Remember last year, when the prospect of same-sex marriage on the ballot caused both sides to forecast a nasty culture war? So far, that hasn't happened.
You all know I like to fill this space with no end of carping and criticizing. Because face it, nobody wants to read good news. Especially at election time.
But in the course of covering politics I do sometimes stumble onto people or happenings that make me realize the whole world isn’t going to hell in a hurricane.
Probably the best local political story is huge precisely because it never happened. Still, it sure attracted the notice of the secretary of state, Sam Reed.
” ‘Remarkable’ is the word I’ve been using,” he says.
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Remember last year, when the prospect of same-sex marriage on the ballot caused both sides to forecast a nasty culture war?
Supporters worried there’d be a rash of bigoted acts toward gays. Opponents took a case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court demanding that the names of their petition signers be kept secret, for fear they would get death threats, vandalism or worse. Some of which had marred California when that state voted on gay-marriage-banning Proposition 8 in 2008.
Well, last June, Reed released the names and addresses of the 240,000 citizens seeking to overturn gay marriage here. And what happened?
“In one word: nothing,” he says.
Seven complete sets of the petitions were released to various groups. But Reed’s office has not received a single complaint about petition signers being harassed or even contacted.
Nor have there been many flare-ups since, by either side. (One guy in Burien was arrested for trashing the sign of a traditional-marriage supporter and banging on her car, but that’s been the worst of it.)
Somehow, Reed said, Washington has held a “civil, gracious” election on both same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization — “two gut-level issues where you know passions are running very high,” he said.
“We should be proud of ourselves,” he said, adding “so far.”
The other flicker of goodness I’ve noticed this year is in bipartisanship.
Sure, all of the top-line races, such as for president or governor, are as tribal and bitter as ever.
But two little-known candidates for statewide office have gone beyond just promising they’ll reach across the aisle. They’ve gotten the other side to reach back.
One is Bill Finkbeiner, the Republican running for lieutenant governor. He’s backed by right-wingers such as Congressman Doc Hastings all the way around the political funhouse to left-wing Seattle Democratic Rep. Reuven Carlyle. Plus groups that don’t usually go for Republicans, such as NARAL Pro-Choice Washington and the Cascade Bicycle Club.
If he can hold that crazy-quilt together, he should be more than just lieutenant governor.
The other is Kim Wyman, the Republican candidate to replace Reed as secretary of state. The Thurston County auditor, she has the endorsements of 31 of the other 38 county auditors, including 13 Democrats. These are the officials who tally votes in each county. Reed is known for being bipartisan, but says he never got so many auditors to back him, let alone from the other side.
Finally, here’s one great idea that comes from Mark Lindquist, Pierce County prosecutor, who wrote me about the sleazy ads against both candidates for attorney general, Democrat Bob Ferguson and Republican Reagan Dunn.
The ads were placed by outside, independent groups, meaning neither candidate has any control over them. But both ads are vicious and wrong. So why don’t they denounce them? Not just the ad that impugns their side, but the one that falsely attacks the other guy.
“I only wish someone — Bob and Reagan, for example — would stop this,” Lindquist wrote. “I recognize campaigns can’t coordinate with independent expenditure groups, but I think it would be within the rules to say ‘If you decide to weigh in on my race, don’t do anything dishonest or disgraceful, thank you.’ “
Ferguson and Dunn are both said to be good guys with integrity. If that’s really true, then why are they standing by, silently, as their race is slimed by the ugliest ads in years?
Maybe because the ads work. Because winning trumps integrity in politics (almost) every time.
Shoot. I couldn’t get through one column without going back to the carping and criticizing.
Danny Westneat’s column appears Wednesday and Sunday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or firstname.lastname@example.org.