Our Picks for the August 19th Primary Election
No one is going to read this. It's August. It's nice outside. And while this election year has been exciting on the national level, no one cares who Washington State's insurance commissioner is. Or our state treasurer. Hey, have you decided how you're going to vote in that all-important Superior Court Judge Position 53 race?
Bored yet? You will be: This primary election marks Washington State's first-ever "top-two" primary, in which both the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, move on to the general election. In Seattle, what that means is that two Democrats in every race will go forward. Voters, you can thank yourselves for this convoluted system—you dumbfucks. Thanks to you, candidates have to start campaigning earlier, which boosts the cost of campaigns, which makes it harder for grassroots and third-party candidates to get a toehold.
Still reading? Because here comes the civics lesson:
This year's primary election may lack Obama sex appeal, but it's still important. Really! Your primary vote can give Darcy Burner a boost on the Eastside; reelect Charles Johnson and Mary Fairhurst, two supreme court justices whose races actually will be decided in the primary; and slap down the Trojan-horse Initiative 26, which would give a boost to Republicans by allowing countywide candidates to run without party labels. Most importantly, you need to give a primary-election leg up to Governor Christine Gregoire—a centrist Democrat whose opponent, Dino Rossi, opposes abortion rights, thinks global warming is a myth, tortures cats in his basement for kicks, and believes that health-insurance companies should pay for boner pills but not for contraception.
The Stranger doesn't endorse in uncontested races.
Oh, and about Rossi skinning cats in his basement for kicks: We made that up. He ties up Boy Scouts in his basement for kicks.
The Stranger Election Control Board (SECB) is Erica C. Barnett, Dominic Holden, Tim Keck, Eli Sanders, Dan Savage, Jonah Spangenthal-Lee, Tori Spelling, and Annie Wagner.
Initiative 26 and Council-Proposed Alternative
Vote for: Council-Proposed Alternative
Initiative 26 would make all county elected positions nonpartisan. The county council–backed alternative would allow candidates to list their party "preference."
The first question on the ballot is whether either version should go on the ballot in the general election. The second is if some version of the initiative goes on the November ballot, which should it be?
Vote no on the first question. The Republican brand is toxic. The only hope local Republicans have of gaining ground in blue King County is to make sure voters don't know they're Republicans. But if sex offenders have to register, so should Republicans.
On the second question, vote yes on the council-proposed alternative. If it passes, it will at least allow candidates to be up front about their political party and ideology, making any candidate who doesn't declare a party preference immediately suspect.
Democrat Jim McDermott faces a challenger from his own party named Donovan Rivers, a perennial candidate named Goodspaceguy, a couple of guys who couldn't decide which party they preferred (but have probably been tied up in Dino Rossi's basement), and a 20-cent plastic bag named Steve Beren, who challenged McDermott and—surprise!—lost two years ago. None stand a chance. McDermott is a consistent vote in favor of children's health care and against the war in Iraq. And he totally knows Michael Moore!
This is Darcy Burner's second try at unseating Republican Congressman Dave Reichert, a supposedly independent-minded conservative who's spent most of his time in the U.S. House toeing the Bush line on everything from the war in Iraq to tax cuts for the rich.
In 2006, when Burner first challenged Reichert, the question was whether residents of the politically mixed 8th District would drop the incumbent and bet on a newcomer. Burner performed well given the name-recognition hurdle she had to overcome, coming within three points of beating Reichert.
This year, the question is whether Burner can prove she isn't a lightweight. She can. While Reichert was busy rubber-stamping the Bush war plan, Burner was developing her thoughtful "Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq," which more than 60 Democratic congressional candidates have taken up as a rallying cry. Burner has the right positions on everything from reproductive rights to the environment, but for her leadership on the Iraq problem alone she deserves to win this seat.
Oh, and Reichert—who likes to tell folks about the time he spent visiting with the Green River Killer—refused to come in and talk with the SECB. Because we're too mean, says fearless Sheriff Reichert. Gee, maybe if we murdered two dozen women Dave would sit down and chat with us... in a decade or two.
STATE OF WASHINGTON
Christine Gregoire won the governor's office by 133 votes in 2004—a minuscule margin that reflected the Democrat's poor showing in liberal Seattle, where thousands of voters filled in the circle for John Kerry but skipped the governor's race. In her first term, Gregoire has all too frequently taken Seattle for granted. She supported building a new viaduct on the waterfront despite overwhelming Seattle opposition, opposed full marriage equality, and called a special session of the legislature to codify Tim Eyman's reactionary Initiative 747, which starves local governments by capping property tax increases at 1 percent a year. Gregoire is tough—a recent endorsement meeting sometimes felt more like a boxing match than an interview (and that was before Gregoire starting pounding beers)—but we'd like to see her direct her devastating right hook toward the issues most important to blue Seattle, instead of pandering to tax opponents and culture warriors east of the mountains.
On the other hand: Gregoire pushed through a badass climate-change bill over House Speaker Frank Chopp's objections; (belatedly) supports Sound Transit; and balanced the state budget amid predictions of record deficits. And her Republican opponent—Boy Scout–binding Dino Rossi—is scary. He's antichoice, anti–affirmative action, anti–children's health care, pro-cat torturing, and he released a roads-heavy transportation plan with a fantasy funding package that should've gotten his cat-torturing, Boy Scout–binding ass laughed out of the race. And he has the backing of the powerful Building Industry Association of Washington—a sleazy PAC whose primary mission is to fight progressive legislation and push an antitax, anticonsumer, antienvironmental agenda. The BIAW has accused Gregoire of being a "heartless, power-hungry she-wolf who would eat her own young to get ahead" and put up billboards all over Eastern Washington accusing the governor of "stealing" the 2004 election. Don't let that cat-torturing bastard steal this one. Vote for Gregoire.
Anyone but Brad Owen
Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen has been on call since 1996 in case the real governor drops dead. This leaves him plenty of extra time, which he uses to tour the state with his crappy-ass rock band and crusade against pot. This year we support all four of Owen's challengers: An empty bag of chips (Marcia McCraw), a one-eyed dog (Arlene A. Peck), a crusty come sock (Jim Wiest), and a man without a website (Randel Bell). All are more qualified to hold this post than Brad Owen.
And please join the SECB and vote stoned as a matter of principle.
Secretary of State
Current secretary of state Sam Reed has the distinction of being the SECB's sole Republican endorsement this year. We're not sure if this will help or hurt him.
Reed has been capable and reliable in his eight years as secretary of state. He didn't pull any party-line political shenanigans (see: Florida, Ohio) during the protracted ballot recount battle between Gregoire and Rossi in 2004, and allowed the actual winner—that would be Christine, Dino—to take office.
Reed's main opponent, Democrat Jason Osgood, is completely unqualified for the job. When the SECB asked Osgood—a paranoid, sweaty, nervous wreck with no political experience—why he felt he was qualified to be secretary of state, he told us he'd been "a software developer since third grade" who "care[s] about computers, trees, and salmon." Then he launched into an Orwellian tirade about bar codes on ballots.
There's no reason to unseat Reed, especially if it means putting a kook like Osgood in office.
Democratic state treasurer Mike Murphy is stepping down, and three capable candidates are seeking to take over his job, which involves managing and investing the state's tax revenues: Republican Allan Martin, Murphy's current deputy; Democrat ChangMook Sohn, the state's former chief economist; and Democrat Jim McIntire, a former state representative and UW professor of economics.
While all three candidates seemed eminently qualified—and all get points for taking pity on the SECB, which didn't even know the state had an elected treasurer until five minutes before our interview—we encourage you to vote for McIntire.
Since 1993, state auditor Brian Sonntag has pushed for performance audits and open, accountable government. He's being opposed by a Constitution Party member and some guy named Dick. Vote Sonntag.
It may seem odd that The Stranger is recommending that you vote against the only female-to-male transsexual to hold statewide elected office in the nation, but Republican attorney general Rob McKenna has got to go. A political climber whose sights are set on higher office (and, one day, a facial-hair transplant), McKenna is the man responsible for our idiotic top-two primary, which he defended last spring in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. More recently, McKenna has ignored requests from supporters of Governor Christine Gregoire to shut down a secret campaign fund run by the BIAW to elect Gregoire's opponent Dino Rossi, withheld public documents under a broad interpretation of attorney-client privilege, and argued that convicted felons have fewer rights to public records than other people—even after they've had their civil rights restored. McKenna also opposes abortion rights—a not-insignificant position at a time when right-wing opponents of Roe v. Wade are whittling back reproductive rights at the state level.
McKenna's Democratic opponent, Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg, is a funny, smart, savvy politician with a strong environmental record. As a county executive, he worked hard to clean up illegal dumps and junk cars, earning the endorsement of the überliberal Sierra Club despite his support for the controversial Cross-Base Highway across Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base. (To see if anyone actually read this far, The Stranger is proud to offer a $50 check and a minibottle of Jack Daniels to the first person that e-mails us at firstname.lastname@example.org.) [UPDATE: To the Election Control Board's immense surprise, this prize has already been claimed.] Ladenburg says his priorities as AG will include cracking down on consumer scams like unlicensed contractors, cleaning up Puget Sound, and closing some of the legal loopholes that have allowed government agencies—including McKenna's office—to keep public records from the light of day.
Commissioner of Public Lands
Peter J. Goldmark
All our heroes are cowboys. That's not true. Some of our heroes are skinny drummers and generous pot dealers and tranny escorts. But we like cowboys, too.
Peter J. Goldmark—a real live cattle rancher with a PhD in molecular biology—is going up against two-term Republican incumbent Doug "Bathing Suit Area" Sutherland, who's been in the news recently for playing an unwelcome game of grab-ass with a young, female employee at the Department of Natural Resources.
While Sutherland has been busy doing damage control for sexual-harassment complaints (with an invaluable assist from our negligent daily newspapers), Goldmark has been out racking up endorsements from groups like the Sierra Club for his green game plan. Goldmark says he'll push the state to use Washington's five and a half million acres of public land to explore renewable-energy solution like biomass, geothermal, and tidal power. He's also attacked his opponent for failing to enforce environmental and logging regulations.
The SECB hopes that Goldmark's cowboy charisma convinces voters to boot out his back-stroking, boob-ogling opponent.
Superintendent of Public Instruction
It wasn't hard for the SECB to decide to give longtime superintendent Terry Bergeson the boot, but it was tough to figure out her replacement. After chugging some absinthe and flipping a coin, the SECB decided to throw our coveted endorsement to Randy Dorn.
Dorn is currently the executive director of the Public School Employees of Washington union, which recently issued a vote of no confidence in Bergeson. He wants to revamp the state's screwy Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) test and push the legislature to fully fund public education.
Bergeson has consistently defended the WASL as a high-stakes requirement for graduation. We decided it would be funny to present Bergeson and her challengers with a few sample questions from the WASL and she bombed the test. Bergerson only answered two out of the three questions we put to her and both her answers were wrong. True story—you can see Bergerson's pathetic WASL test sheet here.
Commissioner of Public Urination
Finally, a race where we can endorse onetime Heidi Wills challenger Kollin Min. Min's challenger, David Irons, seemed just a little too excited about the position.
Democrat Kreidler has been a strong advocate for health-care reform, consumer protection, and the rights of malpractice victims. His Republican opponent, John R. Adams, thinks the reason insurance is so expensive today is "lack of consumer choice." Yeah, right. Vote Kreidler.
Legislative District No. 5
We don't usually endorse in races outside Seattle, but we're making an exception for Phyllis Huster—not because she's particularly impressive (her campaign consists mostly of innuendos about incumbent Cheryl Pflug's divorce), and not because Pflug is all that bad. Although Pflug supported a bill that would have allowed pharmacists to refuse to dispense Plan B and voted 12 years ago for the Defense of Marriage Act, she also voted for domestic-partner legislation and pushed to legalize medical marijuana. But this year represents a historic opportunity to turn a Democratic majority in the state senate into a supermajority. So we're endorsing Huster.
In the interest of full disclosure, most of the SECB couldn't stand Huster and we'd like to apologize in advance to all other members of the state senate, D and R, if by some miracle our endorsement unleashes Huster on Olympia. But this is one instance where a lousy Dem is better than a so-so Republican.
We would so totally endorse Pflug if she would pull a Rodney Tom and cross the aisle already. You know you want to, Cheryl.
Legislative District No. 11
A formidable Democrat who heads the Ways & Means Committee, Margarita Prentice is one of the most powerful members of the state senate. An advocate for farm workers and domestic-partner benefits in her first years in the legislature, Prentice has since taken a series of positions that we find inexcusable. She took the lead in opposing an interest-rate cap on payday loans, she supported massive public subsidies to lure the Sonics to Renton, and she was the only Seattle senator to sponsor a bill to codify Tim Eyman's 1 percent cap on property taxes. She also stalled annexation of unincorporated North Highline in King County—an area that just happens to be home to numerous casinos and card rooms that would have to shut down if the area were annexed by Seattle. The gambling industry, not coincidentally, is one of Prentice's most faithful supporters.
Speaking of money, the vast majority of Prentice's comes from outside her low-income Renton/Tukwila district. In 2004, just four of Prentice's contributions were from residents of her district—a total of $175.
Prentice's Democratic opponent, Juan Martinez, is an affable working-class guy from the South Bronx who's pounding the pavement in an effort to make up the fundraising gap between his campaign and the Prentice juggernaut. Although he was short on specifics—referring repeatedly to "doorbelling," "the people," and "environmental justice"—we believe Martinez's heart is in the right place. More importantly, it's time for new blood in the 11th. Vote for Martinez.
State Representative Position 1
The SECB is supporting Democrat Hudgins because of his impressive environmental record in the house, and because he's been a strong advocate for accountability at the Port of Seattle. And because we think guys named Zack are dreamy.
State Representative Position 2
Democrat Hasegawa is a reliable advocate for tax reform who fights for the interests of his low-income district. Plus, he has an awesome mustache! Vote for him!
Legislative Dist No. 36
State Representative Position 1
The race to replace 36-year veteran Helen Sommers features two qualified, energetic, liberal candidates: wireless entrepreneur Reuven Carlyle and tax reform advocate John Burbank. Both are qualified to fill Sommers's shoes but we're going with Carlyle, because of his energy, his entrepreneurial background, and his enthusiasm for innovative solutions to entrenched government problems.
Burbank, a longtime Democratic Party activist and author of the reviled "latte tax" for early-childhood education, has been running a class-warfare campaign against Carlyle, claiming his opponent will be beholden to business interests in the legislature (and going so far as to suggest that Carlyle, a former foster child who was raised by a single mother, only has his kids in public school because he's running for office). We worry more that Burbank will be chained to old ways of doing government business: incremental fixes instead of comprehensive tax reform, transportation "solutions" like retrofitting the viaduct instead of implementing regionwide congestion pricing, and small steps like creating a "green jobs" fund instead of innovative proposals like real-time electric metering for small businesses. Vote for Carlyle.
State Representative Position 2
Mary Lou Dickerson
The SECB supports Mary Lou Dickerson for fighting on behalf of girls in danger of being lured into prostitution—and for her tough stance against window-blind cords. Her opponent is a dude named Leslie who once wrote that he "feel[s] safe saying no one who voted for George Bush either four or eight years ago is losing sleep over their choices."
Ah, Republicans—they're so cute when they're delusional, which they almost always are.
Legislative District No. 37
State Representative Position 2
Pettigrew has been a reliable champion for low-income residents of his South Seattle district. He sponsored legislation to prohibit discrimination against Section 8 tenants, pushed to close the gun-show loophole, sponsored legislation to study the overrepresentation of minority children in foster care, and was one of four legislators who supported studying the surface/transit option for replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct. His opponent, Ruth Bennett, is a Libertarian perennial candidate and the lead plaintiff for her party in the lawsuit against the top-two primary. Vote for Pettigrew.
Legislative District No. 43
Representative Position 2
We certainly aren't thrilled to be endorsing Chopp. The bullying house Speaker is too busy licking the Building Industry Association of Washington's spunk up off the floors in Olympia to look out for his constituents' interests—voting against a cap on payday-loan interest rates, against closing the gun show loophole, against capping condo conversions, and against protections for home buyers, among other things. But given that his opponent is a Republican Jan Drago look-alike without a shot in hell, we don't have much choice. Vote for Chopp—hey, at the last the floors in Olympia will be clean.
Legislative District No. 46
State Representative Position 1
Democrats Scott White and Gerry Pollet, running for the open seat being vacated by state treasurer candidate Jim McIntire (see endorsement, page 11), have spent months locked in one of the ugliest local political battles in recent memory. First there was the spat over who would get the (meaningless) "official" nomination (Pollet won). Then White attempted to withdraw from the race. Then, just as suddenly, he had a change of heart, and asked the county elections office to let him back in. Accusations flew, a nonsensical lawsuit was filed, and the dust had barely settled before Pollet was making more charges against White—this time, that he'd improperly taken money from a lobbyist for a strip-mining company.
All of this makes Pollet look petty and vindictive—all the more so because he doesn't seem to recognize that at some point, he needs to stop airing grievances and start talking issues. Asked to demonstrate he wasn't vindictive, Pollet launched into a tirade about "the public's right to know" about White's attempted withdrawal and the need for spending caps in legislative campaigns. When asked why the two major endorsing environmental groups weren't supporting him, a longtime antinuclear activist, Pollet responded that the groups had "made a political calculation" by backing his opponent. Then, when asked about gay marriage, he demonstrated that he didn't know what he was talking about when he slammed the incremental approach backed by Ed Murray and Jamie Pedersen and said he would push for a constitutional amendment in the next four years. Huh?
Oh, and Pollet gave one SECB member a roll of Smarties candies and called them the "Smartie Award." Yeesh. Vote for White.
State Representative Position 2
Kenney tried to save Flexcar from the stupid rental-car tax and has been a huge proponent of providing money for college to working people. Vote for Kenney.
Yes, we're getting into the judges here, which are the dullest endorsements of all. (For Christ's sake, let's stop electing judges. Appoint them, make them stand for reconfirmation, but get unqualified voters, who could give a fuck, out of the judicial-appointment business!) So feel free to skip to the SECB cheat sheet if you haven't already. In fact, we dare you to keep reading. It's really, really boring. Just go clip the cheat sheet and follow our orders, you sheep.
State Supreme Court
Justice Position 3
Underqualified right-wing challenger Michael Bond (who believes that "the most important role of the courts is to protect the people from the power of government") made this choice easy by refusing to meet with the Stranger Election Control Board—and by pompously referring to himself in the third person on his campaign website ("In Bond's opinion..."). But sunny, brainy incumbent Justice Mary Fairhurst has more than earned a second term on the state's high court.
Fairhurst wrote the supreme court's most rigorously reasoned dissent in the marriage equality case Andersen v. King County, easily dismantling the state's claim that denying marriage to gays and lesbians in any way promotes procreation or encourages straight people to get married. On a case where so many of her colleagues proved themselves sniveling, cowardly bigots, Fairhurst came out swinging. Plus, she's weirdly obsessive about a person's privacy interest in his or her DNA. Considering how much DNA we've got lying around the office, we find that comforting. Vote for Fairhurst.
Justice Position 4
Charles W. Johnson
Incumbent Justice Charles Johnson joined the bigoted plurality in the all-important Andersen v. King County gay-marriage case, on the grounds that the state legislature can make up whatever mush-minded excuses it likes to discriminate against a minority. And he didn't have much to say in defense of that vote in our endorsement interview.
Unfortunately, Johnson's opponents include a flaky no-show named Frank Vuilliet, who scored the coveted "not qualified" rating from both the liberal King County Bar Association and the prissy Municipal League and a slightly more-qualified Seattle insurance attorney named James Beecher, who told us that Andersen "should embarrass the court." But some of Beecher's more widely circulated beliefs ("The responsibility of the court is to interpret and clarify the law, not to legislate") suggest he would be to the right of Johnson on issues that come before the court more frequently than marriage equality. Beecher's main complaint about Johnson is that he's been on the court too long. To which the SECB says: So?
Besides, Johnson isn't completely irredeemable. He ruled to give custody rights to a nonbiological lesbian mother in another touchstone gay-rights case, and we like his positions on public disclosure and privacy issues. He told us he was especially proud of an opinion he wrote in 1994 involving a warrantless search of a suspected marijuana grow house, which helped establish that Washington's privacy laws go further than the ones in the federal constitution. Vote for Johnson. Because someone's got to look out for your dealer.
King County Superior Court
Superior Court races in which one candidate gets more than 50 percent will be decided in the primary.
Superior Court Position 1
Currently serving as senior deputy prosecuting attorney for King County, Tim Bradshaw stands out from a field of three highly qualified contenders for his long list of endorsements and 20 years of experience.
Superior Court Position 10
Bouffard's opponents are another prosecuting attorney whose major accomplishments include expanding the use of DNA evidence, and a current municipal court judge. Although all three are qualified, we're endorsing Bouffard for her experience dealing with civil cases and her extensive knowledge of environmental and land-use law.
Superior Court Position 22
We like Holly Hill because she's a badass former federal civil-rights attorney and a current judge pro tempore in King County District Court. Although we're concerned by the fact that she's dumped more than $85,000 of her own money into the race, we think Hill will make a capable judge (and that out-of-control spending is a great argument for public financing of elections).
Superior Court Position 26
Laura Middaugh is a decent incumbent Superior Court judge who had the good fortune of drawing an unqualified opponent whose main reason for running appears to be a personal vendetta against Middaugh's husband, state senator Adam Kline.
Superior Court Position 37
There's almost unanimous agreement that Jean Rietschel, a Seattle Municipal Court Judge for the last 12 years, is exceptionally well qualified. We agree.
Superior Court Position 53
If there's an underdog in this race it's Mariane Spearman. We love an underdog, especially when the gay lawyers and the black lawyers and the Latino lawyers love her, too.