Hearing the call

What a great election for white, male fast-food-worker bookworms on chemo-therapy—and for Bill Clinton. And how d'ya like that Jay Inslee? Not only did he manage to exploit the threatened im-peachment of his party's president to take Rick White's congressional seat—he also accomplished the rare feat of getting elected from two entirely distinct districts (first, in the Tri-Cities in 1992) with no prod from redistricting. I asked Michael Barone, co-author of The Almanac of American Politics, if any other mobile members had done the same. Barone re-calls just two, both in Southern California: Democrat George Brown, first the congressman from Monterrey Park, then from San Bernardino, and "B-52" Bob Dornan, first West LA's wacko in Washington, then Orange County's. Strange bedfellows.

Inslee also showed some Kennedy-esque touches—and we're not just talking hair, jaw line, and jockishness. During the election-night hoopla, he noted gratefully that "my dad delivered 216 votes personally to me." That's nothing compared to what they say old Joe Kennedy did for his son John in 1960, buying a critical win in Cook County. And Inslee was surely only talking about the get-out-the-vote effort that put the Democrats over this year. . . . But it's the thought that counts.

Big and little winners

Of this state's congressional winners, Inslee had the most surprising margin; he didn't even need any help from Bruce Craswell, the right-wing spoiler who nipped at White's bloc. The most disappointing margin may have been Jennifer Dunn's win by just 16 points over a neophyte challenger. Consider: Dunn is well-liked and a rising star (the most powerful woman in the House) who's made no false moves in a famously safe Republican Eastside district. But even as her star has risen, Dunn's vote share has slid, from 67 percent in 1994 and 64 percent in '96 to 58 percent this year. Her margin was less than half that of those other safe-district holders, Norm Dicks, Jim McDermott, and Doc Hastings, and about half that of Adam Smith—who cakewalked to re-election in what had been the state 's most volatile swing district.

How come? Calling this a "Democratic backlash" against the impeachment spectacle begs the question. Voters' revulsion at scandal baiting seems an outward sign of a deeper shift: The Republicans have pushed their agenda so far to the right that they've managed to alienate the suburbanites who gave them their recent majorities.

The race is not only to the fleet

Before the glow fades, let's not forget these priceless Election '98 moments:

*Rick White tried to smile bravely as he watched his re-election hopes crash, and grimaced so broadly he threatened to swallow his own left ear. Better luck to him now; congressional service didn't serve him well.

*The Democrats scored in Congress and the states, Clinton's bacon was saved—and the Dow Jones Average jumped 146 points and closed up 77. Another triumph for the party of big business.

*Wishful thinking? The KCTS/KIRO vote watchers called the other initiative races early but continued to declare anti-affirmative-action I-200 too close to call, even though it won as handily as all but one of the others.

*An inspired KIRO 7 assignment editor sent Todd Pottinger to cover the medical-marijuana-initiative victory party. It was only 11:15, and the other campaign HQs were still rocking. But just a few droopy supporters lingered at the pro-pot party, shuffling around the munchies table looking for leftovers.

*Supreme Court Justice­elect Faith Ireland beat goofball candidate James Foley, this year's Charles Johnson, in the Battle of the Appealing Irish Names. Ireland notes that she adopted "Ireland" six years ago to honor her mother, whose maiden name it was, and recently dropped the middle name "Enyeart," which she got from her father, on the general ballot because "after the primary they told me no one should have three names on the ballot." Good advice.

More name games

As far as I know, neither Greg Canova nor Fred Canavor, who failed in their respective Supreme Court and prosecutor bids, had secretaries named Kennedy or Lincoln. But they're both burly, balding, hard-charging guys with mustaches, and both at various times prosecuted burn-barrel murderer Ruth Neslund up in the San Juans. Imagine if they'd won and Conavar—er, Cavanor—had wound up pleading a case before Covana, or Conavar. . . .

Even better than Referendum 49

After seeing all the fiscal voodoo the voters will swallow if it's sweetened with a small cut in the auto excise tax, I've got an idea for another ballot measure that would reduce traffic congestion, air pollution, and oil-transport perils, and yield a world-class transit system that everyone will want to use. It's simple: Eliminate the auto-excise tax—and raise the gas tax to $3 a gallon.

Hillary has your number

After the Year of the Woman and Year of the Angry White Male, this election marked . . . the Year of the Automatic Dialing and Answering Device. Political campaigns latched onto those obnoxious junk-calling robots, formerly the tools of siding salesmen and investment scamsters, in a big way. But doesn't state and federal law ban ADAD calls? Yes, but only when they're used for what the state law calls "purposes of commercial solicitation"—which doesn't include political campaigns. Still, the technique may backfire; the state consumer-protection office received several complaints about campaign ADADs. But no one complained about getting a message from Hillary Rodham Clinton, robo-dialing for Demo candidates.

They know where we live

Banned or not, commercial ADAD calls seem on the upswing, even if official complaints about them aren't. After a years-long hiatus I've gotten several lately, all obnoxious and one unsettling. It was 7:10am last Wednesday, the election's morning-after. "Hello, I have important information," the taped voice recited. "If you and your family do not have health insurance, or are currently paying too much for health insurance, this phone call could save you a great deal of money. If you would like to hear more, please say 'Yes' at the tone."

"Yes," I replied, hoping to uncover the perpetrator.

"Now, please state your name and telephone number." I gave a name.

"Goodbye for now," the robot intoned ominously—and clicked off. At first I wondered if it already knew my name and was just testing to see if I'd be an obliging mark. Or maybe it was just logging my consent to a callback by a live marketer. This might be a clever ploy to get around the ban on automated "commercial solicitation": As Assistant Attorney General Paula Selles, who handles such cases, explains, "They might argue they're just offering information about health insurance—it's free speech."

Still, if the ADAD taped my response without my consent, it committed another crime under Washington law. Its human allies haven't called back. If you know who they are, let me know. I owe them a callback—even earlier in the morning.

 
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