Politics Shenanigans in the 46th
posted by May 16 at 14:26 PMon
UPDATED to reflect new information and interviews.
Members of North Seattle’s 46th District went home after last night’s nominating convention thinking they had chosen a nominee for state legislature from their district. (Unlike the intransigent members of the 36th District, the 46th agreed to abide by a Democratic Party-sanctioned scheme to anoint a single “official” candidate in the wake of a court decision upholding Washington’s top-two primary.) That nominee, chosen by a group of 100-plus precinct committee officers in the district (who, thanks to an arcane system that allots votes based on total Democratic Party presence in each precinct, each got more than one vote), was longtime anti-Hanford activist Gerry Pollet.
That outcome, which had Pollet’s opponent, longtime Party activist Scott White, losing by a scant three points, would have been astonishing enough in itself. White, the former head of the 46th District, was widely favored to win the nomination. The endorsements listed on his web site include 76 PCOs from the district—an impressive showing among the rank-and-file party activists—as well as numerous elected officials, including most of the Seattle City Council.
Nonetheless, the final vote count showed Pollet ahead, with 329 (weighted) votes to White’s 326—prompting Pollet to declare victory in an e-mail to supporters this morning.
And that’s where things get interesting. Because at the same time as Pollet was declaring victory, so was White—asserting on his web site that although “the initial tally suggested that Scott’s opponent, Gerry Pollet, had won the nomination… after three re-counts it was confirmed that Scott had in fact won the official Democratic nomination of the 46th legislative district! More information to come as it becomes available. Congratulations Scott!”
Based on conversations with folks on both sides, it appears that, after the tallying committee made up of representatives from both camps went home, Dean Fournier, a White supporter, recounted the ballots on his own — in Pollet’s words, “suddenly found another ballot in the middle of the night”—and wrote an email to 46th District chair Javier Valdez telling him that White had won. In his email, Fournier wrote:
Javier, this is most embarrassing. Because the State Party has sometimes asked us to keep our ballots for examination if requested, I brought them home to await any later instructions. Having them, I wanted to tally the nbr of individual PCOs (unweighted) who’d voted for each; it was Scott 56 and Gerry 59, but that doesn’t and didn’t really matter. I also wanted, more importantly, to make sure that no 6’s had been counted as 9’s or vice versa; none had. But in the course of doing so, I had to sort the ballots by weighted nbr, and FOUND ONE EXTRA “8” ballot for Scott. That means that Scott got 334 to Gerry’s 329, so SCOTT really won. OUCH!!
Neither Valdez nor Fournier have returned calls for comment; consultant Christian Sinderman, who is supporting White, says his “understanding is that the individual who counted the ballots was selected as a neutral party and is known for his integrity. The fact that he found a similar result to the initial count is no surprise.”
There are a few problems with this regardless of whether Fournier’s count was correct, of course. One is that, assuming this account is correct, the official nominating process was over. As Pollet puts it, “You can’t just find a vote in the middle of the night at somebody’s house and say that counts.” Pollet says his campaign agreed not to count a ballot that was printed on the wrong color paper; if that ballot was counted, he says, he would still have more overall votes than White’s adjusted, higher total.
On the other hand, White says Fournier didn’t just “find” a ballot—he counted the ballots three times, and came up with the same total each time. “To suggest that one of the most respected and honest people in our district would [fabricate] ballots in his house is very disappointing and smacks of sore-loser sentiment on Gerry’s part,” White says. He blames the confusion, in part, on the fact that many ballots were not signed, something he protested at last night’s meeting—making it difficult, incidentally, to reconstruct exactly what happened in last night’s ballot tallies.
Where does this leave the 46th District? That’s anybody’s guess. Both White and Pollet continue to claim victory. (In an email this afternoon, 46th District chair Javier Valdez said no recount had taken place and that it “no decision has been made” on what steps the party would take moving forward. “All I can ask it that we be keep cool heads and be respectful while this needs to be sorted out,” Valdez wrote.) White wants a recount of all the ballots in Fournier’s possession. Pollet supporters, meanwhile, accuse White of being the real sore loser. Bob Ferguson—a King County Council member who ran against then-incumbent
Cynthia Ferguson Carolyn Edmonds*, whom White supported while White was the county council’s chief of staff—says bluntly, “you’ve got to be gracious when you win and gracious when you lose, and right now, he’s lost.”
*White supported Sullivan when Ferguson ran against her in 2003, when White was chairman of the 46th District Dems. He went on to support Edmonds when Ferguson challenged her after the county council was redistricted and reduced to nine members in 2005.
Although, under the top-two system, both candidates will move forward as Democrats no matter what happens, having the official sanction of the party could be a big advantage. It’s unlikely that the district will formally endorse either candidate over the other (a separate and more inclusive process from the nominating convention), because any nomination requires a two-thirds vote from district membership, although a dual nomination seems like a distinct possibility.
Contacted after the vote, Pollet said he wasn’t surprised the vote was so close “We knew it would be extremely close despite the fact that Scott boasted that he had it all locked up and I would be dropping out of the race. If he had listened to the people who are elected committee officers, he wouldn’t have been boasting like that.” White denies that, adding: “I believe that it’s possible to get elected and to still take the high road and I think it is unfortunate that Gerry did not choose to do so.”
With the Democratic Party choosing congressional district delegates tomorrow, it’s unlikely that the 46th will make any decision on how to move forward before early next week.