Larry Phillips is running against incumbent Ron Sims' for King County Executive. Of course, you already knew that, but this morning with a backdrop of people (including former County Executive Randy Revelle) holding "Larry Phillips: For Our County Executive" signs, he made it official.
Standing in the back of a pretty sparse Hall 6 at the Labor Temple in Belltown, it occurred to me--we really need someone else to get into this race.My concern is not that neither can adequately perform the duties of the office, but the healthiness of the run up to the November election. I tend to think of campaigns as the place where you force candidates to hone in on some of the specific issues and priorities facing a governmental body--in this case King County--so whoever wins has a sense of what people need and want to be done when they actually take office. But getting these two men to hone in on anything is like herding cats--idealistic cats given to vague platitudes about transit and the environment.
Phillips, for his part, has a tendency to support very large government programs without a lot of careful explanation for why they're important or how they can be successful. Twice he mentioned his support for Sound Transit, something Sims opposed, without ever really saying why it's important or worth the money.
In fact Phillips' entire speech this morning was generally less about how he would run the county and more a not-subtle shot at Sims as out of touch. Phillips used the term "focus" several times to describe his approach to governing but he never really clarified what that will look like with regard to specific King County issues.
For Sims' part, criticisms that he lacks the aforementioned focus are at least warranted when directed at his way of conversing, if not governing. He tends to spend more time talking about large scale issues like the environment or health care rather than where we should put a new jail facility.
I'm having visions of debates between the two going something like:
Moderator C.R. Douglas: How would you prevent problems like those at the County animal shelter and juvenile detention facility from arising in the future?
Phillips: I will focus on those issues.
Douglas: Do you care to clarify that?
Phillips: We will invest in fixing those issues, in a way that is focused, unlike the current Executive, who has been unfocused.
Sims: I think what you're missing here, C.R., is the important work we've done on the environment. I was in Washington just last week speaking on a panel at the Brookings Institute, discussing the subject of climate change and international health care goals.
A third candidate might just help reign these two in a little. Maybe we should convince Aaron Reardon to move to Seattle.
Of course, there's always the possibility that Sims will just be out of the race and in D.C. in the coming weeks.