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And so the interview went — incisive, bold, bipartisan, get-on-with-it advice. But while Hunter would be more of a bull in this china shop, Jarrett would draw on his decades of working with local mayors and other good-government groups to restore trust and better communications. Being from the Legislature, he would have a good shot (as would Hunter) of repairing ties with Olympia, and possibly even Seattle, which have become badly frayed.
So far, the race has not developed a narrative that the public could identify with. One is out there, however, and if it catches on, Jarrett (and Hunter) could be the beneficiaries. It goes this way. The county is broke and it needs some serious reform, not more patchwork fixes. A new leader must have better relations with the state, the city, and local political leaders. The new leader is going to have to talk bluntly with the public employee unions about what can be afforded and how to get better performance. Metro and land use are critical issues, and we are not doing well enough despite some high-minded goals. The people now in the courthouse are not likely to make these changes, since they've created this mess and perpetuate it.
One reason this narrative might get some traction is former Seattle Mayor Charles Royer, who recently endorsed Jarrett. Royer was the runner-up to be the interim county executive — a brief chance for some "fresh eyes" in the county and therefore a way to get the reform ball rolling. Instead, the council elected to stay with Ron Sims' and the unions' choice, Sims' chief of staff Kurt Triplett, despite his strained credibility with the council.
As Royer tells the story, and he's not at all happy with the outcome, the unions and the courthouse insiders didn't want to take a chance on an outsider (though a pro-union Democrat) in the coming months. Numerous union contracts are at stake, and a budget has to be cut further. The protectionist marching orders came down, and the county council ("held captive" by labor, in Royer's words) obliged, with Phillips and Constantine turning out to be the surprise swing votes for Triplett. This is not a story that is going to make a lot of voters, fearful for their jobs in the ordinary world, eager for more of the same at the courthouse.
But it is also inside baseball. Phillips brushes off such issues, saying voters tell him their main concern is jobs and the economy. As for a willingness to change the old regime at the courthouse, Phillips points to his willingness to challenge fellow Democrat Sims months before Sims got his new job and before any of the other Democrats jumped in. He's playing the county experience card, as well parlaying his many institutional endorsements from labor, business, and environmental groups. It's his turn, he almost implies.
There is one more interesting wild card in this intriguing race, and that is the Seattle Mayor's race. If it becomes a hot one (so far, it's very tepid), that would increase the Seattle voter turnout, which in turn helps the Seattle candidates Phillips and Constantine. There are far more voters outside Seattle for the King County race, but Seattle voters turn out more, usually because their races are better covered by the media. But races for the Port, the School Board, and all but one seat on the City Council are lacking in drama this year. It's the county's turn for excitement, if the voters bestir themselves.
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