There was a primary election in Washington yesterday, Aug. 21, the first time in memory a primary here hasn't been held in September, and Crosscut's pundits were possibly the only people who noticed. So here's what they are thinking. We'll add to this discussion through the day. Feel free to weigh in yourself in the comments below.
Campaign 101: Spending wisely
O. Casey Corr: Next to the vote totals, the numbers most analyzed after a primary are the "cash-on-hand" figures. Those numbers can be suggestive of several things, such as the nervousness of a candidate as she or he approached the primary. In a crowded primary, the pressure is on candidates to spend money on direct mail, win some votes through that effort, and not look weak in the vote totals. Balancing that is a desire to hoard cash to finance a direct-mail blitz for the general. Generally speaking, incumbents should get 50 percent or more of a primary vote total.
Let's look at one race, Position 3 of the Seattle City Council.
Venus VelÃ¡zquez did great in the votes, capturing 42 percent in early returns. Her Aug. 14 Full Summary (C4) disclosure showed a cash-on-hand balance of $38,367, which became a negative balance of $20,609 when you counted her obligations to consultants and others, including a loan to herself of $3,500.
Since that date, of course, she could have pulled in many dollars. I'm not counting any of the reported donations since Aug. 14. But the numbers suggest how much she risked to make the strong showing. She spent everything and more to get through the primary.
As I write this, VelÃ¡zquez is almost certainly on the phone to donors, talking up her good showing and asking for another check to get across the finish line. Some calls will go to potential donors who wanted to see how she'd do in the primary before giving money. Now she has something to tell them.
Her opponent, Bruce Harrell, shows a cash-on-hand figure of $65,987, which shrinks to a net balance of $12,819 after liabilities are counted, including a loan to himself of $4,300. His higher balance may suggest he felt a little more confident approaching the primary, but doubtless both he and VelÃ¡zquez considered the possible impact of the candidacy of Al Runte, a 2005 mayoral candidate who came in a distant third in this race.
According to the Aug. 14 reports, VelÃ¡zquez had raised a total of $124,595 to Harrell's $156,072. These numbers suggest that Harrell's position is better than it seems from vote totals alone, but he's not likely to talk publicly about that. "Cash on hand" is inside baseball. If your phone is ringing as you read this, it's Bruce or Venus, asking for money.
A moderate lawmaker loses
Chris Vance: According to David Postman's blog, Sen. Jim Clements, a relatively moderate Republican, lost to a conservative challenger in a special election in Yakima.
This is very significant, as it is the first time that a moderate legislator of either party has lost to a more conservative (or more liberal) challenger under our new pick-a-party primary system.
Clements often worked with Democrats on issues, supported raising the gas tax, and voted to put this fall's measure to repeal our state's 60 percent vote requirement to pass school levys on the ballot. Will his defeat have a chilling affect on bipartisanship and embolden more ideological candidates?
Update: I just spoke to a reporter with the Yakima Herald-Republic. He says that one factor in Clements' defeat was the fact that his challenger, Curtis King, rang thousands of doorbells, and Clements did not. It wouldn't be the first time a veteran lawmaker was ousted by a challenger who simply worked harder.
I think sweat may have been as much a factor as ideology in this Yakima upset.
Jane Hague's poor showing
Knute Berger: Can you be unopposed in a primary and still have a bad day? Yes, if you're Jane Hague. It was revealed on Tuesday, Aug. 21, that the King County Council member had been charged in July with a DUI after an incident in early June – a fact that flew under the radar until primary day. According to The Seattle Times, Hague faces a judge in Redmond next week. (Hmmm. What's Bobbe Bridge doing these days?)
The Times reports that Hague blew readings of 0.135 percent and 0.141 percent (.08 is legally drunk). Hague claims she'd only had two glasses of wine. According to a Virginia Tech Web site on the effects of alcohol, a reading in that range would manifest itself in terms of personality with over-expression, emotional swings, anger or sadness, and boisterousness. It would impair a person's reaction time, gross motor control, and cause staggering and slurred speech.
The King County Sheriff's deputy who stopped her said she was driving erratically and had to grab onto the car to keep from falling. She was also "sarcastic and condescending," called the arrest "ridiculous," and used foul language.
Doesn't sound like Mel Gibson, but then, he only blew a 0.12.
Hague's lawyer promises to defend her "vigorously." One hopes.
It looks like Republican Hague's opponent could wind up being perennial candidate and gadfly Richard Pope, who has run for office – any office – nearly every year since 1996: prosecutor, assessor, attorney general, judge, port commissioner, everything but bikini inspector.
He jumped into the primary as a Democrat at the last minute when the party failed to recruit its own candidate. If Hague's troubles mount, Pope could possibly prove Woody Allen's famous dictum: "Eighty percent of success is showing up."
Chris Vance: Regarding "Republican Bill Bryant," referred to by David Brewster below, this is exactly the sort of thing that makes Republicans hate the liberal media. Bill Bryant is running for a nonpartisan office. He is endorsed by prominent Democrats like Jan Drago, Cecil Andrus, Alex Alben, and David Dicks, the man just chosen by a Democratic governor to lead the new Puget Sound restoration effort. Yet his partisanship is used to define him. I don't mean to sound like a Dittohead calling into the Rush Limbaugh show, but truly one wonders if the mainstream media will ever realize that their obvious liberal bias is what has caused their decline.
Campaign 101: Defining your 'victory'
O. Casey Corr: If we were sticklers about math, we might wait days or even weeks before conclusions are reached about the primary election. After all, shouldn't we be cautious about pronouncements drawn from "early returns," a tally of just 18 percent of the votes? But that's not how it works. On primary election night, reporters and supporters want an immediate reaction to numbers. But if you are a candidate, you must seize the opportunity to define events to your advantage. Doing this well is important, because campaign messages affect whether you can build momentum for the rest of the campaign.
In short, no matter what the numbers, you want to create an impression that you are the winneror coming on strong, which makes your the winner by November. Either way, you're the winner. (For an example of doing this well, Bill Clinton called himself the "Comeback Kid" after a second-place showing in the 1992 New Hampshire primary.)
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