With state Sen. Karen Keiser, sitting at a nearby table, nodding in affirmation, Dow Constantine conceded the "front-runner" mantle in the King County Executive's race to Susan Hutchison this afternoon. Then he did his best to remind everyone that Hutchison is conservative with a capital GOP.
"Let's be clear," Constantine told his handful of campaign workers and the half-dozen media members sitting among the mostly empty chairs of a Belltown Labor Temple meeting hall. "Susan Hutchison is a pleasant personality and a very conservative Republican."Hutchison has been conspicuously absent from various forums and candidate interviews thus far. (See Nina Shapiro's story from June 3.) But the former news anchor has serious name recognition. King 5 released a poll today giving Hutchison 34 percent of the vote in a very split primary field. That's nearly four times the next highest vote-getter, Larry Phillips, who came away with 9 percent. (The poll winner, incidentally, was undecided, who took 39 percent.)
Thanks to voters approving a measure last fall to make the county Executive office non-partisan, Hutchison won't have to run with an "R" after her name. That has people like Constantine worried that liberal Seattleites, who just check "Ds" down the general election ballot, may vote for her on name recognition alone. So now he's calling for her to show her face, not at a high-noon duel, but at tomorrow's Futurewise-sponsored candidate forum at the Central Library at 7:30 p.m.
Constantine has a bit of a flat delivery style that didn't exactly make this the sparks-flying attack on Hutchison pitched by his spokesperson Sandeep Kaushik a few hours before. But he did go after her for her ties to the Discovery Institute (famous for treating creationism as a science) and donations to major Republican campaigns, including George Nethercutt and Dino Rossi. He also said she should answer questions about her take on abortions and gay rights. At every forum so far, Constantine said, "there's always the empty chair."
Keiser followed up his remarks by emphasizing her concern that Hutchison would cut women off from reproductive health services offered by the county.
Hutchison is actually scheduled to make a rare appearance along side the other candidates tomorrow morning at a forum sponsored by the Police Chiefs Association of King County. It takes place at 10 a.m. at the Criminal Justice Training Center in Burien. (19010 1st Ave. S. if you're just dying to go.)
Hutchison just fired back with a press release saying Constantine's press conference was full of "outright lies" though she doesn't say what those lies are. She then goes after him, saying that he's just mad that he's behind in the polling, something she attributes not to name recognition, but the current county budget and economic problems. "His only hope is to sling mud and engage in personal negative attacks," the release states.
Here's hoping the injection of vitriol makes tomorrow's meeting a little more exciting than your standard candidate forum.