Keith Ervin summed up the race for King County executive quite nicely in the Seattle Times yesterday. Ervin listed a number of issues — the CAO, Southwest Airlines, and of course, KC Elections — that explain why the “GOP hopes Sims [is] vulnerable.”
And challenger David Irons’ campaign strategy?
County Councilman David Irons is betting these controversies will give the Republican Party he represents its best chance in more than a decade to win back the county’s top administrative job.
That’s right, Irons isn’t running on a resume or a platform, he’s simply running as “the Republican”… the guy who isn’t Sims. So perhaps what at first appears to be a meandering and ineffectual campaign, actually conceals a brilliant strategy. For the more he squanders campaign funds on takeout and balloons, the less opportunity he gives voters to really get to know him. And the less voters know Irons, the better the shot he has at defeating Sims in November.
Sure, Sims has some blotches on his record; every longtime executive does. Take Irons for example: as COO of Brigadoon.com, he oversaw operations of a huge dot.com failure that blew through tens of millions of dollars, leaving investors, vendors, employees and customers holding the bag. And Iron’s wants to make this a campaign about who can better manage the county’s bureaucracy? He couldn’t manage a well financed company, lauded at the time for its “brilliant” business plan… and we should trust him with a county of 2 million souls, a population larger than that of thirteen states?
Now I’m not saying Iron’s failed leadership at Brigadoon necessarily disqualifies him from the county executive’s office… but it doesn’t recommend him for the job either. And I’m not particularly impressed with his dot.com-like spending spree that has left his campaign coffers nearly empty, two months out from election day.
Sims campaign spokesman Christian Sinderman says Irons’ heavy spending shows “a clear lack of momentum and, frankly, poor financial management.”
The Sims campaign on the other hand, has not only raised more money, but spent substantially less; it’s $331,417 war chest is more than enough to set the record straight on his own accomplishments in office… which most impressively includes his unheralded success at keeping essential services functioning while closing a $135 million budget gap. Indeed, perhaps no government in Washington, state or local, managed to weather the recent economic downturn as smoothly and seamlessly as King County.
No doubt Sims has pissed off a lot of voters… for the same people who whine about the lack of leadership in this state are often the first to berate a politician as arrogant for daring to show some. And Sims willingness to lead has often made him a target of critics, from his championing of light rail to his strong push for the CAO, to his recent, unpopular effort to bring Southwest Airlines to Boeing Field. Leadership is about getting out in front on an issue you believe in, and then persuading, cajoling — even harassing — voters to come along with you. Call him arrogant if you want, but slavishly adhering to the “will of the people” isn’t leadership… it’s following.
So if this election was merely an up-or-down plebiscite on Sims’ job performance, perhaps he’s angered or disappointed enough constituents that he might lose. But it isn’t. This election is a choice between Ron Sims and David Irons, and voters will make their decision based on who they think is better qualified to run King County. And in the end, that is where Irons’ strategy will fail.
In a sense, this is one election where the Republicans really will have a cause for blaming Dean Logan for their defeat… for the moment KCRE prints Irons’ name on the ballot, is the moment he loses the election.