May 24, 2004

Just When You Think It's Safe To Run For Office

Well, I finished my series of interview articles on Washington's 8th Congressional... or did I? Here are the links to the interviews so far, but this post is probably going to have to be updated at some point, because another candidate has just announced his intention to run.


Alex Alben
Heidi Behrens-Benedict


Luke Esser
Conrad Lee
Dave Reichert
Diane Tebelius

So about that other candidate, funny story, but WA state Democratic Party Chairman Paul Berendt woke up one morning and decided that a race with six candidates in it just wasn't good enough. He's encouraged local radio personality Dave Ross to run as a Democrat, which would bring the grand total to seven; 3 Democrats and 4 Republicans. Ross has yet to officially file his paperwork.

As for the rest, it was quite a thing getting to sit down and talk with them. They've all led interesting lives, had a lot of experiences, and developed distinct quirks. The ones that I had the most fun talking with on a personal level ended up giving interviews that were difficult to distill into a reasonably sized article. The more focused messages were easier to write up, but it felt less natural to sit through the initial conversation.

I liked both the Democrats for different reasons. They both spoke at my LD caucus, and their reputations preceeded them, so I 'knew' them better than the others.

Behrens-Benedict was fun to talk to, very informed, and passionate about the subjects we covered. She seems to really like running for Congress, and this will be the third time.

Alben comes across as a model pro-business Democrat, with an approach that sounds like a good fit for the more libertarian streak of the 8th District, but could loosen up just a bit. And by pro-business, I mean that he favors businesses which are environmentally neutral or friendly, and provide jobs that pay people a decent wage. He knows a lot about the issues from policy and legal angles, but has clearly worked at keeping himself from digressing into jargon and too much detail.

The Republicans were a mixed bag, and in a person-who-won't-be-my-Congresscritter way, I really liked a couple of them.

Reichert is an engaging person to talk to, seems like he could pull off putting compassion next to conservatism, and is familiar with local issues. Also, he told me a cool cop story about facing down an armed heroin addict in a bathroom during a drug raid (no one got shot, btw.) It was too long to put in the article, and not really the point, but it was a good story, well told.

Conrad Lee had the same local issue advantage, is better described as a paleocon than neocon, and gave the impression of being immensely curious about the world around him. I disagree with almost all of his policy positions, but I don't think he comes by any of them with malice, and he doesn't seem encumbered by the belief that political opponents are inherently evil. He goes in the loyal opposition category, in my book.

Then, you know, there were the other two. Dear. God.

Esser, and this key thing sticks in my mind the most, doesn't seem to think it's a big deal that the public doesn't pay attention to politics. "People have lives," he said. Ummm. I could say more, but I just get stopped at barely being able to believe I heard an elected official say that right to my face. He's like a Cheshire candidate, all grin, no critter.

Tebelius was like interviewing Grover Norquist's talking points brief, with none of the attention to detail. After finding out (through a clever ploy of engaging your interviewer in conversation) that I was studying to go into environmental studies, she told me not 10 minutes later that there was evidence 'on both sides' of the global warming debate. Also, she thinks the economy is peachy (the sole Republican not to notice that unemployment is a problem in the area), and it's inappropriate to criticize Bush. She looked startled when I brought out the tape recorder, and relieved when I said that it didn't have to be on.

Tebelius' campaign manager sat through most of the interview to act as an interpreter, making sure certain questions got to her in some form she considered actionable. He was none too hot on the tape recorder idea, either, and looked at me like I'd drawn a weapon. I bring this up not because it's unusual to have a campaign manager or other staffer hanging around to pay attention to what's said or keep an eye on the time. I mention it because the campaign manager played a key supporting role in preventing mass communication failure, for which he deserves a starring role in his own paragraph.

So, there you have it. The slate for the Washington's 8th CD... so far, according to me. For locals who want to get a chance to meet any of them in person, keep in touch with your local Legislative District organizers. They'll show up sometimes at LD meetings, or send a staff person to answer questions. Other candidates for less publicized offices can stop by also, and your District Chair may know about other events where they'll be speaking or debating.

Which reminds me of an Iowan transplant to our fair state who said before the WA presidential primaries that it would be the first time she'd be voting for someone she hadn't met. I think there's something to that mindset, thinking that you *should* get to meet who you're voting for, and it's a lot easier to practice with state races. Take the time to get to know the people on the ballot to whatever extent you can, in all their 3-dimensional glory, because the usual news stories just don't do any of them justice.

Posted by natasha at May 24, 2004 08:51 AM | WA Politics | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |

I've listened to Dave Ross for several years now. Yet, I think that in such a crowded field, his candidacy is more of a publicity stunt.

Of course, I don't have say in Washingtonian election as I am from...

--ventura county, ca

Posted by: Darryl Pearce at May 24, 2004 07:42 PM

Great series, natasha ... uncommonly good job of getting and distilling.

Posted by: RonK, Seattle at May 25, 2004 02:39 AM