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The Stranger Election Control Board wasn't in the mood to drink at local bars with the candidates (as we've done in the past); take them bowling (as we've done in the past); or even give them pop quizzes ("are you into ATM porn?") as we've done in the past. No, 2006 is fucking serious. Immigrants are the new gays; gays are the new Negroes; blood and bombs and terror plague the Middle East; climate change is scaring the shit out of everyone (including Al "God, I wish you'd listened to The Stranger and voted for me instead of Ralph Nader" Gore); and there's still no money for schools or transportation.
Indeed, in the wake of this year's gay-marriage fiasco, the Stranger Election Control Board's supreme court endorsement interviews almost ended halfway through one meeting, when Chief Justice Gerry Alexander nearly walked out after a particularly heated barrage of questions.
The remarkably serious—nondrinking, nonbowling—Stranger Election Control Board is: Erica C. Barnett, Josh Feit, Eli Sanders, Dan Savage, David Schmader, Tim Keck, and Annie Wagner. We do not make endorsements in noncontested races. —SECB
UNITED STATES SENATOR
VOTE FOR MARIA CANTWELL
The Democratic base was feeling pissy about Maria Cantwell a few months back; her refusal to condemn the war and disavow her 2002 prowar vote was turning people off. (There was also that little matter of giving the thumbs-up to the USA PATRIOT Act.) However, as the reality of the GOP Congress continues to assault Americans on every possible front, it's imperative that Cantwell get a running start to fend off the charismatic Republican challenger Mike McGavick in the general election.
Cantwell is outstanding on environmental issues (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, fuel-efficiency standards, Bush's attempted giveaway to oil companies), women's reproductive rights (she voted nay on the U.S. Supreme Court confirmations of John Roberts and Samuel Alito, and against the recent parental-notification bill), and corporate accountability (she led the fight for campaign finance reform). Most impressive, she didn't take the bait on the GOP's recent ploy to eliminate the estate tax.
Cantwell, who's also emerging as a bipartisan leader successfully extending Washington State's sales tax deduction, has a series of lulu opponents, including Michael Goodspaceguy Nelson (who's for density in space) and one earnest low-income-rights attorney turned quixotic antiwar candidate, Hong Tran. This is no time for games. Get serious. Vote Cantwell.
U.S. CONGRESS, 7TH DISTRICT
VOTE FOR JIM McDERMOTT
Lots of liberals grumble that they're tired of "Congressman for Life" Jim McDermott. He's been in office since 1988 and is running, yet again, to be the representative for Seattle's "not in my name" crowd. The fact is: He's a perfect fit. In 2004, not long after "Baghdad Jim" flew to Iraq to predict (correctly) that President Bush would "mislead the American public" into war with that country, McDermott was reelected with 80 percent of the vote—and more total votes than any Democrat in the House that year.
McDermott is right (or, rather, left) on all the issues—he's been investigating the Department of Defense's use of depleted uranium, he was more radical than Hillary Clinton on health-care reform, and he scores 100 percent marks from groups like NARAL and the ACLU. Still it's something of a ritual for him to draw, and easily dispense with, a few no-name challengers. This year in the Democratic primary he faces two such opponents. One is Joshua Smith, a 26-year-old Mormon "technologist" who works for Washington Mutual and, according to his online campaign biography, speaks fluent Portuguese. The "issues" section of Smith's web page was blank as of press time, except for the bolded phrase, "Empower the People." McDermott's other challenger, Donovan Rivers, has a website that says simply: "Coming soon." And quite frankly, the SECB is confused about where Rivers is coming from: He was registered as a Republican candidate with the Federal Election Commission until July 24, 2006, when he changed his status to Democratic with the Washington Secretary of State just in time for the primary.
Ignore these jokers in the primary and save your quixotic hopes for the general election, when McDermott faces an Independent no-name challenger who actually has an issues page: 29-year-old civic do-gooder Linnea Noreen.
STATE LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT NO. 43
VOTE FOR STEPHANIE PURE
The obvious standout in this crowded field is Stephanie Pure, a longtime aide to Seattle City Council Member Peter Steinbrueck, who is making her first run at elected office. (Ed Murray, whom she's looking to replace, also started out as a council aide, as did current King County Executive Ron Sims and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels.)
Pure, a quick study, has a long history of working to preserve the rights of people who aren't often heard in politics: tenants (Pure organized the citywide Renters Summit with Judy Nicastro in 2000) and youth (she was a founding member of the Vera Project; she served for several years on the city's Music and Youth Task Force to overturn the Teen Dance Ordinance; and, as an aide to Steinbrueck, she worked to increase library hours).
To winnow the candidates, the SECB held our own "primary," narrowing the field to three: Pure, Preston Gates & Ellis attorney Jamie Pedersen, and former City Council Member and Superior Court Judge Jim Street. Pure, who's focused on density and smart growth, is most in line with the SECB (and her district) on a wide range of issues. She supports public financing of campaigns; she says full marriage equality, not just civil unions, is her goal; and, saying the city's commitment to meeting Kyoto standards "seem[s] to stop short when we talk about the viaduct," she supports the surface/transit alternative for replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct. (Pure's opponents all support the mayor's unaffordable, environmentally unsustainable $4 billion tunnel.) And Pure was the only candidate of the three to mention education and reproductive rights among her top priorities.
Voters in the district should not be swayed by the desire to "send a message" to the supreme court by sending Pedersen, who is gay, to Olympia. Pedersen—an attorney who will stay on the Preston Gates payroll even if he wins a seat in the legislature—is too compromised and middle-of-the-road to be truly effective. (During the SECB's interview, Pedersen argued credulously that money has no influence on politics. "I don't think there's a problem with the system," he said.) His constant bragging about "saving" PacMed on Beacon Hill (work he did in his paid role as a lawyer for Preston Gates) also turned us off. Street, who initially struck several members of the SECB as the brainiest and most knowledgeable of the pack, quickly started to grate on us with his know-it-all demeanor. We're worried he'll turn off his potential colleagues in Olympia, too. Pure, a young woman who has lived in the 43rd (mostly on Capitol Hill) her entire adult life, best represents the full diversity of her district. A smart, effective young woman would be a great addition to the Ed Murray–Frank Chopp power axis in the 43rd. Vote Pure.
VOTE FOR MIKE McGAVICK
Okay, only good Democrats read our endorsements and like all good Democrats you're occasionally tempted to cross party lines and indulge in a bit of anti-GOP monkey wrenching—you know, go vote for the right-wing nut to up his or her numbers and make the GOP look bad. To that end we were about to recommend one of the fuckwits in this race—someone like William Chovil, who pledges to take on national and global socialism and communism, or Brad Klippert, who describes himself as a "Ten Commandment–honoring evangelical."
However, that was before the GOP frontrunner—ex-Safeco CEO Mike McGavick—came out about his 0.17 drunk-driving arrest and issued a mea culpa about his divorce. It wasn't McGavick's heavy drinking and broken vows that won him our endorsement (we are thinking of having a 0.17 party though), but the expectation that more evidence of McGavick's self-destructive streak will emerge during the campaign. Drunk driving? Divorce? If those are the skeletons McGavick has shoved out of his closet, we wonder what skeletons are still in there somewhere.
STATE SUPREME COURT,
POSITION NO. 2
VOTE FOR SUSAN OWENS
When the Washington State Supreme Court upheld this state's ban on gay marriage earlier this summer, Justice Susan Owens was in the court's dissenting minority, arguing, in a right-eous southern drawl that hypnotized the SECB, that gay marriage is a "fundamental right" and accusing the court's majority of "blatant discrimination against Washington's gay and lesbian citizens." That's reason enough to vote for Owens—a serious advocate of domestic-violence laws who's been endorsed by the Washington State Labor Council, the Sierra Club, and NARAL— but here's another:
She's facing a well-funded social-conservative opponent, Republican State Senator Stephen Johnson, a member of the Christian Legal Society that is anti-choice and opposes stem-cell research. Johnson, a fierce opponent of education funding in the state senate, can't even remember why he voted as a state senator to ban gay marriage back in 1998.
Johnson's lack of a moral center and his lack of a principled voting record make him a dangerous man to have on the high court. Vote for Owens, who has both.
STATE SUPREME COURT,
POSITION NO. 8
VOTE FOR GERRY ALEXANDER
Supporters of marriage equality across Washington State despise Gerry Alexander. We kind of hate him, too. The chief justice—a sound legal mind and consistent liberal vote on most issues facing the court—royally fucked us over when it came to the all-important Andersen v. King County, signing on to the majority opinion that refused gays and lesbians the right to marry. Sure, he penned a weasely concurrence, claiming nothing in the majority opinion prohibited the legislature from instituting gay marriage or civil unions "if that is their will." But we're not content to leave fundamental civil rights to the mercy of the legislature.
So why would we ask you to vote for this misguided 70-year-old incumbent? Because his opponent, hotly partisan conservative John Groen (he's contributed thousands of dollars to GOP candidates), must be kept out of the courts at all cost. Bankrolled by the conservative Builders Industry Association of Washington, Groen is a property-rights attorney who has fought open-space requirements and has represented BIAW in the past. It's probably safe to predict that his positions would mirror those of fellow BIAW crony Jim Johnson, the farthest-right justice currently serving on the supreme court. (Johnson wrote the truly bigoted concurrence in Andersen.)
Alexander is a pragmatic guy, not an ideologue: He acknowledged that a nonbiological lesbian mother had standing to claim status as coparent of her child in In re Parentage of L. B. (Johnson forcefully dissented). The chief justice may not be perfect, but he's not in bed with business, and he's the only acceptable candidate for Position 8.
STATE SUPREME COURT,
POSITION NO. 9
VOTE FOR TOM CHAMBERS
There is one other state supreme court race that's not as hotly contested. That's because the challenger, Jeanette Burrage, is a joke candidate who has consistently gotten "not qualified ratings" from the King County Bar Association
Vote for the liberal, motorcycle-driving incumbent, Tom Chambers. Want to feel good about Chambers? He dissented on last month's Defense of Marriage Act ruling, telling the SECB that the legislature's DOMA law was "irrational." And we quote: "The state has set up laws to make gays and lesbians parents. Assisted fertilization laws. In vitro fertilization laws. The state has said it's discriminatory for gays and lesbians not to be able to procreate. They've set up laws so gays and lesbians can procreate. There's also adoption laws that make gays and lesbians parents. It is too late for the state to say gays and lesbians can't marry because they can't procreate or be parents. That's out of whack."
INITIATIVE 88, PROPERTY TAX LEVY
LID LIFT FOR SCHOOLS
The grim statistics don't lie: Seattle schools, along with schools across Washington State, are in crisis. Washington ranks 46th in the nation in class size; 42nd in per-pupil education spending; and currently spends $548 less per student than it did 15 years ago. The state, in other words, is not living up to its "paramount duty," as defined by the Washington Constitution: making "ample provision for the education of all children." School budgets have been reduced until there's nothing left to cut; teacher pay, meanwhile, has stagnated at an average of $45,724.
Initiative 88, heavily funded by the teachers' union, is an imperfect solution—one that mixes up city and state responsibilities to these and other urgent problems. "It's a choice between neat public policy and failing schools, and messy public policy and better schools," as one parent who supports the levy put it. It would lift the lid on the amount of property tax the city is allowed to levy, adding $156 to the average Seattle homeowner's annual property-tax bill. (A companion initiative on the ballot in November, Initiative 87, would specify how the money raised by Initiative 88 is to be spent.) In return, Seattle students would get smaller class sizes, restored arts and music programs, and all-day kindergarten. And (unlike other tax proposals we could mention) this levy would be temporary: Six years, during which education advocates vow to keep fighting with the legislature and in court to force the state to do its job.
No, Initiative 88 doesn't resolve the whole state's education crisis. And yes, it is another drip in what seems like a never-ending stream of tax requests from local, state, and regional governments. But in this case, the need is too urgent to say no. We can't let another generation of kids slip through the cracks while the legislature and school district try to hammer out a solution that makes everyone happy. Sometimes even imperfect solutions are better than doing nothing at all.
Some of John Groen's Best Friends Are Gay
By David Schmader
JOHN GROEN Blowing smoke.
During his Stranger Election Control Board interview with his opponent Chief Justice Gerry Alexander—an event that fell the day after the Washington State Supreme Court ruled against gay marriage—Supreme Court candidate John Groen repeatedly dodged questions about the issue. As a prospective judge, Groen insisted he wasn't free to weigh in on issues that might come before him in a legal capacity. However, he was happy to provide us with the name and phone number of an actual homosexual he counted as a friend, who could gaily vouch for him. After Groen offered his gay friend's contact info for the third time—he had a lot of questions to dodge—I took it.
Groen's gay friend is an Oregon man named Geoff Thompson, a former country-western singer who appeared as a Playgirl centerfold before purchasing the Viewpoint Inn in Corbett, Oregon. "Talking with Thompson is like talking with someone who has a syndrome like Tourette's, but one that compels not only profanity but also grandiose claims, deeply cutting insults, and threats," wrote Willamette Week's Patty Wentz in 1999, when Thomson was embroiled in a salacious land-use dispute. Hmm, guess where property-rights guy Groen comes in? Thomson's continued displays of anger and "physical and verbal threats" against staff at four Multnomah County agencies led to his being banned from all county offices. This is a character reference? For a man who wants to be a judge?
On the phone, Geoff Thompson seems perfectly sane—garrulous but not aggressive, with a love for John Groen that's absolute. "My relationship with him is one of the most important I have with another man," said Thompson, who credits Groen, a property-rights lawyer when he's not a candidate, with helping him win the aforementioned land-use battle. When I press for specifics on Groen's gay-marriage leanings, Thompson says, "One thing I do know about John, he does not believe the Constitution should be amended to ban gay marriage." Anything else? "He is a great, great man," says Thompson. "I believe in him for this job. I would not be supporting him if he was George Bush."
John Groen: Not as bad as George Bush. Hold your nose and vote Alexander.