Category Archives: Election 2016

Bold prediction alert: Trump won’t win

It’s tempting to get mad at the national media for either A. Giving Donald Trump too much attention, or B. Discounting his chances at winning. If I were to pick one, for me it would be A. I suspected he had no chance, and for reasons I will show you I think the data bears that out.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

The national media, as tough as it might be to offer, deserves a little slack. While the chattering class might be faulted for how it covers Trump, it can’t legitimately ignore someone who is leading a 17-person field aiming for the most powerful position in the world.

My sense from the beginning was that Trump’s popularity has a peak that settles somewhere south, way south, of 50 percent of the Republican Party. That by itself isn’t a problem. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, for example, might only have 5 percent support. Trump wins, right?

Not necessarily. The bigger issue for Trump, assuming he really does want to do anything besides boost his brand, is that those who feel negative about him represent more than 50 percent of the Republican Party. Kasich might only have something around 5 percent support, but that’s among 17 candidates. If you put Kasich, or Marco Rubio, or Scott Walker, or Jeb Bush one-on-one against Trump, the Donald gets crushed every time.

The way to illustrate this is by mapping out a ranked-choice election process. Ranked-choice is where a voter gets to pick a candidate in order of priority. After one round, the candidate with the least number of votes is removed. If that’s your candidate, your vote goes to the candidate who was your second choice. You keep removing the candidate with the lowest number of votes until you get someone who has more than 50 percent.

Highly unscientific ranked-choice voting scenario.
Highly unscientific ranked-choice voting scenario. Click on the image to see a larger version.

I mapped out that kind of process using an adjusted version of a Rasmussen Poll. I took the undecided voters and assigned them to the candidates proportionately. With George Pataki getting zero percent, no one picks anything up when he gets eliminated. When former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore was removed, I divided his 1 percent among the seven other candidates who had been governor. When Santorum exited I split his 1 percent between Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee, a Christian split. Lindsay Graham’s votes went to senators, Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal to governors, Mike Huckabee to governors and Carson, Rand Paul to a split of three candidates, etc. I was guessing the whole way, so there is no way this example is based in too much fact.

But don’t interpret that to mean that I’m underestimating Trump. I felt fine in only adding votes for Trump when two other never-been-elected candidates, Carly Fiorina and Carson, were removed and in the last round. I figured Trump might get votes from people who don’t want to vote for another Bush. In the end I think I was far too generous to think that Trump could get 40 percent of the Republican Party vote.

Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight makes this same point, probably and not surprisingly, better than I do.

“I’ve seen a lot written about how Trump’s candidacy heralds a new type of populism. If it does, this type of populism isn’t actually very popular. Trump’s overall favorability ratings are miserable, about 30 percent favorable and 60 percent unfavorable, and they haven’t improved (whatever gains he’s made among Republicans have been offset by his declines among independents and Democrats). To some extent, the 30 percent may like Trump precisely because they know the 60 percent don’t like him. More power to the 30 percent: I have plenty of my own issues with the political establishment. But running a campaign that caters to (for lack of a better term) contrarians is exactly how you ensure that you’ll never reach a majority.

It’s those high numbers of people who don’t like Trump that make me think he would lose in a one-on-one against almost all 16 of the other candidates.

Silver is making a similar case on the Democratic side, that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders might have seen his peak. But it’s for different reasons. Sanders saw a surge in his poll numbers as people got to know him. Now that everybody knows who he is, you can expect the momentum for him slow to what Silver calls a “slog.”

Unlike Trump, though, Sanders doesn’t have high unfavorability numbers within the party. This means a lot of Democrats won’t vote for him, but they still like him. If he was the only choice they wouldn’t have to hold their noses when they voted. Trump can’t say the same thing.

Silver contends Sanders could win a couple of states. It’s more likely those would be caucus states, where the candidate decision is made by the most passionate within each party. In 2008 Barack Obama did enjoy a small margin of victory over Hillary Clinton in the national popular vote, but where he really sealed up his delegates was in caucus states.

Sanders could win in Washington. Based on the crowds, even with the interruption, he has lots of support here. In 2008 Obama received 68 percent of the caucus vote to Clinton’s 31 percent. Ten days later he won the primary by three percentage points.



Who is your pick for president today?

We want to be careful with our use of metaphors when we suggest we are limiting your choices, so I will make no reference to weapons being pointed anywhere. Nonetheless, let me make this clear. We want you to tell us who, if you had to choose today, would be your pick for president among the current field of Republicans and Democrats.

The survey is on the right side of this page.

Grab your snacks. This show lasts another 15 months.
Grab your snacks. This show lasts another 15 months.

We included all 17 declared Republican candidates, the five declared Democrats, and Vice President Joe Biden, because he has not definitively said whether he will run. Even though rumors persist about Democrat Elizabeth Warren and 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney, we left them out because they have both said they will not. We also left out the other parties. That could change in the future.

This question comes a few hours before 10 Republicans occupy the main stage and seven get a forum nicknamed “the kids’ table” for the first major debate of the 2016 campaign season. Democrats are waiting until October to start their live arguments.

Carly Fiorina’s name is first because I alphabetized all 23 candidates, then drew a number to determine whose name would appear first.

One reason I wanted to do this was because of a question Travis Couture, Mason County Republican Party chairman, asked on Facebook Wednesday, whether he knew anyone whose first choice was Jeb Bush. I thought it was a great question. When I see people speak up online, it’s for Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. I might be missing someone, but it’s not Jeb Bush. He rates relatively high in the polls, but that doesn’t seem to translate into bigtime support among the online comment gallery. I did see a few people express appreciation for what Donald Trump has been saying, but those people didn’t say whether he’d be their first choice for president.

In the New York Times on Thursday Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said America deserves a “servant leader.”

“Our country is in desperate need of servant leaders, of men and women willing to kneel and embrace those who are not like them. Everyone seeking the presidency professes great love for our nation. But I ask myself, how can you be a genuine public servant if you belittle your fellow citizens and freeze out people who hold differing views?”

That is probably a wish for someone who already won the job, not for someone trying to get it. There will be belittling aplenty for the next 15 months.

Local push to stop corporate campaign funding

On primary election day a number north of a dozen and south of two dozen showed up at state Sen. Tim Sheldon’s office in Shelton to encourage action for a future election. They plan to be at state Sen. Jan Angel’s office on Wednesday.

What they’re asking for is an amendment to the U.S. Constitution declaring that corporations are not people and that money does not equal speech.


This comes within days after former President Jimmy Carter told an interviewer that the United States has become an oligarchy with bribery the prime way of getting things done.

“So, now we’ve just seen a subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect, and sometimes get, favors for themselves after the election is over.” — Former President Jimmy Carter

A House Bill, HJR 34, supporting a Constitutional Amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision,  was introduced in 2013 and U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer signed on as a co-sponsor. There were 75 co-sponsors on that bill. Every one was a Democrat, which for now probably gives you an idea of what the chances are of the amendment having any chance at all. We do not live in bipartisan times.

This year’s bill, HJR 22, has 136 co-sponsors, including Kilmer and one Republican. A Senate version, SJR 5, has 39 co-sponsors. Sen. Patty Murray is one. Sen. Maria Cantwell is not. No Republicans have signed onto the Senate version. (These sentences were added after this post was originally published.)

There is a separate bill, HJR 48, that only had eight co-sponsors. Kilmer is not among them.

The amendment will surely be proposed in future sessions until it passes or the appetite for the argument goes away. That there could be a national incident that influences the electorate to get Congress’ attention is one way sentiment behind this idea could change.

The local effort takes a different tack, getting voters to back the idea and hoping that reluctant members of Congress from this state take notice.

WAmend, the Washington Coalition to Amend the Constitution is the group behind the local petitioning effort, and the move to get signatures for a 2016 ballot initiative that would urge our members of Congress to get the Amendment process and our legislators to vote for the Amendment when it’s our turn to vote.

The group has a letter from legislators to members of Congress, a letter that has 24 signatures. They come from 23 Democrats (Every one except Sheldon) and one Republican, Mark Miloscia, who used to be a Democrat. One more signature and they have a majority.

On Aug. 17, David Cobb, who is the founding member of the national organization Move to Amend, will be speaking locally. The event runs 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Eagle Harbor Congregational Church, 105 Winslow Way West on Bainbridge Island.

The video that follows recalls a visit by the “Ben” of the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream company, Ben Cohen, when he visited Kitsap a year ago to drum up support for the effort.

Bryant believes he is a better fit for governor than Inslee

A week ago we introduced you to Bill Bryant, Republican candidate for governor. He stopped by the office before heading over to friends hosting him for Whaling Days. That introduction was largely biographical. Here we deal with issues.

Bryant, as you might expect, takes issue with current Gov. Jay Inslee, the Bainbridge Island Democrat elected governor in 2012, on a host of issues.

Republican candidate for governor Bill Bryant
Republican candidate for governor Bill Bryant

First off, Bryant says as a Republican representing Seattle as a Port of Seattle commissioner, he has to work across the aisle to get things done. Over the years most of his political contributions have gone to Republicans, but there have been a few to Democrats, including the $500 he gave then Congressman Inslee in 1994. That demonstrates, he said, his willingness to be bipartisan. “You will see it not only in who give money to, but in who gives money to me,” he said.

Bryant said Inslee’s record is less bipartisan, and said a letter sent by 25 House Republicans, including Kitsap Caucus members Jesse Young, Michelle Caldier and Drew MacEwen, made the case that Inslee can’t effectively cross party lines. “There’s a feeling that this governor cannot pull people together and cannot get things done,” Bryant said. “There is a big difference between being a congressman and being a governor.”

This is, of course, contrasted by Inslee’s comments this week in front of the Kitsap Sun editorial board where he praised the Legislature for what it accomplished this session. It shouldn’t have taken so long, he said, but what emerged at the end was significant.

Bryant built a business helping businesses export internationally, said he worked closely with former Gov. Chris Gregoire and has a relationship with ports throughout the state. He said it’s critical to keep the Puget Sound ports attractive. Where ports in California are largely importing products staying in that state, much of what arrives in the Pacific Northwest goes to the Midwest, so it could just easily come in through Vancouver, BC or Oregon.

The port commissioner said he’d try to encourage more tourism among an audience already coming her, cruise customers. He said the average stay from them now is two days, but he’d like to see it double to four.

Where Bryant is likely to see his loudest critics during his run is with those critical of the port for voting to allow Shell’s Arctic drilling fleet to dock in Seattle. He said the votes against the Shell drill from coming her was “symbolism at the expense of the middle class.”

“I will never take a position that does nothing for the environment, but costs middle class jobs,” he said.

The Arctic drilling exploration had already been approved by the Obama administration, he said, and the there was no threat from the rigs that were here. He said his first question in any issue like this would be whether it could damage the Puget Sound. “If there was any chance of an oil spill I would have been out in a kayak.”

Bryant is critical of Inslee’s cap-and-trade proposal, saying it would influence local companies to relocate. That, he said, would mean Washington’s air would be cleaner, but because those companies would be operating in places with more lax standards, the planet would not be cleaner. He favors instead incentives to companies to offer new technology to operate with less pollution. That also means encouraging hydro power.

On education Bryant favors diverting some juniors and seniors out of traditional high school curriculum in favor of training them for jobs that pay well and don’t require traditional college training. He said there are jobs on the Seattle waterfront that meet that standard, offering middle class wages after 18 months of learning on the job. He said owners of some companies are leaving the state in part because of the regulatory environment, but also because there isn’t a readily available workforce.

So far Bryant has raised about $422,000 and spent $73,000, according to Public Disclosure Commission documents. Inslee has raised $1.4 million and spent $1 million. Another Republican candidate, Javier Lopez, has not raised or spent any money.

Once a financial contributor, now an opponent

Bill Bryant, Republican candidate for Washington governor
Bill Bryant, Republican candidate for Washington governor

If you have been paying attention at all to politics lately it has either been for the primary we have going on right now or for the presidential election next year. We do have candidates running for governor in 2016, however, and two of them have a connection that at least one of them didn’t know about.

Bill Bryant, the first person to officially throw his name in the ring running for Washington governor in 2016, is in town for Whaling Days this weekend, invited by friends here. He stopped by the office to meet us and to talk about his thoughts on what a governor should do. We’re assuming incumbent Gov. Jay Inslee, a Bainbridge Island Democrat, is running, too, unless he has other plans. We asked once, but he didn’t confirm or deny.

Bryant grew up in Hoodsport, then Olympia, went to college at Georgetown and returned to Washington, where he runs an international trade company in Seattle . He is also a commissioner for the Port of Seattle.

Republicans haven’t had one of their own in the governor’s office since John Spellman left the office in 1985. Bryant believes he can win because he will do better than other Republicans have in Seattle, having represented the city for the port. We’ll get to the issues later next week.

Make no mistake, Bryant cites big differences between himself and the governor. But in 1994, when Inslee was running for a second term in Congress from Yakima, Bryant was one of his contributors. According to the campaign finance tracking site, Bryant gave Inslee $500. Inslee lost that campaign as part of the Republican Party’s “Contract with America,” then moved to Bainbridge Island, and a few years later began a new Congressional career.

Bryant didn’t remember contributing to the campaign, but said that in his business he was working with international governments, the Washington apple industry and government officials, including Inslee, to open up foreign markets for the state’s signature crop. He said he probably had a friend who invited him to a fundraiser and that he likely made a contribution.


In 2009 he gave another $500 to Democrat Patty Murray for her U.S. Senate re-election bid against Republican Dino Rossi, though he voted for Rossi, he said. Bryant has contributed often to political campaigns, most often, but not always, to Republican candidates. He financially supported Rossi’s runs for governor, John McCain’s 2008 presidential run and George W. Bush during both of his campaigns.

Next week I’ll write more about the visit and will discuss the encouragement to run he received from 25 House Republicans, including three from the Kitsap Caucus.

FEC – Frozen Election Commission

If you ever wondered what the Federal Election Commission does, for the last few years it’s pretty much been not much, if anything.

That’s troubling to some and not others. Troubling to many because the agency is charged with being the referee when it comes to campaign finance. With a presidential election on the horizon the agency’s oversight of the millions raised and spent could play a factor in the race. Others say the agency’s inertia is just fine, that things should be obviously bad before the agency determines money was raised or spent in violation of federal election laws.

You can have a bagel or a doughnut at the party because the commission couldn't agree on which to provide. You think I'm kidding, don't you.
You can have a bagel or a doughnut at the party because the commission couldn’t agree on which to provide. You think I’m kidding, don’t you.

U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, takes the view that gridlock on the commission is hurting democracy. He introduced a bill, nabbing a couple of Republicans to join him that would make it easier for the commission to make a decision, something it hasn’t found easy to do for some time now.

The FEC was created in 1975 as a response to the Watergate scandal. Election violation questions go to the commission. To prevent partisan decision-making on the oversight board Congress decided to have it made up of three from each of the two major parties. In the past the commission has been able to make decisions by breaking ties on a regular basis. Not so much lately.

The commission has become so clearly divided that for a party celebrating the organization’s 40-year anniversary, commissioners could agree whether to sever bagels or doughnuts, according to a New York Times piece that goes to painful detail into how dysfunctional the commission is. Members compromised and provided both, a rare act of the commission actually accomplishing something.

Kilmer would change that by changing the makeup of the commission to two from each party and one non-partisan representative. Finding a non-partisan is possible, and the concept appears to have worked with Washington’s Redistricting Commission.

There is reason to suspect the bill won’t go far. Despite the appearance of two Republicans as cosponsors, party members generally are not inclined to do something to make the commission more active. The Times piece illustrates this.

Republican members of the commission see no such crisis. They say they are comfortable with how things are working under the structure that gives each party three votes. No action at all, they say, is better than overly aggressive steps that could chill political speech.

“Congress set this place up to gridlock,” Lee E. Goodman, a Republican commissioner, said in an interview. “This agency is functioning as Congress intended. The democracy isn’t collapsing around us.”

And a Time Magazine piece (Kilmer is quoted in the article.) detailing how the agency can’t even hire a lead attorney seems to make the same case that getting this to the President’s desk is going to be a tough sell.

GovTrack.US gives the bill a 2 percent chance of becoming law.

Is Brad Owen considering retirement?

Lt. Gov. Brad Owen speaks at a salmon tasting in Taiwan.
Lt. Gov. Brad Owen speaks at a salmon tasting in Taiwan.
KING-5 TV has some pretty strong evidence that Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, who represented the 24th and 35th Legislative Districts in the Legislature for 20 years, is considering retirement at the end of this term. Owen’s office is not giving any public clues, but the station got emails through public records requests that make the case retirement is a real possibility. And there’s the rationale for keeping that consideration mum:

(Owen aide Ken) “Camp recommends not announcing plans to retire as it could result in the office losing some of its funding: ‘Another consideration is that if we let them know you’re definitely retiring, the Governor and the Legislature may try to reduce the budget. I’m not a fan of telling OFM [Office of Financial Management] that you’re retiring at this point so that they don’t have a reason to cut our budget and because if we formally tell people you’re retiring they’ll just start writing you off and making you irrelevant.'”

Owen’s Lt. Gov. bio mentions that he’s been in office since getting elected in 1996. He lives in Shelton and represented the 24th Legislative District in the House from 1977 to 1983 and the 35th Legislative District in the Senate from 1983 to 1997. When he left the Senate after getting elected as lieutenant governor, he was replaced by party appointment by Lena Swanson, who then lost the next election to Tim Sheldon.

The job entails acting as governor while the governor is away, being president of the Senate and taking a large role in the state’s international trade missions.

Updated — Solid reasons to give a Bush-Clinton contest the edge

The Los Angeles Times has an informative piece showing why Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton have one clear edge in seeking the presidential nomination from their parties.

Because neither are currently working for any government, they’re free to pile up money using Super PACs as long they don’t say that they are running for president. For Clinton, who for the time being seems to be the only serious contender on the Democratic side, this could be a moot issue until she emerges as the nominee.

For Bush it’s a bigger deal, because as of right now the Republican field is competitive. To his advantage is that the other main contenders all have government jobs.

“Bush did declare he would impose a total cap on how much each donor could contribute, according to the Washington Post. But it wasn’t the $5,000 maximum that those in the race are limited to asking for by law. It was $1 million.”

Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are all prohibited from coordinating with Super PACs. The governors, Chris Christie and Scott Walker, might have state rules prohibiting them from raising money from organizations that do business with their states.

Bush is under no restriction, he believes. The Federal Elections Commission could argue otherwise, but critics contend it doesn’t do that often enough.

UPDATE: Turns out Ted Cruz has proven adept at raising money, at least the Super PACs supporting him have. The Washington Post reports the Super PACs supporting Cruz $31 million in a week.

Some history on Wyman’s request to have Washington presidential primaries count

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 2.04.48 PMWashington Secretary of State Kim Wyman is proposing the state’s political parties use the presidential primary results to allocate at least some part of their delegates to the national political conventions. And she has provided a carrot, or maybe it’s a stick, to get them to go along.

Some history is in order.

In 2008 Washington Republicans allocated half their delegates from the February primary, which according to the Secretary of State’s office is what they have always done. The Democrats allocated none in 2008. It would have played more of a factor on the Democratic side, too, because Barack Obama won by a big margin in the caucuses, but just by a few points in the state primary, a reflection of what happened nationwide. Clinton fared much better with everyday Democratic voters across the country, while Obama did well with people more willing to take a day off to weigh in at the caucuses.

Of the state’s pledged 78 Democratic delegates in 2008, 52 went to Obama and 26 went to Clinton. Had Democrats done what Republicans did, the margin would have been 26-13 from the caucuses, and something like 20-18 from the primary, with John Edwards picking up the straggler. The final delegate count combining the caucus and primary would have been Obama 46, Clinton 31, and Edwards 1. The Edwards delegate would have probably ended up in Obama’s totals.

Obama ended up winning the national pledged delegate count by 102 delegates, but didn’t secure the majority until June. And by the time the Feb. 9, 2008 caucuses began he was only up by 11 delegates overall.

Looking back at how the election played out, had Washington Democrats done what Republicans did with the primary in 2008, the ultimate result would likely have been the same. Obama would have won. But perhaps there are some who could argue that a five-delegate shift, which amounts to 10 points in the margin, could have made a psychological difference. The fact is, though, we don’t know how many people skipped out on the 2008 Washington presidential primary or voted Republican, because the Democratic primary was a taxpayer-funded beauty contest.

The reason we have a presidential primary at all is because voters submitted an initiative to the Legislature in 1989 asking for one. In 2012 (Just as it did in 2004.) the state suspended the presidential primary to save $10 million. As the law stands now the parties don’t have to recognize the numbers from the primary. Bills in the House, HB 2139, and Senate, SB 5978, would change that.

If each party agrees to allocate part of their delegate count from the primary, voters would have to declare a party for that election and choose among that party’s candidates. Your party prefence selection would be a matter of public record, so if you pick a Republican or Democratic ballot, everyone in the state has the right to know that. If you sit out the election no one will know which party you prefer. If the parties don’t agree the state would create a single ballot with every candidate’s name. In no circumstance would anyone know who you voted for.

That, in fact, is where the carrot and stick come in. The state Republican and Democratic parties both love getting the lists of which voters picked which party. They haven’t received one of those since 2008, so a fresh list would update their data for fundraising and mailing. Under the terms of this law, if they don’t each allocate at least part of their pledged national delegates from the primary, there is no such list, because the Secretary of State would create one ballot that tells the parties nothing.

Presidential primaries do more for parties in years when there is no incumbent running, because in theory each race has a real contest. Another reason for parties to like primaries comes in years when candidates at the extreme end of party philosophy capture less affection from regular voters than they do from the more devoted. In 2008 any of the Democratic frontrunners could have fared well in November and Dennis Kucinich wasn’t getting enough support even at the caucuses to threaten Obama, Clinton or Edwards, so strategically the party could afford to ignore the primary. For Republicans in 2008 the thorn to the party bosses was Ron Paul, who received  8 percent of the primary vote (compared to 50 percent for John McCain), but 22 percent at the state caucuses, just 3 percentage points behind McCain.

The Legislature has to allocate funds to have the primary. Kitsap County would spend an estimated $345,000 to hold the election, but like all counties would be reimbursed by the state.

A story we reported in 2008 from the presidential primary follows.

Continue reading

Thomas Steyer considering a run at California Senate seat

Thomas Steyer, often described as "a billionaire," might run for a U.S. Senate seat in California. That could have an impact on Washington state politics.
Thomas Steyer, often described as “a billionaire,” might run for a U.S. Senate seat in California. That could have an impact on Washington state politics.

In this story from Roll Call comes the news that Thomas Steyer, who spent $1.25 million in the 2014 election in Washington and $525,000 in 2013 in the 26th Legislative District Senate race, is considering a run for the U.S. Senate.

On Tuesday he wrote on Huffington Post, “I will decide soon based on what I think is the best way to continue the hard work we’ve already started together to prevent climate disaster and preserve American prosperity.”

For us the question is whether this means he would stop donating money to out-of-state races while he’s running and should he win. I reached out to Steyer’s NextGen Climate organization and received no response.

Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the DC-based campaign finance watchdog organization Center for Responsive Politics, answered by email that she didn’t know of any precedent that could predict how Steyer would respond.

But there is nothing to prevent him from continuing to make contributions down to state and local level according to whatever limits those states allow,” Krumholz wrote.

The California race promises to be expensive, though, and even a billionaire can eventually run out of money.

Steyer’s money played a big role in the drama, though not so much the result, in the 2013 26th Legislative District election battled between appointed incumbent state Sen. Nathan Schlicher, a Democrat, and the eventual winner, Republican Jan Angel.

This ad from 2013 could be changed in the future to read, "California Billionare Extremist Senator ..." after 2016. They might add "Voted with (Insert liberal senator name here.) 96% of the time."
This ad from 2013 could be changed in the future to read, “California Billionare Extremist Senator …” after 2016. They might add “Voted with Al Franken 96% of the time.”

Elected officials do contribute to each other. Krumholz provided a link to a list of candidates who contributed lots to other candidates. They’re limited to $5,000 per candidate. The link leads with, “Members of Congress in safe seats are often asked to contribute some of their campaign funds to candidates in need.” The top donor was Eric Cantor at nearly $1.9 million. His seat turned out to be not so safe.

Steyer, should he win, would replace U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, a Democrat who went from the House to the Senate following the 1992 election. The Roll Call story makes the case that it would be tough for a current member of Congress to make the same leap Boxer did, because California congressional districts have a smaller proportional footprint than in any other state. California has 53 seats in the House.

For a representative whose name is known primarily in only 1/53 of the state, it’s tough to imagine getting play in the other 52/53.

A couple of other things that are worth noting from the story.

  • Experts are predicting this race will cost more than $100 million.
  • California uses a top-two primary system and leans far enough left that it’s not unreasonable to think that the two final candidates could both be Democrats.

Talking Points Memo has a story that focuses exclusively on Steyer and his strengths (money) and his weaknesses (money) should he run.


Couture rethinks his GOP exit; takes charge in Mason County

Travis Couture is a Republican again.

And he’s in charge.

Couture, who ran for state Senate against two Democrats and felt so little support from official party sources that he wrote one letter setting afire the bridge between him and the state Republican party and another metaphorically filing for party divorce, was elected Mason County Republicans chairman on Tuesday.

Republican precinct committee officers voted for Couture over Jerry Cummings, the previous county party chairman. Cummings loses despite the fact he was in the chairman seat in the year Dan Griffey beat Democrat Kathy Haigh to claim a place in the state House of Representatives. It was Griffey’s third attempt. In less encouraging news for Republicans, though, only one Republican, County Prosecutor Michael Dorcy, ran for county office. Dorcy ran unopposed.

Couture’s ascent to county party leader was unimaginable in August. On July 31 he wrote a letter to Washington State Republican Party Chairwoman Susan Hutchison and unleashed his anger at the party’s implicit support of incumbent state Sen. Tim Sheldon, a Potlatch Democrat. While Sheldon files for office saying he prefers the Democratic party, he caucuses with Republicans. Couture bristled at the state GOP party’s failure to support him. He called Hutchison “the biggest disgrace to this party” he had seen in some time and blamed her and people like her for the party’s weakness in recent years.

Couture nearly qualified for the general election anyway, finishing 2 percentage points behind Sheldon and 4 points behind Democrat Irene Bowling.

Five days after the primary Couture unleashed his exit message in a “To whom it may concern” message on Facebook. Among his messages were that he had consistently been undermined by other Republicans in two elections he ran in and another he managed. He said the two-party system was “destroying America” because there was little difference between the two main parties. He then painted a bleak picture.

“It is like we grassroots conservatives and libertarians are like the battered wife, and the party is the abusive husband. Every night it comes through the front door to abuse us. We stay with it because we really believe it can change someday, but the beating continues. The rational person would tell us to run away from this abusive relationship, and here we are with a hard decision to make.
“How much longer are we willing to sacrifice our time, treasure, and energy to a party that kicks us around?”

He said in the letter that he and others were in the early stages of forming a “Libertarian Coalition.”

That’s all gone now.

On Wednesday Couture didn’t want to talk a lot about those days. “Sometimes elections can be rough and things are said.”

“We’re looking to move forward and build on the momentum,” Couture said. “We’re not looking at the past here. We’re looking at the future. We have a bright future ahead in the Republican Party in Mason County.”

State Rep. Drew MacEwen, R-Union, voiced some of the same sentiment. “What’s in the past is in the past and we’re moving forward. That was the vote of the elected PCOs. We’re all on the same page and we’re going to work for a united party.”

Couture said the new county party board has a fair mix of members from different parts of the county. Among the goals are defending two House seats the party holds in the 35th Legislative District and challenging for two county commissioner seats. “One thing we’ve resolved is we’re intent on electing Republicans,” he said. The two county commissioner seats up for election in 2016 are occupied by Sheldon, and Randy Neatherlin, who stated no party preference even though he ran for state Legislature twice as a Republican. Whatever benefits Sheldon and Neatherlin offer Republicans, neither wears the party label now.