I just reached Kitsap County's Bruce Danielson, the man who managed to get 43 percent of the vote in his run to be a Washington State Supreme Court justice—despite having raised $0, having received zero endorsements, and being described by the head of the Kitsap County Bar Association as "having zero qualifications to be on the bench."
This was not the first time Danielson and I had spoken over the phone, but when I introduced myself this time he replied:
“Oh yes, the man who likes to call me a racist.”
I told him that I'd never called him a racist, though it does seem to me that he benefited from prejudice in his run against highly qualified incumbent Justice Steve Gonzalez, the first Mexican-American ever to serve on the state's high court. I mean: How else to explain the election results?
“You gotta be kidding," Danielson replied. The results, he said, "show heavy advertising, special interest moneys—what do you think?”
It was clear we were having some sort of miscommunication. I told Danielson that I wasn't looking for an explanation as to why Gonzalez won. It made sense to me that a more qualified incumbent would win against a guy with "zero qualifications to be on the bench." What doesn't make sense to me is that Danielson polled so strongly in this race without doing any serious campaigning or even sitting for endorsement interviews.
“Kiss ass, you mean?" Danielson shot back. "Kiss ass with the press? No, I didn’t.”
Well, I asked, then what explains your strong showing?
“This is a classic problem," he replied. "That every time something happens, some ill informed or malicious individual comes out saying, 'Racist!'”
I asked if he was calling me ill informed or malicious.
"Both," he said.
I asked again: Why did you end up with such a surprisingly high vote count in this race?
“It seems high to you because—" Then he stopped and went in a different direction. "I would probably say that my view of statutory and constitutional construction happens to be more… you could use the word conservative if you like," Danielson said, "but I’m more of a fundamentalist when it comes to constitutional construction.”
How would anyone in, say, Eastern Washington's Douglas County (which voted 70 percent for Danielson), know this if you didn't campaign?
Are you saying that more than 276,000 voters from all over the state came to your web site and evaluated your ideas about constitutional construction relative to Gonzalez's? Because that's actually something you could track.
“I probably could, but I haven’t.”
I told Danielson that Washington State didn't mail a statewide voters guide this year, and only four counties—King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Kitsap—stepped in to fill the void. He lost in all of those counties. In counties without voters guides, he tended to do a lot better. Danielson seemed surprised by this information.
“Wow. I don’t know. It’s probably because… I don’t know. Maybe it’s because they did go to my web site.”
Or maybe you benefited from latent prejudices in the statewide voting population.
“Are you suggesting that I was playing to that? Absolutely not. What am I supposed to do, change my last name so that it doesn’t play to your preconceived notions?” He said I was engaging in "race-baiting, plan and simple."
I asked again: What explains your strong showing last night?
"I've tried to explain things to you, and it’s obvious I can’t get anywhere with you. Best of luck. I know you’re going to do another hit piece…. Good luck."