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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Rodney Tom faces uphill battle in campaign for Democratic nomination

The P-I has an excellent story this morning about the Tom campaign kickoff and a subsequent announcement from Darcy Burner's campaign yesterday.

Here's a powerful excerpt from the beginning of the article:
If he wants to be the Democratic nominee to take on U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert in the 2008 election, state Sen. Rodney Tom might have to convince his party's rank and file that his past sins as a Republican are behind him.

For example, his campaign contributions to such Republicans as state Attorney General Rob McKenna, Secretary of State Sam Reed, Lands Commissioner Doug Sutherland, King County Councilman Reagan Dunn and Dino Rossi, the 2004 and likely 2008 candidate for governor.

And the money he gave Mainstream Republicans of Washington and the state Republican Party.

And some of the votes he took in the Democrat[ic]-controlled state House against a number of Democratic causes, including an oil spill prevention bill and a symbolic measure urging Congress to oppose the Bush administration's ill-fated plan to permit private Social Security accounts.

Tom, 43, supported those Republican views and candidates after being elected to the state House of Representatives as a Republican in 2002 and 2004, but before he switched parties and won election to the state Senate as a Democrat in 2006 by defeating a GOP incumbent.

As Tom announced his candidacy for Congress at a Renton news conference Tuesday, a national organization that backs progressive Democratic candidates announced its endorsement of Darcy Burner, his primary opponent, who also ran against Reichert in 2006. The 21st Century Democrats slammed Tom for some of his past actions as a Republican.
Two years ago, during the 2006 cycle, when Darcy Burner was beginning to put her campaign together, Rodney Tom was a Republican in the state House of Representatives. Less than eight months later, in the spring of 2006, Tom flipped parties and suddenly became a Democrat as Darcy was solidifying her support within the party and the progressive community.

Tom ran for state Senate last fall and won, completing his first legislative session as a Senator and a Democrat just last April.

And now, after having not held his current position for even a year, he is already seeking a higher office, spurred on by his friends in Olympia and key figures in the Democratic Party establishment.

The same establishment that assured Tom of its support last year when he was encouraged to run against incumbent Republican Luke Esser. The same establishment that ungratefully and shamefully displaced the progressive candidate who had already been recruited to run against Esser...Debi Golden.

Debi was asked to step aside and give Rodney a clear shot at Esser, which she ultimately did, to our regret. Some in the party may have forgotten that incident, but we have not, and it comes to mind at this moment as Tom and a sizable chunk of the Democratic establishment now seek to displace another progressive in pursuit of a different office...Darcy Burner.

At his announcement Tom brandished a sizable list of Democrats from the state Legislature who he says have endorsed him, including Sen. Brian Weinstein, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, Rep. Ross Hunter, Rep. Deb Eddy, Rep. Larry Springer, Rep. Roger Goodman, Rep. Judy Clibborn, Rep. Pat Sullivan, and Rep. Chris Hurst.

Tom also claimed the support of former party chair Karen Marchioro, currently one of Washington's delegates to the Democratic National Committee.

Som of Tom's allies, particularly Chris Hurst, have already made disparaging comments about Darcy in public, and asserted that she had her chance and does not deserve another opportunity despite the tremendous campaign she ran. We strongly disagree with that view.

Instead of focusing on the job he was elected to do last fall, Rodney Tom is now concentrating on his own political aspirations. What can we expect from Tom next session? Will he be working day in and day out to serve his constituents, the people of the 48th, or will he be distracted by his bid for federal office?

It's a legitimate question, and it's one that Tom needs to be asked.

We know that we have a proven, tough challenger for Dave Reichert in Darcy Burner, who demonstrated in 2006 her ability to put together a campaign with strong grassroots and netroots support. Darcy's campaign is already well off the ground, with impressive second quarter fundraising results.

Interestingly, Tom's campaign stumbled yesterday in claiming it had one key endorsement that it apparently didn't:
King County Democratic Party Chairwoman Susan Sheary attended his campaign-kickoff announcement, and Tom -- erroneously -- claimed her endorsement, too.

He said later that support for him is obvious "when you've got the King County Democratic chair behind you," and added, "She is fully behind me."

Not so, Sheary said: "I have not endorsed anyone and will not. I was there only as a party leader because he had invited me. But I will stay neutral in the (primary) race."
Many candidates have gotten into trouble before for announcing that they had earned endorsements from individuals who had not actually awarded their support. A good campaign practice is to create an endorsement sheet that can be filled out and signed by individuals or authorized designees from groups. Rodney Tom's steering committee ought to get on that one right away.

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