Politics Seattle Times Editorial Page Editor James Vesely on Seattle Times McGavick Endorsement
posted by October 25 at 14:28 PMon
I’ve got an editorial coming out today criticizing the Seattle Times’ endorsement of Repubican Mike McGavick on the grounds that the record shows the Seattle Times editorial board disagrees with McGavick on most every issue (except publisher Frank Blethen’s pet estate tax repeal). The record also shows that the Seattle Times has praised Senator Maria Cantwell and criticized McGavick on issues (media consolidation and civil campaigning, respectively) that directly contradict what they wrote in their endorsement. The endorsement itself also states that the board disagrees with McGavick on fundamental issues like the war in Iraq and Social Security. Given all this, I wanted to know just what the Seattle Times editorial aboard agreed with McGavick about.
I called Seattle Times editorial page editor James Vesely for the story yesterday morning and yesterday afternoon (leaving detailed messages about the story I was working on), and I didn’t hear back from him until this morning. He was apologetic about that and had a good explanation for not calling back sooner.
You should read my story to make sense of Vesely’s quotes and our discussion, but here’s what he told me this morning.
He said the estate tax came up in the editorial board’s deliberations, but it “wasn’t the tipping point.” He said, “it always comes up, but it’s like 10th on the list…it’s not critical.”
He pointed out that the Seattle Times strongly supports Sen. Patty Murray, and she’s against the estate tax repeal.
He also said that the “sense of the ed board, not just [board member and publisher] Frank Blethen, was that McGavick was the better candidate.”
I asked him to name the issues where McGavick was more aligned with the ed board than Cantwell was, and he said McGavick was better on Eastern Washington dam issues (McGavick wouldn’t take them down); they liked McGavick’s private sector experience; and they didn’t like that Cantwell “follows the [Democratic] party line…McGavick displays more independence.”
I told him that the Stranger Election Control Board also looks for independent thinking (although Vesely did not cite any examples where McGavick breaks with the GOP), but ultimately, for us, it comes down to the issues themselves. That is, it’s kinda cool when a Democrat comes in and bucks the D party by saying they’re for charter schools or they don’t agree with the teachers union on this or that issue. But it’s more important that we agee with them on the issue itself. For example, if a Democrat came in and told me they were for privatizing Social Security, I’d respect their independence from the Democratic Party line, but I’d be wary of sending them to Congress. And again, the record is clear: McGavick’s positions—drilling in ANWR, anti-gun control, restrictions on choice, pro Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage—are hardly independent of the GOP and don’t jibe with the Seattle Times stated public positions.
Vesely acknowledged this, saying: “We said in the endorsement that we agree with Senator Cantwell on a lot of issues like on ANWR, and we disagree with McGavick on ANWR and the flag burning amendment and gay marriage and stem cell research…and the question comes to mind, ‘What on earth are we doing?’ … and it comes down to how much potential does the candidate have for the next six years.”
He said it was part a “gut feeling” on the board’s part, but they felt McGavick had better “leadership” qualities.
In what I considered a contradiction, Vesely also stated that the Seattle Times ed board, wary that 81% of voters lived west of the mountains and that Washington was increasingly in Democratic hands—thought McGavick would better represent the whole state because he wasn’t a Democrat.