The problem with the Prince of Darkness is that he's really a very likable fellow. I just might vote for him.
The Prince's name is John Carlson, and he stopped by Seattle Weekly last week to interview with the editorial board. (Also stopping by late, like a character from Alice in Wonderland, was a perpetually aggrieved, freedom-loving buffoon named Harold Hochstatter. But he's Moses Lake's problem, not ours, so I'll concern myself here with John.) Carlson was quite friendly—no surprise, politicians are supposed to be friendly, even if John is relatively new to the game. But, more surprisingly, I found myself agreeing with him on a lot of things.
I caught myself thinking: "Self, I could actually vote for this guy." And "Heck, maybe I'll go down to his office and volunteer."
The only problem, of course, is that John Carlson stands diametrically opposed to everything I believe in.
It was Carlson, after all, who championed the idiotic, expensive, and barbaric Three Strikes law. And Carlson pushed I-200, making it that much harder for women and people of color to get a fair shake. Were it not for Carlson's precedent-setting initiatives, who knows whether we would have been saddled with Tim Eyman. And Carlson, as a "professional windbag" (as one of my colleagues called him; on behalf of all windbags, I should note that no offense is taken), has held forth most annoyingly on countless topics. He's been wrong on almost all of them. And I liked him.
Here's why: Carlson is running a populist, underdog campaign without the Christian trappings of an Ellen Craswell. We share a disdain for Gary Locke as a governor who has done absolutely nothing about a host of pressing issues: transportation, salmon, health care, the environment, Hanford, the uneven distribution of the state's economy, and, yes, taxes. (After all, a helpful proposal from Locke, or even something more than his typical meek concern followed by acquiescence, might have helped forestall I-695.) While John and I probably differ on some of the solutions—he touted the utility of public transit and then allowed as to how he was supporting I-745, the Eyman initiative that would End Public Transit as We Know It—at least he would do something as governor. He might even do something unpopular.
How un-Lockelike can you get?
Carlson also suggested using the budget surplus for a tax relief idea that actually makes sense: For once, it makes our state's extremely regressive tax structure more fair. The concept would be to exempt the first $100,000 in assessed value of all property, from shacks to mansions. He figured it would save everyone about $300, no small chunk of change (as I-695's backers also noted). It's actually a much more progressive idea than the weak me-tooism of Gary Locke's last tax relief proposal.
To be sure, there were signs that this was, after all, the Prince. Beyond I-745, he allowed that he was supporting Bush for president. (But then, it's hard to express enthusiasm for anyone in that race, including Nader, without being a bit embarrassed.) He is a professional media figure, the one occupation the public generally considers less reputable than politician. His appointments are likely to be quite conservative.
Carlson figures that even without all of the corporate money in this campaign (most of it's going to Locke), he has a good chance; if he can pull 40 percent in Seattle, a reasonable goal given his local notoriety, the Republican majority in the rest of the state would be enough to put him over. The reality, of course, is that Seattle runs about 85 percent Democratic, and Carlson is virtually unknown in much of the state, running against an extremely popular incumbent likely to coast to a second term.
But I dislike Gary Locke. A lot. And Satan is making an awfully attractive offer.
And in the other corner
In sharp contrast, the other notable ed. board interview last week was a rare joint appearance (like everything else, the contestants sparred over just how rare) between the Democratic candidates for US Senate, Maria Cantwell and Deborah Senn. Here, at last—particularly from Senn—we should get some real, genuine affinity; populism combined with a vision for a more just society. Yuuucck.
The two of them made such a bad impression that it was hard to believe that one of them is our only hope for unseating Slade Gorton. Senn whined that she was being outspent. Cantwell dodged around issues of RealNetwork's notorious violations of Internet privacy on her watch. Neither addressed the real differences between them on issues like NAFTA (Cantwell voted for it in Congress, Senn opposes) or Hanford (Senn opposes FFTF restart, Cantwell favors "limited restart," sort of like "limited pregnancy").
I wanted to like Senn the populist, even though her record for consumer advocacy as insurance commissioner is overrated, or even Cantwell, whose millions are a better chance (in theory) for battling Gorton's corporate war chest. Their joint appearance left me with the grim conviction that we have a Strom Thurmond on our hands; Skeletor will die in office.
The two will debate only a few times before the primary; this election will be fought more in television ads, where images can be manipulated and one's opponent can't talk back. Judging from last week, that seems to be the way both of these candidates like it. It's too bad; both noted how divisive Gorton's politics are on the east side of the mountains and how poorly he represents much of the state. But I'm not sure I'd want Cantwell or Senn representing me, either.