Suddenly, lots of election news in January. State Sen. Bill Finkbeiner, R-Kirkland, evidently has decided to shore up his re-election chances for November and announced on Monday, Jan. 9, that he will support gay-rights legislation this year. Last year, Finkbeiner was Senate minority leader, and despite the fact he voted for the measure twice when he was a Democrat, he stuck with his conservative caucus and helped defeat a gay-rights proposal by one vote. Activists targeted him as vulnerable, and Democrat and former Microsoftie Eric Oemig is already running against him. In December, Finkbeiner ditched his caucus leadership post and soon after announced his change of heart on gay rights. Now gay-rights supporters have to keep conservative Democrats, including Sen. Marilyn Rasmussen, D-Eatonville, on board to finally give gays and lesbians basic civil rights.
Also on Monday, Washington State Republican Party Chair Chris Vance announced that he will step down after a five-year tenure. Vance had a great vision of how to make his party more successful: recruit friendly, media-savvy conservatives and eliminate fractious intraparty primaries. While he had some success—most notably the election of state Attorney General Rob McKenna and the near election of gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi—the Republicans remain very much the minority party in Washington. The party has already divided on a successor, with Rossi, McKenna, and other big shots supporting current party Vice Chair Fredi Simpson of Chelan. Meanwhile, the King County Republican Party is supporting former federal prosecutor Diane Tebelius. The 117 members of the state committee will elect a new party chair Jan. 28.
That same day, 176 members of the Democratic State Committee will choose a replacement for Washington State Democratic Party Chair Paul Berendt, who announced last month that he is stepping down after 11 years. Last week, former state Sen. Phil Talmadge left the race, reducing the field to five: former King County Council member Dwight Pelz, former state Rep. Laura Ruderman, Snohomish County Democratic chair Mark Hintz, Pierce County chair Jean Brooks, and Pierce County activist Bill Harrington.
Meanwhile, 98 hopefuls applied to fill the seat vacated by Seattle City Council member Jim Compton. The council will engage in a tedious form of performance art when it allows each applicant to state his or her case in three minutes at a public meeting on Thursday, Jan. 12, beginning at 2 p.m. One strong contender, Realtor and Rainier Valley community activist Darryl Smith, has run into active, organized opposition from the Latino Political Action Committee (LPAC), a new statewide organization. LPAC quite rightly points out that Smith exhibited "anti-immigrant and anti-Latino tendencies" when leading the fight to keep the day-labor center Casa Latina out of his neighborhood. LPAC urges the council to appoint its first Latino instead by choosing cautious Democratic Party activist and Seattle City Light employee Javier Valdez or the charismatic, dynamic, public-affairs consultant Venus Velazquez. Sadly, the group remains mum on veteran hell-raiser Juan Jose Bocanegra. GEORGE HOWLAND JR.
News editors, always struggling to determine what, exactly, the fickle reader wants, usually agree on one thing: sex. At least try to get that word in the lead sentence, as we just did. But there's a new way to get a reader's attention: horse sex. As Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat pointed out recently, last summer's report about the man who died from a perforated colon while having sex with a horse in Enumclaw "was by far the year's most read article" on the Times Web site. Westneat didn't say how many clicked on the story, but he noted that four follow-up stories also made the newspaper's top 20 list. The horse-sex affair was high on an Associated Press list of top state stories in 2005, as well. Here at Seattle Weekly, the horse-sex story was the fifth-most-read news article on the Web last year. But the horse-sex tale is past, right? One man pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, and the case is closed. Well, we couldn't help but notice that, for more than a week following Westneat's rueful Dec. 30 analysis, his horse-sex column was the Times' most popular current story. Moral? Readers don't just want horse-sex stories. They want stories about horse sex stories. (Attention Google spiders: This is a story about a story about a horse-sex story.) RICK ANDERSON
The American College of Emergency Physicians issued state-by-state ratings on quality of emergency care Monday, Jan. 9. It was a stiff curve, with few states rating more than a C+, but Washington came in looking pretty poor with a D+. That's what Alabama got. The evaluators listed Washington 47th in per-capita expenditure on emergency care, 49th in support for child insurance, and 40th in funding for Medicare enrollees. Below Washington in the rankings: Utah, Idaho, and Arkansas. Read the bad news yourself at www.acep.org. ROGER DOWNEY