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.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Bill Bryant to run for governor?

Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant is on the verge of officially declaring his candidacy for governor of Washington, several people have told NPI in recent days.

Bryant, a Republican, was first elected to the Seattle Port Commission in 2007. He defeated one-term reformist Alec Fisken, who was swept out of office despite having fought against the corrupt regime of former Port CEO Mic Dinsmore.

Although he identifies as a Republican, many of his views are at odds with the Republican base, which is fervently right wing. Ideologically, Bryant is a biconceptual — a person who uses both the progressive and conservative worldviews in different areas of his or her thinking. In the eyes of the extreme right wing, that makes him a Republican In Name Only, or RINO.

If Bryant opts to seek the state's highest elected office, his biggest obstacle will ironically be fellow Republican Rob McKenna, who has long wanted the job. McKenna has already run and won statewide, and has spent much of his time as Attorney General laying the groundwork for a future gubernatorial campaign. Many who follow Washington politics believe McKenna would be the most formidable candidate that the Republican Party could field.

It's hard to see how Bryant, who has only one successful campaign in King County under his belt, could muster more votes in the August 2012 winnowing election than McKenna. McKenna has waged many successful campaigns, including two statewide (in 2004, when he defeated Deborah Senn, and in 2008, when he defeated John Ladenburg). Besides having stronger name recognition, McKenna also has more experience raising money.

Why Bryant would want to run against McKenna is a mystery to me. Perhaps his ambition matches McKenna's, even if his profile doesn't.

If McKenna were not running, Bryant's candidacy would make a lot of sense. Republicans don't have a deep bench in Washington, and most of the statewide elected positions are held by Democrats, including the offices of governor, lieutenant governor, treasurer, lands commissioner, and insurance commissioner. Secretary of State for-life Sam Reed is the only other Republican holding office in the executive branch.

McKenna himself actually represented only a thirteenth of King County before he successfully made the jump to attorney general in 2004; whereas Bryant represents all of King County in his capacity as a Seattle Port Commissioner.

Winning a countywide office in the state's largest county, as a challenger, is no small feat. Then again, Bryant did not have competition from a fellow Republican when he ran for Port Commission in 2007.

Interestingly, in 2004, McKenna had a Bryant-like opponent in the primary: Mike Vaska, who is also a member of the Mainstream Republicans of Washington. McKenna easily dispatched Vaska in that contest, even though Vaska was the better candidate and had credible support.

If Bryant does run for governor, he will have to decide in short order whether he also wants to seek reelection to the Port Commission this year (he's up).

We'll be watching for any forthcoming announcement from Bryant, and we'll also let you know if we hear of any further developments.


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