What politicians can teach you about your grandfather

Tuesday’s Drinking Liberally with Mayor Greg Nickels was a hoot. If you missed it, I’m sorry. This is the first time Nickels has graced our presence at the Montlake Ale House, and it was worth the wait.

I asked Hizzoner, “how do you keep a straight face on your Seattle Channel call-in show? I mean, the questions people ask, they’re nuts sometimes. Somebody called in about moving sidewalks or something.”

Nickels said, “You have to respect what folks have to say.”

I don’t know if politicians get enough credit for putting up with the Richard Lee’s of the world. I can tell you that if I was heckled by morons on a public TV show, I’d drop the f-bomb and resign my office.


Also, it turns out the mayor knows my grandfather. Just like Phil Talmadge, Nickels is a longtime West Seattle Democrat. My grampa was a PCO for years and years in White Center.

Me: “This may seem like a weird quesiton, Mr. Mayor, but I was wondering if you knew my grandfather. His name is Bill Kamp.”

Hizzoner: “Bill, yeah I remember Bill. His wife was…”

Me: I’m about to say “Mildred”, but Nickels beats me to it.

Hizzoner: “Yes, I knew them.”

I turn to Nick and say, “it’s a good day, a good day indeed.”


My grampa and grandma had six kids, and none of them have the interest in politics that I share with my late grampa (he passed away in 1998; my grandmother in 2003). I was only 17 when my grandfather died, so I didn’t have a chance to learn from his experience when I started in Democratic politics. I’m convinced there is a generation of politicians and old-time Democrats who knew my grandfather well. Only now am I learning that my grandfather knew Greg Nickels before he was mayor (and perhaps even before he was elected to the King County Council).

Not only did my grampa know Greg Nickels and Phil Talmadge, but (according to my family) also Mike Lowry, who was active in King County politics for a long time, and was in Congress from the 7th district for a few terms. My grandfather also knew Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson. Since Scoop and my grandfather have passed on, I’m out of luck in gaining a little insight in Washington’s more controversial figures.


As I get more involved in Democratic politics, I can look forward to discovering more about my grandfather’s involvement. I’m sure there are old timers out there with stories about my grandfather, the kind of things you don’t always learn form family. Which side was he on when the Democratic Party went through serious turmoil during the 1970’s? How did my grandfather, a Catholic with traditional cultural views, not bolt the party like so many others during the the 70’s and 80’s?

My grandfather, Bill Kamp, passed away during the summer of ’98, but he lives on in the memories of the Democrats who knew him.


  1. 1

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    I didn’t know your Grampa because I got MY start in politics (at age 16) as a Goldwater conservative. All my friends were wingers. I haven’t stayed in touch with any of them. I’ll bet they’re all ex-felons or doing time now.

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    Will, it was hard to talk to you on Tuesday night with your nose buried up the mayor’s ass the whole night.

    Just kidding man, glad you’re learning a lot about your grandfather. My father’s father died before I was born, but apparently he was kind of a tech whiz and rigged up his own answering machine long before they were common household products (this was back in the 1960s). Of course, he didn’t get a patent for his invention or anything, so I still have to go to work every day.

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    Glad you’re making some connections with your Grandfather. Mine apparently introduced The Democratic party into Western Michigan about a hundred years ago with the Grandfather of my best friend. He’s the one who found this out some six or seven years after we met.
    For a story of Washington Pols Warren Magnussen and Al Swift See my blog entry The Politician’s Tale.