Up Close & Personal With Ross Hunter"/>
I attended Washington Ceasefire's annual luncheon at the WAC this afternoon as a guest of Pam Eakes, my former boss at Mothers Against Violence in America who was being honored as the organization's Person of the Year. My chair was the closest to the podium, so when Rep. Ross Hunter, also being honored by Ceasefire for his work in passing a bill to restrict mentally ill citizens' access to firearms, got up to speak, I had a 'neath-the-chin view of the county exec candidate's crowd-working skills.
I came away impressed.Hunter was introduced by Rep. Jamie Pedersen, a gay Seattleite with whom the straight eastside centrist has an obvious personal connection. When Pedersen joked from the podium about a pair of psychotic legislative colleagues, Hunter laughed geekily in his chair (I say this as a compliment). When you think "eastside centrist/retired Microsoft exec," you think "slick" -- and Hunter's not that. As a speaker, he's very natural, witty, and off the cuff. He should have an easy time with voters as he makes the rounds in his bid to replace Ron Sims, a politician who exudes similar warmth.
But now that former news anchor Susan Hutchison, a Seattle Republican with to-die-for name recognition, is in the race, Hunter's path to victory is anything but clear. Let's assume Hutchison gets 25 percent of the primary vote simply for being a well-known Republican, and then let's assume Dow Constantine and Larry Phillips split another 40 percent by virtue of their representing and residing in the county's metropolitan hub. Then let's give Constantine an additional 5 percent for the outlying areas (Vashon, Burien) he represents, and for being a bigger rock star than his County Council colleague. That leaves Hunter and his fellow statehouse centrist, former Republican Fred Jarrett of Mercer Island, left to duke it out for the final 30 -- and that's likely a generous forecast.
Suffice it to say, smart money has Constantine and Hutchison advancing to the general. So why doesn't Hunter, who's already earned a reputation as that rare politician who actually gets shit done, simply wait to try and pick off Congressman Dave Reichert in 2010, a scenario the state Dems would cream their pants over? Fact is, his county exec campaign may be a well-masked attempt to lay the groundwork for just such a run. And come 2012, when there's a decent chance Gregoire will hang up the cleats, Hunter's primed for a gubernatorial run if things break his way. Sometimes, in politics, it's not the battle that counts, but the war.