IN AN ERA OF low-key, policy wonk politicos, people still know when state Senator Harold Hochstatter enters the room. The long-shot Republican candidate for governor has a way with words and no shyness about speaking his mind. In conversation, the man is all accelerator and no brakes.
We at the Seattle Weekly recognized this when Harold breezed in 45 minutes late to his endorsement interview (one of those schedule gaffes; some staffer had written down 11am instead of 10am), amiably confided that he'd paid off rival John Carlson to enter the race to make him look good in comparison, and proceeded to make up for lost time.
Hochstatter is on a perpetual tirade about excessive government regulations. That's not surprising; as an electrical contractor he is faced daily with the state's phone book-sized building code. He's so put out by the new shoreline management regulations that he plans to sue the state to prevent their implementation. He's also a sworn opponent of outcome-based education and other efforts to bring standardization to classroom teachers. "The system is the enemy of freedom," says Harold, "and I'm a freedom-loving guy."
Of course, some folks felt he went a bit overboard when, during his press conference to announce the suit, he read Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Concord Hymn"—that poem about firing "the shot heard 'round the world." According to press accounts, Hochstatter unwisely added: "I wouldn't encourage anybody to do any shooting, unless it's absolutely necessary. And boy, it's getting close sometimes." Governor Gary Locke promptly accused our Harold of encouraging people to shoot at state employees (he denies it).
The Democrats aren't the only ones cringing. After the disastrous losses by gubernatorial candidate Ellen Craswell in 1996 and US senate hopeful Linda Smith in 1998, the state GOP seems to have outgrown its right-wing Christian Coalition phase. This year's GOP gubernatorial frontrunner is the smooth, telegenic, initiative-pushing commentator John Carlson. But here comes Harold letting everybody know the grassroots are still sprouting.
Asked to pick out a key policy difference between himself and Carlson, Hochstatter cites the radio mouth's support for the Seahawks stadium. "If I had a paint brush, I'd paint him up right where he stands," he announces. (OK, we didn't understand the metaphor either, but it sounds cool.)
IF THE BOYISH Carlson resembles Dorian Gray, Hochstatter looks more like The Picture. With only a fringe of white hair, the 62-year-old looks every bit the grandfather of seven (and member of the Kittitas County Cattlemen's Association) that he is.
Newspaper readers could be excused for thinking that Hochstatter's first name is actually "unabashed." He's an unabashed patriot, an unabashed social conservative, an unabashed Christian. He isn't shy about confirming his former membership in the ultraconservative John Birch Society. He's so taken with the fact that his son was the National Rifle Association's youngest life member ever (Harold signed him up in 1964, when the kid was just four months old) that he's posted the NRA's original news release on his Web site. He was one of the signatories on a letter from 18 legislators blasting University of Washington President Richard McCormick for pushing a pro-gay agenda after that school's board of regents extended benefits to same-sex partners of employees. He's also shown no embarrassment about opposing abortion, bilingual education, and even the teaching of evolution as fact in public schools (believe it or not, Hochstatter chairs the Senate Education Committee).
But the senator from Moses Lake also has a strong libertarian streak. He doesn't see why we shouldn't legalize all drugs, since we allow people to buy the two most dangerous ones (alcohol and tobacco) in stores. He also joined a group of legislators blocking a law to seize the cars of drunk driving suspects until a clause was added to exempt families who rely on a single car for basic transportation. Or, as he was quoted in The Seattle Times: "Punish the souse, not the spouse."
Us rich computer folks on the West Side don't understand that the new economy isn't a statewide thing, says Harold. Things are so low in Eastern Washington, "I'm saying the snakes don't have a pit to hiss in," he quips. Conversely, on the West Side, "Chain up when you get to North Bend or you'll get stuck in the money." If the guy were any more homespun, he'd be a sweater.