Politics Meet the Candidates
posted by June 23 at 17:34 PMon
No, not those candidates. Not those candidates, either. The candidates I’m talking about are John Burbank and Reuven Carlyle, running for the Washington state legislature from Northwest Seattle’s 36th District, which includes Ballard, Magnolia, parts of Phinney and Greenwood, and Interbay. Here’s what it looks like:
Every election season, the city’s district Democratic organizations put candidates through an endorsement process that can only be described as hellish. Interviews are followed by debates in hot church basements and candidate questionnaires that can run to more than a dozen pages. And even after all that, thanks to the Party’s byzantine rules and procedural bylaws, they frequently fail to endorse any candidate at all, and just as often issue a dual endorsement.
Although the results are often a letdown, the questionnaires themselves frequently yield interesting details. (How else would we know, for example, that now-City Council member Tim Burgess supported elements of the PATRIOT Act? Or that Richard McIver challenger Robert Rosencrantz had only “qualified” support for women’s right to choose?) Although the questions tend to be invasive, pointless, and repetitive (Are you a Democrat? Do you support the Democratic Party platform? Have you ever been a member of another party?) the answers can be revealing.
Asked whether he supported the King County Democrats’ party platform, Carlyle gave a “qualified” response,” adding pointedly, “I do not support creation of a Department of Peace and Nonviolence as the work articulated [in the party platform] is, in fact, the current moral and public obligation of both the Department of State and Department of Defense.”
Asked a similar question about whether he could support his opponent if he didn’t win, Burbank took the opposite approach, accusing Carlyle of being insufficiently Democratic. “My Democratic opponent is opposed to the impeachment of George Bush,” he wrote. “I favor this impeachment, even as his term comes to an end. … It will … cross up [Bush’s] apparent plans for the invasion of Iran.”
Carlyle used the question “Are you a member of another political party?” to overshare—at great, great, great length—about his impoverished upbringing, starting with his toddler years “living outside the care of my single mom who struggled at that time with mental illness.” Snark aside, his story is touching (“I began my first real business with regular customers, mowing lawns, at nine to help my mother keep our family together financially”) and sometimes glamorous (he left home permanently at 15 to become a page for Warren Magnuson?) if a bit overlong.
Burbank wasn’t buying Carlyle’s rags-to-riches story, painting him as a rich, privileged businessman who made “different” life decisions than did Burbank. “He has chosen to work in the private sector to create private and personal wealth while I have chosen to work in the public sector working for the public good and for Democratic ideals,” Burbank wrote.
Carlyle also touched on the fact that even with Democratic majorities in the state house and senate, Democrats in this state continue to vote against their constituents’ interests (failing to protect Maury Island from strip-mining; failing to cap payday loan interest rates; failing to pass a homebuyers’ bill of rights; failing to pass meaningful tax reform). Carlyle, suddenly sounding very Barack Obama, called this “govern[ing] with fear of losing instead of conviction for change.”
Asked whether the government should pay for abortions for poor women, Burbank said yes (as did Carlyle) but went one (perhaps poorly worded) step further: “In fact, I support public funding for abortions for all women.” (Hmm, let’s start with birth control first, shall we?)
Burbank’s campaign theme is reducing inequality, but his solutions tend, by his own admission, toward piecemeal taxes and penalties. For example, in his questionnaire, Burbank said he supports (re-)enacting a special cigarette tax to pay for basic health-care coverage for low-income people, a new hourly payroll tax to fund paid family leave, and the “latte tax” for early childhood education, which he wrote, sponsored, and funded.
Carlyle had some harsh words to say about that tax, which failed 68 to 32 percent. “I support progressive taxes and progressive benefits and strongly resist incremental programs and taxes that do nothing but lose credibility for larger tax reform,” Carlyle wrote.
Responding to criticism of luxury taxes, Burbank wrote: “In the absence of an income tax, piecemeal luxury taxes can hep fund some crucial public services.” And he blames “conservative opponents of any taxes” for the resounding loss of his latte tax in liberal Seattle.