Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

WA-03: Craig Pridemore ends candidacy

Shocking his supporters and surprising political observers across Washington, state Senator Craig Pridemore has announced that he is ending his bid to succeed Brian Baird in Congress, just one week before filing period begins:
I regret the need to exit this race, but it is clear to me that the long session placed our campaign at a clear disadvantage. While I wish I had been able to focus on my campaign earlier, I am proud that my focus this winter was where it needed to be: addressing the real issues facing the working families and small businesses of Southwest Washington. I entered politics to excel at public service, not the other way around.

I also want to congratulate and offer my immediate and full endorsement to Denny Heck, who is now in the best position — and is the best candidate — to win the seat in November. Denny is a bright, hard working and authentic SW Washington leader and we need his broad experience working for us in Congress. I encourage my supporters to help him and Senator Patty Murray in their elections this November.
Pridemore's disappointing departure from the race leaves Heck as the only Democratic candidate left with establishment support (peace activist Cheryl Crist is also trying to make it through the primary to the general election).

Although NPI does not endorse candidates for office, several members of our staff were supporters of Pridemore (and volunteers for his campaign). Speaking for myself (Ken will probably share his thoughts with you tonight), I'm really disheartened that Craig is pulling out at this point in the campaign; he had so much going for him. He was the candidate of working families.

The timing is awfully strange. Last week, Craig won the Washington State Labor Council's sole COPE endorsement, and his campaign recently disclosed plans to open a new campaign office. The state's largest private-sector union, the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21, had also thrown its support behind Pridemore. Pridemore was in no danger of losing his state Senate seat because he is in the middle of his second term.

I don't buy the excuse that Craig had to withdraw because he lagged behind Denny Heck in fundraising. Craig's campaign manager, Heather Melton, and his consultant, Christian Sinderman, surely know that money isn't everything. As Paul Wellstone showed us, progressives can beat organized money with organized people. Winning campaigns aren't only about who has the most dollars and cents. If they were, then every initiative sponsored by Tim Eyman over the past decade and a half would have been rejected by voters.

I suspect the real reason Craig is exiting the race is because someone he trusts, a Democrat he respects, persuaded him to give a Heck a clear shot. Heck is the favorite of many older Democrats, who have been active in state politics for decades (for example, former state party chair Paul Berendt).

The primary system that Washington currently uses (nicknamed "Top Two") does not respect the right of Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, or Green voters to nominate their own candidates for the general election.

The major parties thus often have an incentive to "clear the field" in advance of the primary, especially in areas where the opposing party is strong.

In WA-03, the Republican Party is stronger than the Democratic Party, and the Democratic Party's base doesn't turn out to vote as reliably as the GOP's, especially in a primary. If Pridemore had continued his campaign, and competed effectively against Heck, he might have ended up splitting the Democratic vote fairly evenly with Heck. And if that had happened, and if Republicans had simultaneously managed to coalesce strongly around two of their candidates (with each of those candidates getting slightly more votes than either Heck or Pridemore) the result might have been a Republican versus a Republican in the general election.

If Washington was still using the open pick-a-party primary that we used from 2004 through 2007, Democratic voters would have been able to choose between Heck and Pridemore in the primary. Pridemore's campaign would not have been under pressure to fold. But voters won't get that choice.

They've been robbed of the power to make their own decision.

How ironic that Sam Reed's office put out a press release this morning which quoted Sam Reed as saying, “The U.S. Senate race promises to be very interesting, and there will be a closely contested battle for the 3rd congressional seat that Brian Baird is vacating. When you factor in all of these races, it promises to be a pretty exciting and closely watched election year."

Thanks to the stupid, undemocratic Top Two Primary that Reed and his office can't stop worshiping, this election year just got less exciting, and the contest to succeed Brian Baird won't be so closely contested.

UPDATE, 10:35 PM (Ken): I'm just as surprised as anyone else that Craig Pridemore dropped out of the race. While I have no proof, I concur with Andrew's assessment that the most likely scenario for Craig dropping out was a trusted Democratic friend talking to him and convincing him that Denny Heck being the party's standard-bearer in the district is a foregone conclusion. I've heard party activists and leaders making comments like this since December.

Also, the wording of Craig's statement is suspect to me. In several conversations I've had with Craig — and even in public — I've heard him say that his campaign was not going to be a big money campaign, but would succeed based on his efforts to organize and get the grassroots out. The campaign Craig intended to run, and was indeed running, was very much a grassroots, people-powered campaign.

So to end the campaign and blame it on financial woes, to me, doesn't add up, especially with the recent Washington State Labor Council endorsement. Why fight hard for the endorsement and then end the campaign two weeks later?

As a voter, I'm disappointed that Democrats don't have more viable choices (with respect to Cheryl Crist, who is a passionate candidate).

We know from experience that our candidates are stronger in the general election when they've been tested in a primary. Yet from the beginning, I've watched a number of party leaders in the district blindly take sides just because one person was able to inject hundreds of thousands of dollars into his own campaign. Sure, it's his money and he can spend it however he wants.

But we, as Democrats, either want the big money out of politics and want our government to be accessible to all, or we don't.

And how can party leaders back a candidate who doesn't have an issues page on his website? If we don't know where Denny Heck stands on the issues, how can we be expected to vote for him? The last time Heck took a position or voted on an issue was over twenty years ago.

It's not enough to be for jobs; everybody is for job creation.

As for me, I'm writing Craig Pridemore's name in on my primary ballot.


Blogger Just a guy said...

Tsk,tsk. I've been calling this from the beginning. Pity you sort are so out of touch.

June 1, 2010 6:47 PM  
Blogger Krist Novoselic said...

I have been advocating a settlement to the pending court case regarding how the Washington "Top Two" is applied to associational rights.

Here's the deal - keep the Top Two runoff, but leave the nominations to political parties. Basically, drop the "prefers party" on the ballot and have the party choose their standard bearer.

I get resistance from both advocates and opponents of "Top Two". on the proposal. Both sides seem to believe that this gives too much power to the local party officials.

I believe that political parties should hold nominating events like an "unassembled caucus", also known as a "firehouse primary". Instead of a drawn out ritual like with presidential caucuses - voters are invited to come to a precinct caucus, get a party ballot, vote for a nominee then leave.

The major parties are already regulated by the state. The state could require that parties have their nominating caucuses at the same time. Innovative parties can also include a technological component for folks who can't make the nomination date.

Anyway, I don't see any movement toward this. If the major parties win the November trial and subsequent appeals, they think the "Pick A Party" primary will return. That's the fantasy - instead of partisan primary ballots, see how fast and how many Washington voters go for a non-partisan ballot for all elections!

My interest in this issue is to create opportunities for people to participate. It's a desire to open things up for more participation.

In closing, the "prefers" party business is a device to dampen political association. As we see it in use - it actually does no such thing - as party leadership / bosses are apparently twisting arms. The party faithful and the voter at large are losing out.

June 2, 2010 5:30 PM  

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