Category Archives: Democrats

More evidence that a PCO vote is not a mandate

Following the story about the commissioners’ rationale behind going with the Democratic Party’s third choice for commissioner, I was copied on this letter addressed to Rob Gelder, county commissioner. It’s from Martha Lynn-Johnson, a board member for the Kitsap County Democratic Central Committee.

“You insulted the PCO’s by going with your friend; regardless of how the PCO’s voted. Ethically speaking, you should have recused yourself since you and Linda are good friends. It should have been obvious that the majority were trying to keep Linda out of the top three. I was stunned that you went to the third choice (too bad Clarence wasn’t picked instead of you). And, to add insult to injury, you say you two were being naughty, however, you’ll see how long our collective memories will be for the next two years. You will never be re-elected. You are a disappointment.

“Unhappy PCO”

One minor correction. I was the one who wrote the commissioners found themselves on the “naughty list.” Gelder didn’t say that. Just so we’re clear.

While this is just one person writing to the commissioner, based on the comments following the story and in the private conversations I have had, this is not an isolated opinion. Many Democrats were madder than commuters lining up to get on the George Washington Bridge.

The way the state constitution is written the commissioners’ only obligation to the party is to pick among the three candidates the party sent. So commissioners have every right to choose the person they feel will best do the job.

On the other hand, when they don’t pick the party’s first choice, the precinct committee officers have every constitutional right to complain like cable customers looking at an electric blizzard that should be the Super Bowl. It might even be a healthy thing when they complain. It sends a message for next time around.

That’s actually on Friday, although Democratic complaining could be seen as a trick. This time it’s three Republicans vying for a job. Charlotte Garrido, Gelder and now Linda Streissguth, will be on the dais when leaders from Kitsap and Pierce Counties pick a successor for Jan Angel’s former House seat.

I tried to get some background on why the selection process works like this, but it’s something that goes back to the 1800s. That’s when the state constititution was crafted and I didn’t find the rationale in an afternoon.

As a casual history student, though, I can state with great authority that there is a reason the process is set up this way. As a political philosopher I can think of a few reasons why.

One process is, on its face, a political exercise. PCOs have every reason to not just consider who will best do the job, but who is the most electable the next time around, who has been the most loyal party soldier and whose agenda most matches theirs. County commissioners can consider all those factors, too, but it makes sense that they might put their own list of priorities in a different order. In this case the two commissioners both belonged to the same party, but it wasn’t that way when the PCOs and the commissioners picked Steve Bauer in 2007.

Too much is made of the fact that Streissguth didn’t have a majority on the first two ballots. She had the lead. Unlike past PCO processes where a third name, or even a second one, is a fair distance behind the first choice, Streissguth got enough votes to be considered a strong contender.

And while we all had to scratch our heads and find another instance where commissioners bucked the party in Kitsap County, the Chris Endresen-Mary McClure switcheroo, it was just last year that it happened in Pierce County. The County Council, made up of five Republicans and two Democrats, named the county Republican Party’s second choice, Steve O’Ban, to a Senate seat to replace Mike Carrell after he died. The party had picked Dick Muri by a 20-16 vote among PCOs.

Having watched the Pierce Council when they worked with Kitsap commissioners to pick a replacement for Derek Kilmer in the 26th LD Senate seat, I’m not at all surprised. Those council members take their role seriously and are willing to execute their own discretion in making a final pick.

In fact, even political factors are openly discussed. Nathan Schlicher, who won a 12-11 vote among 26th Legislative District PCOs, got the 7-1 nod from the county leaders in large part because he said he was going to run later that year, while the other candidate, Todd Iverson, said he wasn’t sure.

Dan Roach, a Republican Pierce County Council member who served 10 years in the state Legislature, said that was a deciding factor for him.

Politics was an even more open factor a few months later. When O’Ban, who had been serving in the House, was picked, one of the reasons was that he would be a stronger candidate in 2014. If PCOs raised a fuss there, I haven’t seen evidence. Instead, they picked Dick Muri to replace O’Ban in the House. The council complied.

The Pierce County Council members didn’t just look at the PCO results and put a stamp on it. They asked questions. They did their own research. What’s the point of that if you’re not open to making up your own mind?

If Democrats locally maintain their displeasure, this obviously has the potential to be a factor against them in November. Disgruntled Democrats won’t necessarily vote for a Republican, but they are more likely to sit out the question, to leave their ballots blank. Republicans have put up a candidate, Ed Wolfe, who is well liked and well backed. And after this week’s event he is probably well funded. Streissguth not only has to overcome Wolfe, but might also have to beat back a challenge from within the party from former Bremerton Mayor Cary Bozeman. He came in fourth on PCO night, by the way. He said he is talking to friends he counts as advisors to help him decide whether he will run.

Kilmer bucks his party in one vote the Washington Post counts as key

If the 2014 congressional election started today (I found a page showing incumbent Congressman Derek Kilmer has raised $15.55 so far. I’m guessing the total is actually more than that, but we have nothing official yet.) here is a campaign charge you might hear.

“Derek Kilmer has voted with his party 97 percent of the time.”

Or maybe this one:

“Derek Kilmer has voted with Nancy Pelosi nine out of 10 times.”

Both quotes are true, but they lack context. There have been 30 votes in the U.S. House of Representatives since Kilmer joined it earlier this month. Some are procedural and don’t deal with issues at all, like voting to approve Congress’ journal or to adjourn. If either of those mattered we might hear this one:

“Doc Hastings was the only Washington member of Congress with the guts to vote to adjourn.”

We’ve addressed this before, but it’s worth repeating. Context matters. Of the 30 votes taken in Congress, the two parties agreed with each other 11 times. Again, those were procedural issues. The first vote after the roll call was on who should be named House speaker. Republicans voted for John Boehner. Kilmer voted with Democrats for Nancy Pelosi. That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Kilmer is a Democrat, after all, and he wanted to see his party’s leader holding the gavel. Everyone knew it wouldn’t happen and it didn’t.

On the other 19 votes, many were questions on the same issue, and Kilmer agreed with the majority in his party on all but one of them.

That one is critical. Of the 30 votes taken, two were considered “key votes” in the Washington Post vote database. One was the race for speaker. I guess I agree that one probably should be considered “key,” but not like the other one on the list of two. That was the one to suspend the debt limit until May and to suspend Congressional pay starting April 15 if there is no budget. On that one a majority of Republicans voted “Yes,” and a majority of Democrats voted “No.” Kilmer, in this case sided with Republicans. He issued a statement saying why he thought the measure was a good one.

“I believe America should pay its bills even if they were racked up before I came to DC. This plan prevents the immediate threat of default that could cause harm to our nation’s economy. Hopefully, this is the first step toward a real bipartisan effort to forge a balanced solution to our long-term fiscal challenges. This plan also forces Congress to live by the same principle that all folks in our region live by: if you don’t do your job, you shouldn’t be paid. I’m supporting this bill today because I’ve always said I’ll do what’s right for the families and employers of our region, regardless of whether it’s a Democratic or Republican idea.”

Kilmer wasn’t alone among Washington Democrats, joining fellow freshmen Denny Heck and Suzan DelBene. Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Camas Republican, voted contrary to her party on the same vote.

Just as it’s almost worthless to draft statistics that include meaningless votes on procedure, it’s way too early to form conclusions on a voting record that only includes two votes that seem to matter. Nonetheless, stay tuned to the “key” votes tally and see if bipartisanship spreads.

Kitsap, Pierce county electeds to pick Kilmer successor

Commissioners from Kitsap County and Pierce County council members meet Thursday morning to choose a replacement for Derek Kilmer in the state Legislature.

Kilmer resigned the 26th Legislative District state Senate seat after being elected to Congress.

Following the rules set by the state constitution, 26th District Democratic precinct committee officers picked a ranked list of three nominees from which the county leaders will choose a senator.

In the most recent cases in Kitsap the commissioners have gone with the party’s top pick. On Dec. 27 that was Nathan Schlicher, an emergency room doctor in Gig Harbor. Schlicher also has a law degree. He came in first, but it was close. He had a plurality of votes on the first ballot and the second ballot was a tie with Todd Iverson, a longshoreman and member of the PenMet Parks board in Gig Harbor. Schlicher won on the third ballot with a 12-11 vote. Iverson was ranked second. Gerry Baldwin, former district party chairman and airline analyst, was ranked third.

Each county gets 50 percent of the vote on Thursday, according to Kitsap County Clerk Dave Peterson. Kitsap has three commissioners and Pierce has seven council members.

The selection is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Thursday at Gig Harbor City Hall, 3510 Grandview St.

Three locals, one former local, to attend Democratic national fete

Former Bremerton local Jack Arends will join four others, including outgoing U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks of Belfair, in Charlotte, N.C. for the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

Arends is the son of Bremerton City Councilwoman Carol Arends and helped with her 2009 campaign. He now lives in Everett.

He will be joined by Suquamish Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman, Bremerton’s Brittany Duff and Belfair’s Marcia Hamilton.

The convention is Sept. 3-6.

Word on the street is Barack Obama and Joe Biden will be the nominees. Still working to confirm that.

Kitsap Sheriff Steve Boyer not running for Congress

Brynn writes:

Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer sent out a release today saying he won’t run for the Congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair.

Last month Boyer said he hadn’t ruled out the possibility of running for the 6th Congressional seat.

“It’s always in the back of my mind that you’re looking for the next way to serve,” Boyer said March 7.

Since then he’s decided not to join the race. Instead Boyer has endorsed state Sen. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, who announced his intentions to run earlier this year.

Here’s the official release from Boyer:

Like so many throughout Kitsap County, I was surprised by Congressman Norm Dicks’ announcement that he would not be seeking reelection. Once the initial impact of the announcement passed, I took some time to consider whether the honor to participate as a United States Congressman and to help set a positive course for the future of America might be the best decision for my family, Kitsap County, and the citizens of the 6th Congressional District.

There were many factors to weigh while considering a decision of this magnitude and I would like to give my thanks for the confidence and encouragement extended by so many diverse groups and individuals for such a candidacy. The final analysis demanded determining where one can provide the most value for our citizens. This would be a capstone to my 40 years of public service in which success is measured by accomplishment and the respective trust which must exist with our citizens. I also have a high level of personal and professional satisfaction in ensuring public safety as the Kitsap County Sheriff.

Therefore, after due consideration, I am endorsing Derek Kilmer in the Sixth District Congressional race.  He has the right skill set built upon a foundation of strong character.  I trust that Derek will always defend American values and do what is important for our Nation.

Yours in safety,

Stephen A. Boyer

Kilmer on government, the federal government

State Sen. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, offers a counterpoint to Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s assertion that he’d like to make the federal government as inconsequential as possible.

“I’m struggling to figure out how a person can be the Chief Executive of a government he doesn’t understand the value of.”

I’ll leave it to you to discern why Kilmer is answering a national politician on a federal issue.

Democrats Voted Here

If you are wondering why Democrats held on so well in Washington while across the nation they did not do well at all, the basic answer appears to be that they voted here. Democrats in Washington, despite the dire predictions for them nationally, mailed in their ballots. A Portland pollster makes that case, as well as the one contending that Washington is getting bluer.

Some of the information is included in a story about the county certifying the Nov. 2 election.

Moore Information of Portland, Ore. sent out an analysis (posted below) suggesting that Dino Rossi, Republican challenger for the U.S. Senate here, did better among Republicans than any other Senate candidate in the country. He also won the vote of independents by big numbers. He lost, according to Moore, because incumbent U.S. Sen. Patty Murray did even better among Democrats, and there are more Democrats than there used to be and they didn’t get too depressed to vote here.

Of course, if you read our story from Nov. 1, this may not surprise you at all. The last two paragraphs said this:

Turnout was markedly higher in 1998 and 2006. Carl Olson, Kitsap County Democratic Party chairman, said his party’s get-out-the-vote effort is tracking as well as it did in 2006, when turnout was 68.2 percent.

“My personal sense tells me there may be some surprises,” he said, meaning Democrats may do better than expected. Whether the party’s tracking of those who are solid or lean Democrat means they voted Democrat again, he said, he doesn’t know.

While Democrats lost ground in Washington, what their voters did by voting was prevent a party disaster. They maintained control of both chambers in the state. Locally every Democrat incumbent had a closer race, but they all won.

My hunch is this also explains why late votes, those counted after those from election night, did not break Republican as they have in past elections. Democratic margins, in fact, grew larger.

Moore’s analysis, co-written with Hans Kaiser, also with Moore Information, follows:

Continue reading

Democratic Leadership Wants Derek Kilmer in Ways & Means Post

State Sen. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor would serve as vice chairman of the capital budget in the Ways & Means Committee under a proposal made by Democratic leadership this week. The move means he would no longer chair the Higher Education & Workforce Development Committee, but would put him in a key role in the prime budget-writing committee in the state Senate.

State Sen. Phil Rockefeller, D-Bainbridge Island, would continue to chair the Environment, Water & Energy Committee.

The full body of Senate Democrats will vote on the proposal when legislators go to Olympia for meetings on Dec. 7 and 8.

The press release from the Senate Democrats follows.

Continue reading

Brian Baird Could Be Angling for First District Congressional Seat

The future of congressional representation for this area could see major changes, thanks in part to redistricting and Bainbridge Island Democrat U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee’s political ambitions.

This one got away from me when it first came out. Les Blumenthal with McClatchey wrote a story headlined, “Packing up after loss, Democrat Baird spares no one criticism.” I packed it away in the “B” file as in to BE read later. The story is about soon-to-be former U.S. Rep. Brian Baird, D-Vancouver.

What I missed was this gem:

He also hints that his political career may not be over, even though he decided not to seek a seventh term in order to spend more time with his twin 5-year-olds.

Baird has roughly $450,000 in his campaign account. He can’t keep it personally, but can donate it to charity or other campaigns. There’s one other alternative.

“I could use it for another race,” said Baird.

Baird is moving to Edmonds, Wash., in the 1st Congressional District north and east of Lake Washington currently represented by Democratic Rep. Jay Inslee. If Inslee were to run for governor in 2012 as many expect, the congressional seat would be open.

You’ve got everything (Inslee rumors and a suspected successor) in there except redistricting, as in new congressional boundaries being drawn thanks to the 2010 Census. Baird moving to Edmonds is a different kind of redistricting.

You might recall the earlier post where it was speculated that the entirety of Kitsap might become part of the 6th Congressional District. This obviously becomes easier to do if Inslee does run for governor, because it would reduce any political machinations aimed at keeping Bainbridge Island in the 1st. It might not stop it completely, because I do think Kitsap officials like being able to lobby two members of Congress. It is questionable, however, how much political muscle this county has in the allocation of congressional seats.

Company Sued for Campaign Finance Violations Has Had Local Clients

Beverly Woods was the subject in these critical 2006 campaign ads created by Moxie Media. The picture comes from the company's Web site.
In 2006 voters in the 23rd Legislative District received mailers asking the question, “Beverly Woods went to Olympia and what did we get?” Woods, a Republican, was first elected to the seat in 2000, beat Democrat Sherry Appleton by 4 percentage points in 2002 and in 2004 she won handily over a candidate who did not campaign with much intensity.

In 2006, though, she faced off against Democrat Christine Rolfes, a former Bainbridge Island city councilwoman. Rolfes ended up winning by 9 percentage points. A blog post just weeks after the election at the conservative site Sound Politics had in its comment string a conversation blaming Woods’ loss on her vote for a gas tax. Many people have said to me the same thing, that Woods lost her base when she voted for that tax.

However she lost, the mailer is the issue here, because it was created by a firm that finds itself in hot water with the Washington State Attorney General, Rob McKenna. Moxie Media is being sued by McKenna for the company’s under-the-radar efforts to oust a conservative Democrat in the 38th District in 2010. It’s the under-the-radar part that could get them in trouble, because the company allegedly created political action committees to temporarily hide the liberal money (labor, trial lawyers, etc.) that was pitching a conservative Republican who was not running a strong race. The effort helped put the incumbent, state Sen. Jean Berkey, in third place, virtually guaranteeing victory in November for Democrat Nick Harper, who as of Tuesday had received nearly 60 percent of the vote.

Moxie is not the only organization to run afoul of Public Disclosure laws in recent history. The Olympian’s Brad Shannon wrote, “The action against Moxie comes in the same season that the Republican-oriented Building Industry Association of Washington settled charges of concealing funds it later used to promote Dino Rossi’s 2008 gubernatorial campaign.”

The Washington State Wire has an explanation of what went on with Moxie and Berkey, explaining the money gets hidden.

Moxie Media’s anti-Bev Woods piece is one of several the company highlights in a portfolio on its Web site.

Of the campaign the company writes, “After many failed attempts by other Democratic campaigns to define State Representative Beverly Woods as too conservative for her district, Moxie Media ultimately helped defeat the three-term incumbent. We developed a series of five mail pieces that positioned Woods as ineffective and out-of-touch, helping to elect our client, State Representative Christine Rolfes, who has held the seat since 2006.”

The work Moxie did for Rolfes was pretty straightforward. Sure, some of it in 2006 was negative advertising, but there do not appear to be any obvious efforts to hide who was behind the ads. A search of Public Disclosure Records show that over three campaigns Rolfes has spent $61,625 for Moxie Media’s help.

Rolfes said the recent news does have her considering who she will employ in the future. “I had never seen them do anything that wasn’t above board. I’m disappointed to see how that company worked in another race,” she said.

Moxie’s work has showed up in other local races. In 2006 the company promoted Kyle Taylor Lucas, who tried to best state Sen. Tim Sheldon for the Democratic nomination for senator in the 35th District. The company was paid more than $50,000 from three different PACs, all of which had “Have Had Enough” in the name.

In 2006 the Harry Truman Fund, which supports Democrats, spent about $17,000 for ads against Republican Ron Boehme, who ran against Larry Seaquist in the 26th District.

In late October Bremerton Republican Trent England wrote on the Evergreen Freedom Foundation’s Liberty Live blog, “I happen to know that Moxie works for my own State Senator Derek Kilmer, who pretends to be a Berkey-style moderate, but somehow still gets props from the far left (draw your own conclusions about who is the real Derek Kilmer: the one familiar to his Moxie pals, or the one he presents to voters in his swing district?).”

It is true that Moxie shows more than $200,000 in receipts for Kilmer’s campaign between 2004 and 2006. There were none, however, in 2010.

Kilmer said he worked with John Wyble, who co-founded Moxie, but left in 2008 and formed his own firm, WinPower Strategies.

Kilmer took issue of England’s use of the word “works.” “Once again Trent England hasn’t done his homework,” Kilmer said, adding that the ads he pays for do not mention his opponents. “The way I approach campaigns is like a job interview. “I’ve never gone into a job interview and said ‘This is why you shouldn’t hire the other guy,'” he said.

Democrats generally have condemned what is alleged to have been done in the 38th. Berkey, for her part, is asking that the Legislature not seat Harper, saying the election was tainted, according to a (Everett) Herald story.

Rolfes, who did work with Lisa MacLean, the Moxie founder named in the Attorney General’s suit, said she hopes the discovery of what happened with Moxie is evidence that the system worked. “The whole point of the Public Disclosure Commission is to allow a forum for catching these kind of indiscretions and unethical and possibly illegal acts,” she said.

Democrats Posing as Republicans Could Result in a New Election

Austin Jenkins wrote a piece on his own blog and later republished on Crosscut about an election elsewhere in the state that could be overturned.

A Democratic organization set up an organization that looked Republican in order to get a conservative Democrat legislator out of office. Apparently it worked, but the Public Disclosure Commission is not taking kindly to how the group shuffled campaign donations to hide the backers.

Go to Crosscut to read the whole thing.

Party Roots of Patty Murray and Dino Rossi

Jerry Cornfield at the (Everett) Herald gets to the questions of how the candidates ended up in the parties they chose in the race between U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. and Republican Dino Rossi.

Cornfield points out that both had influences in their lives that could have pushed them in different directions. From the story:

Patty Murray, 59, and Dino Rossi, 50, are not party ideologues and neither engaged fully in partisan politics until comfortably in adulthood.

Both come from large, middle-class families. Each has six siblings; Patty and her identical twin, Peggy, are the second and third eldest while Dino is the youngest.

Both grew up in small suburban cities Murray in Bothell and Rossi in Mountlake Terrace. Their fathers are World War II veterans and their families each hit by hardship that tested their will.

While there are parallels in their lives as youngsters, by the time each reached college, their life’s journey was driven by very different political values.

I continue to periodically point out stories worth reading in the block of stories above, but this one deserves special mention. It confirms to me that the embracing of any political philosophy is not exclusively an intellectual exercise or a response to self interest.

County Republicans Condemn Russ Hauge on Rifle Club Suit

Sandra LaCelle, Kitsap County Republican Party Chairwoman, sent this to us:

On September 13, 2010, at the Executive Board Meeting of the Kitsap County Republican Party, the following resolution was adopted:

Resolved, that the Kitsap County Republican Party hereby condemns the actions of Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hague and his office for the continual harassment and frivolous legal attacks upon the officers and members of the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club.

It is a bold statement for reasons I will provide further down.

Rifle club members were out in force at Monday’s county commissioner meeting addressing County Prosecutor Russ Hauge’s lawsuit against the club. Some of their comments will be included in a story Josh Farley is working on. Their basic points were:

  • The club is all about safety.
  • The county commissioners need to reign in Hauge and the Department of Community Development.
  • They asked why this had to be filed in Pierce County.
  • If the club is closed people will go shoot in the hills.
  • They questioned the qualifications of the prosecutor’s key witness.
  • They think this is a vendetta Russ Hauge is launching against Marcus Carter. (The two have faced off in court before.)

James Sommerhauser, a regular at these meetings and a fixture in the local Democratic party, said he belonged to the club for a couple of years. He thought it was safe, but said if it wasn’t he probably wouldn’t have recognized how. He said if the club didn’t get permits it was required to, then the club would be wrong in that case. He also pointed out that the prosecutor is a separately elected official, so county commissioner control over what the prosecutor does is almost non-existent. Josh Brown, county commissioner, said that the primary interaction between the commissioners and the prosecutor is over the prosecutor’s budget.

That does not necessarily mean the commissioners have to remain silent, but they’re not clear right now what authority they have to do or say anything.

Jim Coutu of Gig Harbor made a point that may speak to why some people who have no dog in the fight would have strong feelings about the suit. “Lawsuits come about because people cannot come to terms any other way,” he said. “This doesn’t feel like something that wanted to get resolved in a proper manner.” Where that matters is that the public knows of no problems between the county and the rifle club. And then there is a pretty big lawsuit.

You may recall there is also friction between the county and the city of Bremerton over the city’s financial participation, or lack of it, in the restructuring of the loan for the Harborside Condominium complex. We’ve been reporting it for months. It may result in a lawsuit, but because we have been reporting the conflict for some time that news won’t come out of the blue like the rifle club suit did.

The Central Kitsap Reporter had a story in May when neighbors of the range wanted the county to take action. It was kind of a “he said, she said” moment.

From a political standpoint, addressed in Farley’s story posted Saturday, there is so much to consider. I think Hauge was absolutely correct when he said the suit “could not have come at a worse time” politically.

In the Aug. 17 primary Hauge won what was a de facto straw poll by 12 percentage points. While that doesn’t officially fall into “landslide” territory, it is a pretty comfortable lead. Now this issue is out there, less than two months from election day. The only way this is a political win for him is if overwhelming evidence comes to light between now and the day ballot are mailed out. Courts do not move that quickly. And people mad at Hauge for taking this action will not wait until election day to mark their ballots.

What if it turns out that Hauge is right? I know many people will not consider that possibility, but I am not at liberty to rush to judgment here. I have not read his filing and even from what I little I have heard I have a lot of questions on both sides. But again, what if it turns out Hauge is right?

Would Republicans then still have cause to claim that this lawsuit is a “frivolous legal attack” and part of the “continual harassment?” Though the party’s statement doesn’t specifically name this most recent suit, in tone it seems pretty clear that the county Republican Party has already judged this case before the process plays out.

“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
old Time is still a-flying.
And this same flower that smiles today,
tomorrow will be dying.”
– Robert Herrick

Did Democrats Increase Election Day Efforts?

Returning from several days out of state I picked up the phone to see who had called us and found a collection of messages I had never had before.

For clarity’s sake, I must tell you I don’t have a pen name that differs from my real name. I do, however, have a phone book name different from “Steven Gardner,” a decision I made years ago to avoid having my wife and children harassed because of something I wrote. Call my desk phone and you can get my cell phone number to harass me personally.

When we returned home (Primary Tuesday) we had two messages from the local Democratic party and one from U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, who was campaigning for two Supreme Court candidates.

The question I had, and thought you might be able to answer, was given the trouble Democrats are supposed to be in, were the phone messages we had evidence of a stepped up campaign on their part this year? Or do you think I just happened to pick a nom de fone close enough to a real person who has voted Democrat in the past such that by coincidence we got the phone calls this year?

I checked other news outlets to see if there was any evidence of stepped up Democratic effots, but didn’t find anything.

Unions Cold to Democrats

Before last week’s presentation in Port Orchard by the state’s Chief Economist, Arun Raha, state Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, mentioned to me his interest in what the state’s unions were planning to do. Chiefly, it appeared they were prepared to withhold endorsements from many legislators, because legislators didn’t make state employees very happy during the 2010 session.

His interest was well-founded. Instead of funneling money through the state Democratic party, the unions agreed to be more specific, which means no candidate in the 35th District gets any money. Seaquist and his Senate counterpart Derek Kilmer get no support in the 26th. In the 23rd state Rep. Christine Rolfes and state Sen. Phil Rockefeller, both Bainbridge Island Democrats, are also left off the list.

On the money list from districts in this county are state Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo and Democratic challenger to Jan Angel, Sumner Schoenike from Gig Harbor.

The (Tacoma) News Tribune has more context here and here.

The first question is how much this matters. We don’t pay attention to endorsements all that much, especially when they are so predictable from election to election. This item is newsworthy because it strays from history, but it isn’t as if the unions are endorsing Republicans.

Secondly, could this withholding amount to a perverse positive to some Democrats left out of the union money trail this year? It may seem a stretch, but could there be enough moderates out there who would actually see this as a plus, because it offers the perception that the Democrats left off the gravy train are not completely beholden to the dreaded “special interests?” Should Seaquist, Kilmer, Haigh and Finn actually write “thank you” notes to the unions?

Were I a spinmeister I would probably try to help find a way to sell this as kind of good news. I wouldn’t put “Not endorsed by the unions” on my campaign literature, but I might talk about how sad it is to not get the endorsement but aw shucks the 2010 session sure required some tough choices and we couldn’t make everyone happy, not even ones who have consistently written us checks.

Presidential Gifts: What to Get the Guy Who Can Get Anything in the World

Today I was assigned to do a story about Manette artist Marnie Holt Swenson, whose gift of an oil portrait of the first family was recently acknowledged by President Barack Obama.

As it turns out giving gifts to the president is a complicated process, and in the case of gifts from foreign dignitaries, it involves a lot of protocol. In fact there’s a whole department dedicated to screening, accepting, acknowledging and reciprocating gifts to the president and other employees of the executive branch from foreign officials.

The State Department’s Protocol Gift Unit must document every gift, no matter how small. Data from 2009, Obama’s first year in the White House, has not yet been compiled. Records show some of the more offbeat items received by his predecessor, George W. Bush, include a black Mercedes mountain bike from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a shoe shine kit and CD, “Spirit of the Bush,” from the Governor General of Australia, and the book “1,001 Reasons to Love America” from the Sultan of Brunei.

Other gifts to Bush that caught my eye: Official Dallas Cowboys gear from the Ambassador of Saudi Arabia, a bull moose antler sculpture from the Canadian Prime Minister and 12 bottles of Georgian dry red wine from His Excellency Mikheil Saakashvili, President of Georgia, “handled pursuant to Secret Service policy.”

I understand a Maine microbrewer called “Bill the Beer Guy” has donated a basket of his wares to Obama. Wonder what the secret service will do with that.

State Department gift officials must log the date of the gift, who it came from and the protocol under which it was accepted. The standard response is, “Non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and U.S. Government.”

As it turns out, in some cases, they really shouldn’t have.

If you visit the State Department website, you’ll find a link to archives, presumably the source of information for a post on the Mental Floss blog, ‘Where Knowledge Junkies Get Their Fix.”

According to the blog, the President of Indonesia, thoughtfully, donated to President George H.W. Bush a Komodo dragon. “Perhaps worried that the venomous, flesh-eating lizard wouldn’t play nice with First Dog Millie, Bush donated the dragon, named Naga, to the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden,” the blog says.

Representing a gift to President George H.W. Bush

And talk about gifts that may have missed the mark by a hair, the president of Azerbaijan gave Clinton a carpet that was a portrait of the president and first lady Hillary Clinton. The carpet shows the first couple inside a heart-shaped medallion. “I wanted to convey their lives as one beating heart,” the artist said.

Clinton Carpet

35th Dems Side with Incumbents

The 35th District Democrats met over the weekend and endorsed all three legislative incumbents. State Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch and state Reps. Fred Finn of Olympia and Kathy Haigh of Shelton all received the party’s nod for re-election.

That might not merit even a blog post sometimes, but in the 35th such an endorsement is not a given.

In 2006 the party endorsed Kyle Taylor Lucas over Sheldon, who has always been registered as a Democrat but often votes contrary to how the majority in his party would have him vote.