I miss the local Libertarians

Their absence from the general election, because of Washington's top-two primary, makes protest-voting a lot harder.

My old pal Jack Shafer, Slate's media critic, is a reliable Libertarian Party vote each presidential cycle. This year, he's pulling the lever for Bob Barr — he'd pull the lever for Charles Manson if he was the Lib Party pick. I always turn to Libertarians for my vote in Washington's lieutenant governor race because most of them promise that if elected, they would abolish this expensive, useless office, which proves too much of a temptation for joke candidates, retirees, and pols looking for a nice state job and a platform to indulge their personal interests.

Our Democratic incumbent, the recently knighted Sir Brad Owen, is a classic example of someone who is using the position to make work for himself as a rock star for kids, an anti-pot crusader, and roving trade ambassador. So this year, as Lee at Horse's Ass has suggested, I pulled the lever for the Republican challenger, Marcia McCraw. McCraw has two things going for her: She's not Brad Owen, and she's not endorsed by the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW), a group which usually endorses GOP candidates. Imagine the scenario of a Dino Rossi gubernatorial victory: We'd then have two BIAW boys at the top of the state office pecking order — one in the governor's mansion and one presiding over the state Senate — a kind of bipartisan surprise package. Or, as Lee imagines in another scenario: Gregoire wins, is appointed to an Obama administration, and Owen steps up to the governor's chair.

Our top-two primary system has cleansed Libertarians from statewide offices on the general ballot. I think that's lousy, especially given the difference in turnout between a summer primary and a big November election like this one (80-plus percent predicted). Losing the Libertarians limits choice and the protest-vote factor. I protest.

Knute Berger is Mossback, Crosscut's chief Northwest native. He also writes the monthly Grey Matters column for Seattle magazine and is a weekly Friday guest on Weekday on KUOW-FM (94.9). His newest book is Pugetopolis: A Mossback Takes On Growth Addicts, Weather Wimps, and the Myth of Seattle Nice, published by Sasquatch Books. In 2011, he was named Writer-in-Residence at the Space Needle and is author of Space Needle, The Spirit of Seattle (2012), the official 50th anniversary history of the tower. You can e-mail him at mossback@crosscut.com.


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