Exercising the Franchise (Home, Sweet Home Edition Part 1)
Before I comment on the candidates for Shoreline City Council, a few words about my town an its politics.
As a general rule, I've got little to no use for the notion of "non-partisan" elections. The candidates in any election, regardless of their ballot identification (or lack thereof) are, as in the King County Executive race, partisans, and the lack of party ID on the ballot robs voters of useful information about their general approach to governance that that information can provide. At the county level, it provides cover for conservative politicians. There is not corresponding advantage to counter that lack of information.
In one party towns like Shoreline, though, it has some marginal value as a way to forward two viable candidates to the general election ballot. In my town, "viable" is a synonym for "Democratic" when party ID is involved. After all, this city hasn't elected a Republican running on the ticket since Patty Murray made her move from the school board to the state Senate during the previous century. We've had a few contentious primaries, but nary a significant general election on a partisan basis for a long time.
Since our city was incorporated we've put a few closet Republicans on the City Council via non-partisan elections, but even those have tended to be of a type that Washingtonians know as "Dan Evans Republicans" and that our national politics once featured under the general heading "Rockefeller Republicans." Those moderate to liberal R's are long gone from the national scene, but there are still a few scattered about here. While they cling to their Republican identity out of tradition and nostalgia, they're often cross ballot voters who frequently show up on Democratic endorsement lists. That's not much of an issue this year, though. Of the eight candidates vying for the four open council positions this year, six have told me eye to eye that they are, in fact, Democrats, and a seventh is running with the local Democratic Party endorsement, meaning she's told the 32nd District Endorsement Committee and membership that she's a Democrat.
Those November contests are somewhat problematic for partisans like myself, since one of the basic parameters I usually rely on to make general election decisions is absent. It also sets up something of a civil war between local Democrats that can spill over when it's time to regroup around candidates in partisan elections. The battle lines seem to be drawn largely between the membership of the 32nd District Democrats organization and Democrats who are, by choice or de facto exclusion, not members. That de facto exclusion seems to be centered less around traditional Democratic issues and values and more around adherence to the agenda of the local Chamber of Commerce, which has been adopted by the organization to a degree that many local Democrats (including myself) are not very comfortable with (my discomfort began the night I asked aloud why a cooler at a Democratic victory party was full of stuff on the AFL-CIO Do Not Patronize list and was shushed lest some of the conservative Chamber members present take offence at my defense of organized labor. It was just the first of several similar experiences.)
That background is the setting for some of the most interesting and contentious races on my personal ballot. I'm a past chair of the 32nd and have represented the organization on the State and County Central Committees, so dissenting from their endorsements isn't something I take lightly. On the other hand, I've been away for awhile, unable to participate in the regular business of the organization because of work and family commitments, and its taken on a somewhat different shape and character during my absence than it had during my years of regular participation and leadership. Commenting on these races is somewhat problematic for me, since I have friends and allies on both sides of the divide, but over the next day or two I'm going to give it my best shot while trying to give the least offence.
Wish me luck. I hope you'll find it interesting wherever you are.