Fun house election

Our primary picks steer you past the clumsy clowns to the true artists.

THIS ELECTION ARRIVES like a crooked carny barker beckoning us into his tent with seductive promises: Come quick! Last chance for free choice! Vote for any candidate you want for the last time! Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or Green! Mix and match at will!

The US Supreme Court has decided this is Washington's voters' last year to enjoy the blanket primary, in which we all receive one long ballot with all the candidates and we choose whomever we want in each office and never have to pledge allegiance to one party or another. Democrats can make mischief by voting for the lesser Republicans. Libertarians can find common cause with conservative GOPers. Greens can shore up liberal Dems. Washington has enjoyed the comfort of the blanket primary since 1935. Next year, we may have to declare ourselves Democrats or Republicans just to receive a measly little ballot with one party's candidates on it.

And so as we are lured to the voting booth savoring this last year of free choice, we are bitterly disappointed once inside: Many races have long lists of names to choose from, but no real competitiveness. In several races—attorney general, auditor, treasurer, and lieutenant governor among them—incumbent Democrats face no serious opposition.

While our economy is booming, our electoral politics are dying. That doesn't mean we don't have to vote. Many key choices remain for Seattle Weekly readers: Who is the best Democrat to take a whack at Slade—Senn or Cantwell? Which reform candidates will shake up a state Supreme Court that mocks the Constitution by allowing the Legislature to declare a baseball stadium an emergency? Which GOP candidate for governor should get voted off the island—that crusty but likable ol' Rudy (as played by Harold Hochstatter) or that slick and smarmy schemer Richard (as played by John Carlson)?

And if you want to decide which King County judge will rule on your next divorce or DWI, you'd better vote in the primary—where many judicial races will be decided.

A note on our methods: We are endorsing in all statewide and countywide races. We'll deal with Congressional and state legislative contests at general election time in November.

P.S. To protest voters and minor party aficionados: Remember that the kingfishers (Democrats and Republicans) have rigged the election laws so the small fry—Libertarians, Reformers, Greens, Natural Lawyers—need one percent of the primary vote to keep swimming to November. So support Joe Szwaja for Congress or Chris Loftis for secretary of state now or risk losing them altogether.

United States Senate

Sick of hearing that "politics is the art of compromise"? Tired of bipartisan cooperation to find centrist solutions? Well, so are we. That's why we're endorsing Deborah Senn. We want DC's insurance lobbyists to wet their pants. We want to scare the hell out of fat-cat company CEOs growing rich off of people's illnesses. We want a pit bull who will put her head down, claw, bite, and fight like a she-devil for all of us who need health insurance (i.e., everybody but Bill and Paul, who can buy their own hospitals).

The rap on Senn is that she is too shrill and too uncompromising. Good for her! In order to get heard in Congress, you have to be loud. In order to set the terms of the debate, you have to stake out a position and refuse to budge. Senn used the post of state insurance commissioner to raise such a stink over the sorry state of health insurance that the GOP tried to eliminate the office. Sure, the conservatives rolled back some of her hard-won reforms, but they couldn't gut all of them. They were too scared by Senn's voter education program—her big mouth. She's solid on other issues as well. She hates the idea of restarting Hanford's Fast Flux reactor, and is, at the least, a skeptic on all this free-trade boosterism.

In DC, she'll get to stomp around in a bigger sandbox, stirring up the new trouble at a national level. With millions of uninsured and HMO bean counters telling doctors what to do, we need a consumers' advocate in DC who will speak loudly and carry a bazooka: Senn is fit for this battle.

Governor

It's lesser evil time, folks. Sure, Gary Locke doesn't exactly inspire us (the guy couldn't excite a pack of wolves if he was wearing a venison suit). But Locke's strongest potential opponent, John Carlson, has consistently brought out the worst instincts of the Washington electorate with hideous initiatives like the vicious crime-demagoguery of Three Strikes, the blatant race-baiting of Initiative 200, and the money-grubbing, gas-hogism of Initiative 695. Carlson makes the technocratic centrism of a New Democrat like Locke seem palatable, even flavorful. If Locke scores near 60 percent in the primary, Carlson won't be able to raise money or generate much political support for the general election. That's vital because Carlson is dangerous; don't underestimate his ability to light another populist fire fueled by prejudice and narrow self-interest. Stop Carlson, vote Locke.

Lieutenant Governor

Who's Ruth Bennett? Hey don't ask us tricky questions. But cast a protest vote for Bennett because, as a Libertarian, she rightly criticizes the incumbent Brad Owen for using the office to wage the wretched war on drugs. (Owen was fined for improperly using his office against an initiative that sought to reform the drug laws. He continues to run an antidrug education program in the schools out of the office.) Bennett also offers the only sensible platform for any candidate for lieutenant governor: the immediate elimination of this make-work office.

Secretary of State

Restore your faith in government: Meet Sam Reed. Here's a guy who has spent decades in office and hasn't lost an ounce of integrity, innovation, and idealism while doing it. The secretary of state is Washington's chief electoral officer, making sure our elections hum along smoothly and cleanly, and encouraging voter participation. Reed has the necessary experience as an assistant secretary of state and Thurston County auditor. In Thurston County he has pioneered such common sense measures as the voters' pamphlet, the voters' video guide on cable access, and more recently Internet voting. Finally, Reed has stuck to his progressive Republican beliefs even when crazy Christian conservatives were running all the moderates and liberals out of the state party (hey, they still are!).

State Treasurer

Incumbent Mike Murphy must be doing a fine job because he has no legitimate opponents.

State Auditor

Incumbent Brian Sonntag must also be doing well because no one of any consequence is running against him.

Attorney General

Incumbent Christine Gregoire sure has been in a lot of hot water lately for somebody doing a great job, but she's got no legitimate opposition.

Superintendent of Public Instruction

Hey! Everybody in Olympia can't be doing a good job! But, incumbent Terry Bergeson didn't draw any serious challenge either.

Commissioner of Public Lands

At last, an election—and a real primary race to boot. Mike Lowry is back after leaving the governor's office under a cloud of sexual harassment allegations. He has served his sentence of political exile and no one has come forward citing any current problems with his behavior. So until we hear different, this campaign is about the issues of our public lands.

Once Washington's forests were seen as limitless resources and the commissioner's job was to cut trees fast and furiously. No longer. Mike Lowry hopes to reduce logging on state lands by 15 to 20 percent. At the same time, he understands that the rural areas of the state are feeling real pain and that economic development based on innovative new forestry programs (fast-growing poplars) and recreational uses of the woods should be part of the commissioner's mandate.

We like Mike.

Insurance Commissioner

We're sure going to miss Deborah Senn's trash-talking about the insurance industry. Fortunately, Sheriff Senn's consumer advocacy streak rubbed off on one of her deputies, John Conniff. There's no doubt Conniff knows the office: He's worked for Senn in the area of health policy for seven years. In that time, he's learned where the bureaucratic fat is and plans on slicing it—never a bad quality in a Democrat. He will focus on the things that the commissioner's office can do—deliver speedy, competent regulation—and leave the potty mouth stuff to politicians, while still looking out for consumers' best interests.

State Supreme Court, Pos. 2

Hey, people, show a little passion for the Constitution: David Larson does. Down in Federal Way, Larson fought against the city's "unconstitutional attempt to sell police services to wealthy neighborhoods" and helped prevent the local City Council from "taking away the right to vote from thousands of people." Sounds dramatic! Damn right it is! Well, OK, we admit the latter effort was about Federal Way's attempt to take over the Lakehaven sewer district, but the mundane things matter. And Larson has stood up for the Constitution while living an ordinary life as a decent lawyer and a good arbitrator for the last 15 years in an average edge city. Meanwhile he hasn't lost his own edge. "The court system is terribly out of touch with the average person," he notes with gusto. Larson ain't going to get a lot of endorsements or win high bar ratings or raise a lot of money, but he'll do right by the people of Washington if elected.

State Supreme Court, Pos. 4

Justice Bobbe Bridge has no qualified opponents. She should run for attorney general.

State Supreme Court, Pos. 9

Gimmee Jimmee!! Out of the wilds of Pacific County, James Patrick "Jim" Foley comes riding hard on the heels of the special interests that have kidnapped our state Constitution. Foley says justice shouldn't be bought and sold, and we agree. He is a genuine populist reformer bent on shaking up the Supreme Court.

Sure, we've heard he doesn't have enough experience (only nine years as a lawyer) and he hasn't practiced big-city, highfalutin fancy law (he's been a small town general practitioner). But we've spent some time with the man and come away impressed with his keen legal mind, his knowledge of the state's legal history, and his real thirst for freedom. We've heard a client illegally paid him with elk meat; well, better that than dining on filet mignon in fancy clubs like some judicial candidates. (Besides, some laws, including game laws, are stupid.) Court watchers will tell you that it's hard to predict how even the most thoroughly vetted candidate will behave on the bench. Foley is admittedly a risk, but he's one we're prepared to take.

King County Superior Court, Pos. 2

Holly Holman is dedicated to family law. As a judge, she will have to do more than that, but too often family law— divorces, child custody, child abuse— is shunted aside as a lesser legal light than criminal or land-use cases. We need strong advocates for children on the bench who are willing to roll up their sleeves and get dirty in these dif- ficult, very personal cases. Holman has the experience in both private practice and as a family law commissioner that will serve her well on the family law bench. She will quickly get up to speed in the other areas of law. Good golly, Ms. Holly!! She'll do it all!

King County Superior Court, Pos. 3

Julie Spector has defended people, such as Roger Seavey, who nobody wants to think about, much less stick up for. Seavey, a mentally ill murderer, was confined to the most restrictive ward at Western State. Spector recognized that as long as Seavey takes his medication, he doesn't need to be so restricted. She didn't advocate letting him out, just easing up on his confinement some. Her efforts were successful. It's this kind of passion for justice Spector has demonstrated as a lawyer that she brings to the bench. She has a broad range of experience in criminal and civil matters, has worked both as a public defender and as a prosecutor, and has showed herself to be a workhorse and a show horse in all settings. Plus she describes her race against opponent Mike Jensen as "Mike versus the dyke." That sense of humor alone gets our vote.

King County Superior Court, Pos. 11

"Who can get the job done?" Robert Bryan asks. Of the bunch running in this race, we believe Bryan can. He's got 30 years of legal experience involving each of the major areas in which trial judges most often work: criminal, civil, juvenile, family law, and appellate practice. He has the guts to take on tough cases that others avoid. And he retains the humility he learned back in the days when he worked as a railroad laborer. "Thinking I was free of prejudice, I went to work in a primarily black environment. [I learned] nobody can be free of prejudices. I'll never flatter myself again that I have none."

In a court that is hemorrhaging experience right and left, his history will come in useful. In an occupation where too often judges seem themselves as God, his understanding of his own shortcomings will be invaluable.

King County Superior Court, Pos. 15

Judge Mary Yu hasn't been a lawyer very long—only seven years. She doesn't have significant trial experience. She doesn't have a long history of working in a variety of legal areas.

But Yu is very deserving of your vote. She radiates intelligence, warmth, and compassion. Her life experience includes 10 years running Chicago's Cardinal Joseph Bernadin's peace and social justice office—the type of experience we wish every judicial candidate had. She was appointed to the bench in March by Governor Locke and has proven herself a quick study.

King County Superior Court, Pos. 17

Watch out for Haley's comment. Judge Donald Haley has a sharp tongue and an ironic sense of humor. He earned them cutting rice in the Louisiana fields starting at age 8. By the time he graduated from UW law school in 1958, institutionalized racial discrimination was still the law of the land, the American Bar Association, and the King County courts. He joined the Superior Court bench in 1983, and is known as an experienced and fair judge. Haley is peeved that he has an opponent in this race and doesn't see any good reason to vote for his rival. Frankly, neither do we.

King County Superior Court, Pos. 21

Tough choice here. Do you take the brilliant, but frightening, prosecutor Greg Canova? Or the less lustrous public defender Joe Lynch? Canova has the experience and the brains, but he ran a nasty campaign his last time out against Justice Richard Sanders and we can't shake the feeling that he would send us to the chair for jaywalking. Lynch doesn't come across as a Rhodes scholar, but he does make his living defending the indigent. Lynch has been a lawyer 21 years and has argued cases at all levels, including the state Supreme Court. He notes convincingly, "I have represented thousands of poor people. I have a good idea how the system takes its toll. There are plenty of judges who have never represented a real human being."

In a pinch, we'll go with Joe Lynch.

King County Superior Court, Pos. 25

All quarters agree, vote for JD. In his 18 years as a public defender, Jim Doerty's accomplishments were many. Abused women who have committed violent acts against their batterers now have the right to present the history of violence in their relationship in court, in part because of Doerty's efforts.

In 1995, Doerty became a family law commissioner. He was assigned to the child abuse cases and became a dedicated advocate for children. Since his appointment to the bench last year by Gov. Locke, Doerty has continued to pursue justice for children. He recognizes that it is not only abusive parents who present a real danger to our youth, but also a state bureaucracy that can rob children of any chance to recover.

King County Superior Court, Pos. 26

Can we stand the barrage against Burrage? It is with great caution that we recommend voting for King County's most infamous judge, Jeanette Burrage. From all accounts, she is not the most competent of judges. An extreme conservative of the libertarian, property-rights, absolutist persuasion, Burrage has been unable to keep politics out of her courtroom. Her latest blunder was insisting women lawyers wear skirts, not pants, in her courtroom.

But the word is that she is improving, that she knows her own limitations and is not hesitant to ask guidance from both the prosecutors and the defendants' lawyers, that she is willing to roll up her sleeves and tackle any work required by the courts.

Burrage errs on the side of the individual against the state and we can live with that.

King County Superior Court, Pos. 30

This race is an embarrassment of riches. Both Doug North and Paris Kallas would likely serve the public interest mightily as judges. Both demonstrate keen legal minds, charm, and a dedication to public service. Paris Kallas has the edge because of her judicial experience. As a lawyer, she concentrated on criminal appellate work including 10 appearances in front of the state Supreme Court. Since 1996, she has been a court commissioner at the Court of Appeals, hearing hundreds of cases and earning high marks throughout. We love Paris in the fall.

King County Superior Court, Pos. 51

John Erlick outsmarts, outclasses, and outworks his opposition. A lawyer in the somewhat obscure arena of professional liability work (defending doctors, lawyers, architects, etc.), he nevertheless understands the broader issues of the bench and can cut through the legalese baloney and explain things to the layperson. Good qualities all for a judge to have.

King County Proposition One: Harborview bonds

It's hard to look the region's only Level 1 trauma center in the face and say no. Especially when Harborview is asking for money to protect itself against a major earthquake. Sooner or later, the Seattle area will experience another massive trembler. Harborview is essentially asking us to buy it $193 million in insurance. Admittedly, that's a lot of lettuce, but nearly 70 percent of these bonds will go to seismic retrofits of existing hospital facilities. It's the kind of thing to do in good economic times. The other 30 percent—not just chump change—will provide an additional 50 beds at the public hospital. Considering how fast King County is growing, it seems like a good bet that we'll need them.

Look at it this way. If, when the big one hits, we're on the Viaduct as it collapses, we'll be thinking: Glad we spent that $15 bucks a year to make sure Harborview is still standing. Vote Yes.

King County Proposition Two: Automated Fingerprints

Half a million fingerprints in the King County supercomputer database; the ability to check prints not just at murder scenes but crimes as minor as car prowls to see if they match any already in the database; and the county still needs $54 million in extra taxes to run this state-of-the-art automated fingerprinting program? In the era of I-695 cutbacks, the county should not try to be Superman. Since the taxpayers have already approved two previous 5-year levies to establish this system and keep it humming, the county needs to now find another way to pay for it. Or even pare back the crime fighting somewhat. Put something more important on the ballot. Vote No.

 
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