Tag Archives: Rob Gelder

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.

County commissioner: Your early picks

Rob Gelder and Chris Tibbs could rematch. Linda Simpson wants to unseat Charlotte Garrido. We won’t know for certain until August whether these four candidates will be the final two in each commissioner race. What we do know is the race will be contested, that there will be two candidates in each race on the November ballot.

And these are the people we know who for now are the only ones going for the job.

So let us who know who your TWO picks are in the survey on the righthand column. Pick one in each race.

Signs of the Kitsap County commissioner campaign

Tristan Baurick is writing a story on the changed political sign culture on Bainbridge Island. I’ve got a sign story of my own to tell.

On Aug. 29 Kitsap County commissioner candidate Chris Tibbs sent a letter to Doug Ellis, interim executive director at the state’s Public Disclosure Commission, and to Sam Reed, secretary of state, about a call made to a vendor of his.

Tibbs, a Republican, said that Dennis Peterson, owner of Kitsap Sign Co., told him Linda Gabriel, campaign manager for Rob Gelder, a Democrat running for the seat he was appointed to earlier this year, called Peterson’s business identifying herself as Tibbs’ campaign manager and asking to see paid invoices.

Gabriel has since said of Peterson’s contention, “If he told him that, he either was mistaken or not telling the truth, but I never said that to him.” Peterson himself has since said he thought that is what she said, but he may have not heard it correctly.

Tibbs’ letter was not an official complaint and he asked what Gabriel would be entitled to. Phil Stutzman from the PDC responded saying that Gabriel was entitled to see what she was asking to see. As for the misrepresentation, “The PDC has no authority to require a person to properly identify who they are when contacting a commercial advertiser, although we hope a person would properly identify him or her self.”

Gabriel had planned to have campaign volunteers go look at the invoices, she said, because Tibbs had not yet posted them with the commission, and there seemed to be far too many signs out there for the receipts that had been recorded. Tibbs has been, in his words, “aggressive” in getting lots of signs out there. She would have been entitled to go look. Vendors are required to show the paperwork they create when it involves campaigns for public office.

Gabriel didn’t send someone, because the receipts were then posted on the PDC site before that was necessary.

That vendors are required to show that info was news to Peterson, because he had never been asked. That’s not surprising, because normally the records are readily available online before it gets to going to vendors. In this case they were not, according to Gabriel.

Personally, I think either Peterson misheard Gabriel, or Gabriel misspoke without realizing it. She said it would be stupid for her, someone who was readily identified as the campaign manager for one candidate, to try to sneak one by a vendor by claiming to be the campaign manager for someone else. I agree. That would be stupid. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that someone from a campaign might try to pull a fast one, but not something so easy to disprove and not for something she was entitled to see anyway.

What further makes me think it was an honest mistake by someone is that Peterson, when I talked to him on the phone, didn’t know who Gelder was. He knew Tibbs, since he’d printed the signs for him. I don’t think Peterson was lying. I think he thought Gabriel said something she did not.

One thing Gabriel and Peterson agree on was that neither liked how they were being treated on that phone call between each other.

A lot of what burns campaign workers at election time is what happens to their signs. Every year, since 2004 anyway, we reporters are asked to look into what campaign workers allege is vandalism to campaign signs. In 2004 there was clear targeting of many George Bush signs. Some of John Kerry’s signs were abused, but it did seem that Bush signs were trashed in far greater numbers.

Since that election I have heard complaints every year, mostly from Republicans. James Olsen on Bainbridge Island has consistently created a list of the destruction to his signs on Bainbridge Island.

On Monday I spoke with Jim Sommerhauser, who until this year could be seen every election planting campaign signs for the Democratic Party. Sommerhauser said a campaign can count on losing about half of its signs during a campaign. The vast majority of those losses, he said, are caused by what he described as “kids” going after an easy target. He said most of it is not really aimed at a candidate for reasons other than availability, but sometimes kids respond to their parents’ open opinions about candidates by acting out in ways an adult would not. About 10 percent of the vandalism, he said, is intentional.

Another cause is when candidates don’t know the rules about where signs can go. State right of way is off limits. County right of way is fine for the smaller signs in most of the county, as long as they’re not put on mowed areas or have the wire holders. On Bainbridge Island the property owner next to the county right of way must be notified. In Bremerton and Port Orchard signs are not allowed on public right of way, period. All this is according to a rule sheet Sommerhauser hands out to other Democrats.

Sommerhauser, on that same sheet, advises how to place signs to reduce vandalism, but also makes the case to not overdo them. He says candidates should not try to “outsign” opponents, and that a sign in someone’s yard carries endorsement value a sign along a random point in the road does not.

Tibbs has tried to outsign Gelder, and for the most part he’s done it. You see one Tibbs sign, you might see six. There is also good evidence to support that Tibbs signs are being pulled and dumped on the ground in greater numbers than anyone else’s. The picture above comes from Tibbs’ Facebook site. The site isn’t dedicated to sign vandalism, it’s for his campaign, but he did post some pictures.

Law enforcement has not generally placed a high priority on policing this stuff when they hear about it. It’s not that they don’t respond to calls, but I haven’t heard of too many people being caught. I’d like to see someone vandalizing a sign just so I could get to the motive.

Sometimes the vandals are doing it in public enough that another citizen will notice. Here is an audio recording of a woman’s call to 911 when she saw someone dumping signs.

      1. signvandal

Tibbs provided the audio here and showed me the police report. That report shows several signs on the ground. They all belong to Tibbs. Other signs, for Bremerton City Council candidate Faye Flemister are left standing. The two theories are that his signs are being targeted either because he is a Republican, or because there are so many of his signs out there, way more than anyone else. I’m guessing some of you have an opinion about that.