WA’s “seniority strategy” pays dividends

My trolls like to disparage me as a Darcy Burner fanboy, but I’m much more pragmatic than most folks imagine, for while other local bloggers had quickly lined up behind Darcy by the early fall of 2005, I insisted on waiting until after I saw who else might jump into the race.

In fact, I didn’t merely wait, but rather proactively reached out to then Republican state Rep. Fred Jarrett, urging him to challenge incumbent Dave Reichert… as a Democrat. And Fred’s thoughtful response not only deepened my respect for him, but ultimately convinced me that Darcy’s relative youth was an asset, not a liability:

I’m honored you’d make such a suggestion.  Thanks.  The truth is that I’m too old to run for Congress.  It would be a waste of the state’s time.  We need someone at the oldest in their early 40s (early-to-mid-30s would be best) to be Norm Dicks’ replacement.  Notice what his seniority has done for the state, or better still, look at how the South has been able to dominate national legislative policy through their “seniority strategy.”  All of Robert Caro’s books on LBJ demonstrate this in spades.

I hope that Fred doesn’t mind me publishing our private correspondence these years later, but his words of advice came back to me on news of Rep. David Obey’s retirement, and the likely elevation of Washington’s own Rep. Norm Dicks to the chairmanship of the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

Like it or not, a substantial segment of our state’s economy has long been dependent on our national military-industrial complex. Turn up your nose at such “pork barrel politics,” but that Air Force tanker contract for example, it’s gonna create jobs — either here in blue Washington, or to a lesser extent in red Alabama — and whatever the technical merits of Boeing’s bid, our aerospace workers would be at a severe competitive disadvantage without a powerful congressional delegation to back them up.

Likewise Washington is constantly competing with other states for billions of dollars of federal grants for education, health care, transportation, and other critical services and infrastructure projects. Again, it’d be nice to be more high-minded about it, but that wouldn’t get us very far in such an adversarial appropriations process.

So while Dicks might not be my favorite member of our state’s House delegation, he’s by far its most powerful, and thus we all have a selfish stake in his ascension to the Appropriations chair, and in assuring that Democrats maintain control of Congress. That’s something voters in WA-03 might want to consider as they fill the open seat down in that swing district; if Democrats lose control of the House, Dicks will lose much of his ability to help his colleagues bring home the bacon. And we all love bacon.

The same, by the way, holds true for Sen. Patty Murray. As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the chair of its subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies, Murray has played a key role in securing federal dollars for vital local projects. Billions of dollars for Hanford cleanup? Thank Sen. Murray. $813 million to finish the Link Light Rail tunnel from Westlake to the UW? Sen. Murray has been Sound Transit’s “chief patron.” The federal dollars needed to fix the failing Howard Hanson dam? It’s Sen. Murray who is leading the charge in the other Washington.

It takes years to build up that kind of seniority and power. Decades. Sen. Murray is one of the most powerful Democrats in the U.S. Senate. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that she could even be Majority Leader come January, 2011. So lose Sen. Murray and Washington state stands to lose billions of dollars in desperately needed federal money. That’s just the way the system works.

And that’s why, for example, I expect the Seattle Times to endorse Sen. Murray this November, regardless of her opponent. And I’ve proven pretty uncanny in predicting Seattle Times endorsements.

Yeah, sure, the economy sucks, and it’s always cathartic to send politicians a message. But Washington state simply does not have that luxury when it comes to senior congressional leaders like Rep. Dicks and Sen. Murray, and the Democratic majority that grants them their power. Thus wherever you stand ideologically, it is hard to argue that a Republican wave this November would be in the interest of Washington state.


  1. 1

    Michael spews:

    And thus while Dicks might not be my favorite member of our state’s House delegation, he’s by far its most powerful, and thus we all have a selfish stake in his ascension to the Appropriations chair, and in assuring that Democrats maintain control of Congress.


    I’m in Dick’s district. I don’t like the guy. I’d looove to vote him out of office, but there’s NWIH that I’m going to vote out one of the most powerful people in congress if that means voting in a crazy 10ther or someone who’s completely lost and powerless. Find me someone with some pull in DC and a house in the 6th CD and then maybe we’ll talk.

    Darcy’s cute and being a Darcy fan boy was fun.

  2. 3

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    Wow Goldy, I didn’t realize the Founder & chief toilet scrubber of HorsesAss had such clout with the big boys & girls.
    I’m sure they do nothing without the Goldstein stamp of approval.
    So Fred was moved to become a Dem by Goldy?

    From your posts about your good friend and moron Patty Murray…the polls you refer to say she is a sure winner. No Contest. Yet you do seem a bit worried…why?
    Get on to more productive things.
    Patty is unbeatable…according to your horde on lunatic moonbats.

    Perhaps you are a bit more apprehensive than your gaggle of loons because you saw what happened in Mass., NJ & Va………..and certainly Rossi will run a similiar race and stick to the issues of:
    Massive Deficit Spending
    Bigger Government.
    Health Care

    Patty doesn’t do so well on these issues.

  3. 4

    rhp6033 spews:

    While Scoop Jackson and Warren Magnuson held impressive seniority in the Senate, Washington state received an outsized portions of federal funding, especially related to defense (with Boeing being a major benefactor). We haven’t had that kind of power for a long time, although the Murray/Cantwell partnership could be just as strong if they can stay in office for another couple of terms.

    But guess the same argument could be made for keeping Reichart in office. If re-elected, he would be a four-term Congressman and senior to any new arrivals in the 2010 elections. But two factors weigh against that strategy: (a) he’s in the minority party, so his influence would be limited; and (b) even when he was a member of the majority, he didn’t do much anyway. Pleading with his party colleagues for appointments to important committee positions solely because of his vulnerability in upcoming elections isn’t exactly the type of strength we expect our politicians to show in the “other Washington”.

  4. 6

    John425 spews:

    Goldy says: “Sen. Murray is one of the most powerful Democrats in the U.S. Senate. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that she could even be Majority Leader come January, 2011″

    That would be great!!! She has the IQ of a fucking carrot and it would be tons of fun to watch her babble from the presiding chair.

  5. 7

    rhp6033 spews:

    Correction: “benefactor” should read “beneficiary”. Although I guess you could say it worked both ways.

  6. 9


    “She has the IQ of a fucking carrot…”

    …says one of most dim-witted commenters on HA.

    Another brilliant example of Wingnut projection.

  7. 10

    UndercoverBrother spews:

    i can see the post’s point of view but CANNOT agree with it.

    a lesser evil is still evil. i would prefer the effort be made to end this type of politic not encourage it.

    but we are a society today that thinks the abuse by ferry workers is news yet give no mention of the fact that our states top corporations steal a thousand times more from our pockets.

    and along those lines this is a very disapointing post.

  8. 11

    Zotz spews:

    In Norm’s defense, I was at his townhall last August during the height of the Teahadist frenzy.

    In addition to noting up front that he was a single payer proponent and he was disappointed in then HR 3200, he gave better than he got from from the hostile crazies. He stood his ground in the face of really nasty behavior and did very well.

    I’ve always had my issues with Norm (on spending, energy, etc.), but I left very, very impressed and have been more since.

    We’re very, very lucky to have him as a Rep.

  9. 12

    What rubbish spews:

    “Death Is Good” should be the Washington State motto.

    Boeing is not good. Dear old Boeing is one of the largest Merchants of Death in the whole damned world.

    Using the money pissed away on obsolete and totally unnecessary military toys could be used to clean up Hanford, McChord, Ft Lewis and that filthy nuclear sub base over across the bay from Seattle.

    “Death Is Good” has paid off well for the Washingtonians that work at the military bases and Boeing. Creates lots of jobs. Who cares where money comes from or what it is wasted on?

    Now, kick the fat hogs off high paid welfare and clean up your trash.

  10. 13

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    GOP Attempt To Gut Consumer Protection Fails

    The Senate defeated a Republican attempt to gut President Obama’s consumer protection bill on a mostly party-line 61-38 vote. Why any consumer would vote Republican is a mystery.

  11. 14

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Dow Plunges 998.5 Points As Greek Riots Intensify

    With investors’ fears fueled by mounting civil unrest in debt-burdened Greece, the stock market suffered its biggest point less ever midway through today’s trading, before recovering to a closing loss of about 347 points. Wall Street fears Greece’s financial meltdown could spread to other European countries and even the U.S. Many analysts have argued in recent weeks that the U.S. stock market was overbought and anticipated that the European debt crisis could trigger a selloff. That seems to be happening. Some of Roger Rabbit’s colored eggs got broken today, but smart money stays in the market and rides out these storms, to avoid being left behind when the market recovers. Meanwhile, a sharp selloff like we’ve seen this week creates buying opportunities in stocks. [rabbit licking chops]

  12. 15

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @12 Shortly after coming home from Vietnam, I was riding on a bus and a fellow passenger told me the war had to continue because we needed the jobs it created. He didn’t seem to care the war was killing young Americans every day.

  13. 16

    Steve spews:

    “a fellow passenger told me the war had to continue because we needed the jobs it created”

    Hmm, sounds like he might have been a Republican.

    “He didn’t seem to care the war was killing young Americans every day.”

    Yup, he was a Republican, alright.

  14. 17

    Spit in the ocean spews:

    And you’ve also figured out why Alaska would return such corrupt politicians time after time . Who says Democracy has to be such hard work with friends in high places ?

  15. 18

    Chris Stefan spews:

    Rep. Dicks is a very old school democrat. This has it’s good and its bad points. On the plus side it means he is very pro-union and supports things like single payer health care. On the minus side it means he isn’t necessarily on the same page as the greens and he tends to be a bit of a military and foreign policy hawk.

    But give me Norm over a blue dog any day.

  16. 19

    ArtFart spews:

    @6 “She has the IQ of a fucking carrot”

    …and you guys have been chanting that hubristic little winger Kum-by-yah every six years for how long?????

    Being on the delusional right must feel pretty good until reality bites you on the ass.

  17. 20

    ArtFart spews:

    @4 “Maggie” also co-authored the bill that created the National Institutes of Health. This in turn led to the explosion in medical research which accounts for what’s actually good about the American health care system. Mind you, by enabling people to live longer until some worse (and more expensive) malady does ‘em in, it also had something to do with the mess we’re now struggling with.

    That, and a great deal of other federally-funded research in nuclear physics and other “basic science”, contributed at least as much as Boeing over the last 60 years to making the University of Washington into what it is today, and had a lot to do with the innovative ferment that’s turned the Pacific Northwest into a high-tech powerhouse.

  18. 22

    Riley Sweeney spews:

    Norm Dicks has always been a conservationist when it comes to the environment, not a preservationist. He thinks our beautiful forests and waters should be clean, safe from abuse and accessible. Add that to a definitely social liberal stance, a hard pro-union position and a dedication to making his community the best it can be, you can see why he deserves reelection as long as he wants it. Norm Dicks, he works for jobs!

  19. 23

    righton spews:

    Stop making fun of carrots; Patty iq is more like a rock or tree stump…ok maybe a bag of rocks.

  20. 25

    Steve spews:

    “Patty iq is more like a rock or tree stump…ok maybe a bag of rocks”

    Dumbfuck wingnuts. The KLOWN and righton – two rocks in a box.

    “lamestream MSM”

    And then there’s Puddy. Make that three rocks.

  21. 26


    “Patty iq is more like a rock or tree stump…ok maybe a bag of rocks.”

    …so says the second dumbest poster on HA.

    Naaaa…just kidding righton, bud. You are probably 6th or 7th.

    Either way…another pristine example of wingnut projection!

  22. 28

    righton spews:

    Actually the topic was your beloved Patty Murray , and then many of us pointing out the obvious–she isn’t very bright. I guess its fun to avoid defending her by aiming at us…but ultimately she sits there as Senator; are you proud of her as our Senator. I’m not. (and I can’t trash Maria in the same way; i oppose Maria’s policies but i’ve never felt she was unqualified).

  23. 29

    rhp6033 spews:

    # 15, 16: I was a teenager during the Vietnam War. One day I was riding in a car with his mother driving when she commented favorably on a bumber-sticker which disparaged the peace movement. Then she said “One good thing you can say about the war, it helps solve the population problem”.

    Aghast, I pointed out that it hardly made sense to solve the population problem by taking the creme of our youth, the most physically fit and with over twelve years already invested in their education, and sending them off to be “harvested”.

    The next day my friend told me that he wasn’t allowed to hang out with me anymore, his mother thought I was a dangerous radical.

  24. 30

    rhp6033 spews:

    Back to the benefits of seniority in Congress:

    Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) is in trouble. He was elected in 1992 as part of Newt’s anti-incumbent “Contract with America”, whereby he pledged not to serve more than two terms of office. He now says that was a mistake, pointing out that his eighteen years in teh Senate and membership on the Senate Appropriation’s Committee give shim a powerful voice in protecting Utah’s interests.

    But he might not win re-election. He might not even win the right to fight for the party’s nomination in a primary election. Under Utah’s rules, he needs to convince enough of Utah’s 3,500 ultra-conservative Republican Convention delegates for there to even be a primary. And right now he’s running in third place for the GOP nomination.

    So while the progressives utter frustration at the Blue Dog Democrats, the Republicans are going even further out into right field. Those who are in control of the party in Utah are willing to sacrifice Senate seniority, with all it’s benefits, and to ignore the endorsement of the NRA, all because this Senator voted with the majority of Congress in favor of fellow Republican President George W. Bush’s 2008 wall street bailout plan.

    Source: Utah senator pleads with GOP to keep his job

  25. 31

    Obama's Teleprompter spews:

    Dear Darcy fanboy,
    Glad to see you recognize the advantage of incumbancy and senority – look forward to your support for Dave Reichert this fall.