There's only so much the Seattle City Council can control. The number of chickens allowed in your backyard coop? Yep. Who gets the contract to haul away your garbage? Yes. The borders of United States congressional districts? Uh, no.
Yet there was John Wyble, the political consultant for city council candidate Bobby Forch, taking some time out of his busy schedule on August 3 to fan the flames of a manufactured debate over US congressional district boundaries—in the hopes that it might help his client, Forch, get through a crowded primary election so that he can take on his likely opponent in the general, two-term council incumbent Jean Godden.
Forch supports drawing Washington State's new 10th congressional district in such a way that most of the residents are racial minorities. To hype that stance, Wyble pushed out "news" that a state representative had made a robocall highlighting Forch's position. "Let's join Bobby Forch and encourage more voter participation and diversity," said the call from Eric Pettigrew (D-37).
Appeal to Seattle lefties? Check.
Then, when Cathy Allen, Godden's campaign consultant, somewhat stupidly took the bait and announced that Godden opposes the push for a majority minority district because it's "gerrymandering," Wyble pounced. He declared that Allen "doesn't know what she's talking about" and restated Forch's support for "diversity in Congress."
Beating up the incumbent while also appealing to Seattle lefties? Check and check.
"It kinda sounds like Bobby Forch is being a clever opportunist," said one longtime observer of local politics. "It seems like he's playing the angles well."
Never mind that this angle has little to do with council business.
"If he's using it as a way to mobilize his base," said local political consultant Blair Butterworth, "it's smart."
Forch has also been clever in moving the debate on mandatory paid sick leave for Seattle workers. It's an issue that does, in fact, have something to do with council business (the issue is currently before the council), but it doesn't really provide that much of a contrast in his race. All of Godden's challengers—Forch, King County deputy prosecutor Maurice Classen, and downtown tunnel opponent Michael Taylor-Judd—say they support mandatory paid sick leave. However, Classen has called for more study of the issue. Forch pounced on that difference, stirring up press coverage and again appealing to Seattle's lefties.
"It matters a little bit more," Butterworth said of the sick leave issue, comparing it to the majority minority district issue.
Butterworth knows something about city council races, having managed Judy Nicastro's successful run for city council in 1999 and her 2003 reelection campaign, in which she lost to—wait for it—Jean Godden. "You win primaries north of Mercer," Butterworth said. "That's where the primary vote is, especially in the middle of August." And those primary voters, he feels, "don't give a shit" about the majority minority district debate—and maybe, maybe give a small shit about paid sick leave.
Butterworth's picks for getting through the primary: Godden, the incumbent, and Classen, who has the kind of job title north-enders love (deputy prosecutor) and is the best-funded among her challengers.