AN ELEPHANT NEVER FORGETS
While they may have received a trouncing on the national scene, at least the Pierce County Republican Party not only successfully retained all their local legislative seats (including Congressman Dave Reichert and State Senator Mike Carrell) it looks like they also ousted six-term State Senator Marilyn Rasmussen with Randi Becker – effectively transforming the 2nd LD into Pierce County’s big red bulge.
The most recent IRV results suggest that the GOP did exceptionally well in county government races too, including: keeping at least one Bush in office – County Councilmember Roger Bush that is – plus adding former State Representative Joyce McDonald to the council to fill Calvin Goings old seat, effectively giving the local Republican Party a five out of seven seat majority on the county council. It also looks likely that Pierce County Crazy candidate, Dale Washam, will be our new County Treasurer. I’ve never met Mr. Washam but if the rumors are true, GOD HELP US ALL!
As for the highly competitive Pierce County Executive Race, all informed sources continue to say that the race between Democrat Pat McCarthy and Republican Shawn Bunney is too close to call.
On the whole the GOP did exceptionally well in Pierce County, despite having lost to Senator Obama and more significantly Governor Gregoire, who lost Pierce to Dino Rossi in 2004.
The GOP did surprisingly well elsewhere in the state too. The Tacoma News Tribune’s Joe Turner is now predicting that the Democrats will lose 3 seats in the State House, reducing their margin of control from a 63-35 majority to a 60-38 seat lead.
How do we account for such successes despite the political climate of the past few months? It’s hard to say. Perhaps the Democrats spent too much time and capital worrying about the governor’s race to give their other candidates the attention they needed. Perhaps local media outlets with fairly conservative bents – such as the TNT – were able to provide the GOP with the right quotes and endorsements to give local candidates the ammunition they needed to sway a by-and-large uninformed electorate. Perhaps the many failures of the Democratic State Legislature to move on key issues in swing districts – such as finalizing a location for the U.W. North Campus – disenchanted independents in those districts, whilst the conservative leadership of Speaker Chopp made progressive Democrats resentful and unwilling to vote down the ticket.
Then again, perhaps the local parties failed to effectively implement a campaign strategy that moved beyond the traditional grassroots approach to voter-outreach. In an increasingly insulated America, defined by privatization of the public sphere via I-PODS and sterilizing personal contact through gmail chats and finding friendship on Facebook, the act of knocking on a stranger’s door or even calling one on the phone feels incredibly intrusive. Or maybe the Democrats’ timid approach to change makes their message too hollow for voters to hear.
Whatever it is, the State Democratic Party will need to change. Yes, they have much to celebrate. On the one hand, they still have majority’s in both houses of the State Legislature and they fended off a serious assault on the Governor’s Mansion that would have succeeded had the national party nominated anyone but Barack Obama for president. They also successfully ousted incumbent Doug Southerland from his office as State Lands Commissioner, effectively capturing every partisan state office save for Secretary of State (universally considered the least important of the aforementioned offices) and Attorney General (which will be a major problem for the Democrats in 2012 should Rob McKenna run for governor.) But on the other hand, the GOP made significant gains in key counties at the local level – thereby securing an important foothold that will allow them to vet competitive candidates for statewide office in 2012. In other words, while the Democrats may be riding high today – unless they act decisively and progressively on the important economic and infrastructural issues facing this state – the future probably belongs to the GOP, provided they are able to promise more than tax-breaks to voters.