods propogated by “thoughtful” conservatives