Dow Constantine and My Foray Into Politics

Dow Constantine, lamp, Krist Novoselic on statge Bumbershoot 1997. Krist Novoselic's column runs every Tuesday on the Daily Weekly.

It was in 1995 that I really started working on political issues with Seattle's music community. As far as state and local government went, it seemed like we were always under the gun. Those were the days of Seattle's Teen Dance Ordinance, and MTV News anchor Kurt Loder said at the time that there wasn't a censorship bill the Washington legislature didn't like.

We decided to be proactive instead of reacting to threats from state and local government, and in the process I met lawmakers and candidates for public office. There was a candidate for the State House named Dow Constantine who was trying to make the jump from legislative aide to actual lawmaker. We met and hit it off right away, and it wasn't just because he understood our political issues. Dow has a great knowledge of music. As a University of Washington law student, he was a DJ at KCMU (now KEXP). I was pretty green in politics, and I had the impression that elected officials were a frumpy lot. (This is still true, with notable exceptions.) But it seemed like Dow was one of us, and I became enthusiastic about his candidacy.

West Seattle is deep Democratic territory, so the race for the open House seat was in the primary election. I set about raising support for Dow, and musicians like Eddie Vedder, Peter Buck, and others donated money to the campaign. That support helped pay for a final mail piece for voters.

The election was close, and Dow won by 200 votes or so.

Dow was hip, but at the same time his experience as an aide made him a straight-ahead representative. In Olympia, the freshman House member was made co-chair of the judiciary committee. He was our gatekeeper, making sure bills that would quash music were stopped.

Dow represents a diverse district: The southern part of downtown Seattle, gritty Georgetown and the large Boeing Field airport, the suburban neighborhoods of West Seattle, Burien, Tukwila, and rural Vashon Island are included. His representation of a diverse district makes him a strong candidate for the King County Executive post he's eyeing, following Ron Sims' bump to the Obama administration.

The rural/urban divide in King County is real. There's a huge difference between Belltown and places like Carnation. Greater Seattle is the urban epicenter of Washington, but as the county heads into the Cascade foothills, things are different. (It's rural, but I must say not as rural as southwest Washington, where I live.) Development is pushing up the western slope of the mountains, and land-use issues are tough because people don't like government telling them what to do. But it works both ways. I live where there are few land-use rules, which means some individuals cause terrible rural squalor. You know, tons of junk cars and garbage. It gets really wretched when you see horses, dogs, and other animals neglected. Land use can be a burden, but on the other hand it works well in addressing these kinds of situations.

Dow has been a leader on the council regarding land use and animal issues. He is espousing the mantra of change. And this shouldn't be a surprise, because it recently got another 47-year-old elected president. Dow Constantine promises change. But change is happening regardless of what he says. What's important is how you face change.

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