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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I-26: The Republican Cloaking Measure

posted by on August 19 at 18:58 PM

King County Council Member Larry Gossett—an opponent of Initiative 26, which would make all county elected positions nonpartisan—says he thinks “it will probably pass.”

“People think it supports good government, and voters don’t want people to be partisan,” Gossett says. The measure would make countywide races, including the council and executive, nonpartisan. But I-26 is an elephant in sheep’s clothing. The only chance Republicans have of winning countywide races is if voters don’t know that the schmuck they’re voting for is a Republican.

An alternative measure introduced by the council would allow candidates to state their party preference. The primary election will decide, which, if either version, will go on the general election ballot.

Gossett likens the campaign to statewide Initiative 200, which passed in 1998 using language that promised to remove preference based on race in student admissions, employment, or contract awards. Lots of progressives thought that sounded swell, until they found out they’d passed a law that prohibit benefits for minorities students. Removing the party preference from ballots, Gossett says, “does not necessarily mean you get better candidates or better government.” But “better candidates” and “more choices” is the campaign’s mantra.

“Instead of having a candidate’s party affiliation, which tells you the candidate’s policy positions, voters have to rely instead on slick advertising, pretty pictures, and name familiarity,” says King County Council Member Dow Constantine, a democrat. Passing the measure he says, would mean elected officials would have “positions not shared by the majority of the people in their district.”

How does the campaign respond? Emails and calls went unanswered. “You thought it was a real campaign?” Gossett asks, chuckling. “Three rich guys gave 97 percent of the money to underwrite it. They just think that … they are going to win.”

We’ll see if he’s right, and I-26 gets a pass to the general election. King County Elections says it will post the results here at 8:15 p.m. And we’ll call Gossett to get his reaction.

RSS icon Comments


I'm too lazy to check the PDC website right now, but was there a no campaign? Usually if someone throws enough "no" information out there, people will end up voting no, not necessarily because they're convinced its a bad idea, but because they're unsure.

Posted by Emmett | August 19, 2008 7:53 PM

Some questions I want to throw out there for the group:

If non-partisan races work for cities, why not the County?

Does Gossett really think that some not-labeled-as-such Republican will be elected in the 2nd District, or conversely, a Democrat elected in the 3rd or 9th?

Don't Councilmembers get elected pretty much on "slick advertising, pretty pictures, and name familiarity" now?

Even if some Councilperson who is 'out of touch' with their district is elected, won't that (in theory) self-correct in the next election?

Posted by J. Whorfin | August 19, 2008 8:03 PM

Do non-partisan races really work for the city? Do non-district races? Does this wacked out system of having no districts, but seats, work for the city?

Posted by Dan Savage | August 19, 2008 8:21 PM

No progressive thought I -200 was progressive. It was sold as an anti-affirmative action measure.

Posted by Algernon | August 19, 2008 9:11 PM

Dan @ 4: I wasn't trying to be snarky; I truly haven't made up my mind. That said, I understand Gossett's point, but I don't see how passing I-26 will result in some Republican take over of KC government, given the make-up of the County.

Posted by J. Whorfin | August 19, 2008 10:44 PM

This is a big win for Republicans which stands to pick up future seats on the County Council with this bill. When there is no info about a candidate's political party Republicans will win countrywide elections almost every time. They are amazing at being able to get their info out about candidates to every R even in D districts but without the Dems being able to use it against the candidate. I am always amazed at their ability to do this with Judge candidates such as Jeanette Burrage who was rated Not Qualified but actually won because she was so conservative.

Posted by Gay Seattle | August 19, 2008 10:58 PM

I would have said the Republican cloaked candidates are great at lying about who and what they are, GS.

Posted by Will in Seattle | August 20, 2008 1:38 AM

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