"Some people," the Seattle Times reported on June 19, think the next state representative from Seattle's 43rd District should be a gay person. It was the latest in a string of stories, including some in this paper, that have highlighted the role identity politics may play this fall in the selection of a successor to gay state Representative Ed Murray, a Democrat whose district encompasses Capitol Hill, the University District, and Wallingford (and therefore a large number of gay constituents).
For almost all of the last 19 years, the 43rd District has been represented by a gay man—before Murray it was Cal Anderson, Washington's first openly gay lawmaker—and as one strain of conventional wisdom has it, voters will be reluctant to break this pattern. But right on the heels of the identity-politics-hyping article in the Seattle Times came an announcement that confounds that bit of conventional wisdom: The Seattle Metropolitan Election Committee (SEAMEC), a gay-advocacy group, split its endorsement. Predictably, they endorsed the only gay candidate in the race, lawyer and gay-civil-rights advocate Jamie Pedersen. However, they also endorsed a straight woman, educator Lynne Dodson.
Using the endorsement to send off the first attack salvo of the campaign, Dodson's consultant, Lisa MacLean of Moxie Media, told The Stranger that Pedersen's failure to get a sole endorsement from SEAMEC signaled his lack of a strong base in the gay community.
"He talks a lot about his base being this community, and yet he obviously does not have this whole community behind him," MacLean said.
SEAMEC is not the only gay group that will be making endorsements in the race, and it is far from a kingmaker in the 43rd District, but Dodson's ability to grab half of the SEAMEC limelight does give some credence to her consultant's claim that the gay community is up for grabs in this race—and that Dodson is pulling together a broad coalition of support. Dodson's union background helped her lock up the powerful Washington State Labor Council's endorsement, and the King County chapter of the National Women's Political Caucus recently gave her its sole endorsement.
Whether Dodson's backers make up the "unstoppable coalition" that MacLean is now describing remains to be seen. It also remains to be seen whether endorsements will trump fundraising in this race; Pedersen had raised almost $100,000 as of this week, a sum far greater than any of the five other candidates, and more than double Dodson's $46,000.
In contrast to Dodson, Pedersen used the dual endorsement to strike a magnanimous tone—a positioning move in its own right, given the common whispered criticism of Pedersen as someone who doesn't have the political people skills necessary for the legislature. (Although he also used the endorsement to take a soft swipe at his non-Dodson opponents: former Seattle City Council Member Jim Street, city council aide Stephanie Pure, King County Deputy Prosecutor Bill Sherman, and the former chair of the 43rd District Democrats, Dick Kelley.)
"I am happy to share [the SEAMEC endorsement] with Lynne," Pedersen told The Stranger, adding: "We need straight allies in all of the tough civil rights battles ahead and Lynne has been present more than any of my other opponents."
Those other opponents, however, have all made plain their support of gay rights and one, Sherman, pointed out that SEAMEC had given him straight A's for his oral interview with the group (a distinction also earned by Street). Pedersen got four A's and one B. Dodson got three A's and two B's.
"As a legislator I plan to continue a straight-A record of commitment and championship on LGBT rights," Sherman said. "I don't see much point in getting into a fight with the other candidates on this."firstname.lastname@example.org