Best Political Makeovers


Best Transformation of a Political Party: In 2001, when CHRIS VANCE took over as chair of the state Republican Party, he set about to change the party's image: No more scary extremists like Ellen Craswell and Linda Smith who would turn off suburban voters. Vance set about cultivating candidates for top offices who would be conservative enough to appeal to the party's base yet pleasant enough in demeanor to project a moderate image. For 2004, he's come up with the top of a ticket—George Nethercutt for U.S. Senate, Dino Rossi for governor, and Rob McKenna for attorney general—that fits that bill. Now we'll see if the burbs really will embrace these right-wingers in moderates' clothing.

Least Believable Election Year Makeover: King County Executive RON SIMS' attempt to woo the party base by becoming a born-again, capital-L liberal. Preaching income tax and gay marriage isn't going to fool those King County voters he needs if he's to beat Attorney General Christine Gregoire in the Democrat's gubernatorial primary this September. We know him too well as the moderate New Democrat who has ruled us for six years.

Most Disciplined Election Year Makeover: Mayor GREG NICKELS spent the first three years of his administration cracking bureaucrats' heads and smacking the City Council just for kicks. After the voters tossed three council members, he wisely changed course and has stopped the retaliatory press conferences and bare-knuckled public politicking. He realizes Seattle's voters value consensus and warm fuzzies at City Hall.

Best Imitation of Gov. Gary Locke: Attorney General CHRISTINE GREGOIRE is outdoing Locke's own bland wonkism on the gubernatorial hustings. Sadly, it looks like three terms for Locke after all.

Best Seattle City Council Change: Last November, challenger TOM RASMUSSEN defeated incumbent Seattle City Council member Margaret Pageler without really committing to doing anything. Once in office, however, Rasmussen turned into a whirlwind of activity. Where Pageler was inaccessible, Rasmussen is a one-man citizen's service bureau. Where Pageler moved at a snail's pace, Rasmussen quickly acted, exploring whether the city can save money by buying its workers' prescription drugs in Canada; voting to dump Seattle's lousy car-impound law; and helping to find a quick way for the city to recognize gay and lesbian marriages. Plus he returns calls from the press!

Best Political Change: TIM EYMAN's Failure to qualify his wretched 25 percent property tax cut initiative may signal the ebbing of Washington's tax revolt. Eyman has picked the low-hanging fruit—slashing the hated car-tab tax, capping property tax increases—and has been unsuccessful as he attempts to climb to higher branches. He had to kneel before a craven special interest—the gambling lobby—in order to buy his way onto the ballot at all this year.

—George Howland Jr.


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