NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate provides the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

Actions speak louder than words, and Tim Sheldon’s actions make him a Republican

Aside from Sen­ate Repub­li­cans’ adop­tion of a set of rules con­tain­ing an unde­mo­c­ra­t­ic, uncon­sti­tu­tion­al pro­ce­dur­al two-thirds vote require­ment for bills propos­ing new rev­enue sources, the main news being report­ed out of the state­house by Wash­ing­ton news­pa­pers on Mon­day was the sur­prise elec­tion of Pam Roach to the office of Pres­i­dent Pro Tem­pore.

As we had antic­i­pat­ed would be the case, pret­ty much every account of the vote and its fall­out inac­cu­rate­ly described the sud­den­ly deposed Tim Shel­don as a Demo­c­rat. Con­sid­er, for exam­ple, how The News Tri­bune’s Jor­dan Schrad­er began his sto­ry:

Democ­rats help Repub­li­can Sen. Pam Roach unseat a Democrat
By Jor­dan Schrader

Near­ly all Democ­rats vot­ed for a Repub­li­can. Near­ly all Repub­li­cans vot­ed for a Democrat.

And by a whisker, Pam Roach pre­vailed, win­ning a lead­er­ship role in the state Sen­ate and tak­ing the lat­est step in a come­back from the days when she wasn’t even allowed in meet­ings of her fel­low Republicans.

How many times does it need to be said: Tim Shel­don is not a Demo­c­rat. He made a choice, years ago, to sev­er ties with the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty. The Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty, for its part, no longer wants any­thing to do with him.

Now, I imag­ine that at least a few of you read­ing this post right now, includ­ing those of you who write for one of the McClatchy papers or the Seat­tle Times or anoth­er paper may be think­ing, But Tim Shel­don got elect­ed as a Demo­c­rat.

No, he did­n’t. Tim Shel­don got elect­ed as Tim Shel­don. Legal­ly, when Tim Shel­don was on the bal­lot, he was rep­re­sent­ing no one except for himself.

Allow me to explain.

Since 2008, we have had here in Wash­ing­ton a very strange sys­tem for elect­ing peo­ple to office, based on the ridicu­lous notion that nobody should ever have to vote a par­ty bal­lot (the hor­ror!) except per­haps in a pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry. It’s based on a sys­tem first used in Louisana, and it’s called Top Two.

Top Two is meant to be a replace­ment for the old pre­lim­i­nary “blan­ket” elec­tion we used to have, where nom­i­nees were cho­sen on a bal­lot that was not restrict­ed to vot­ers from a par­tic­u­lar par­ty. The Supreme Court struck down this sys­tem as uncon­sti­tu­tion­al in the mid 2000s. Sam Reed, the state Grange, and oth­ers came up with Top Two in response. They have claimed on sev­er­al occa­sions that Top Two is like the sys­tem we used to have. In fact, it is not. It’s very different.

Top Two pro­vides for a two-part gen­er­al elec­tion. The first round (present­ly held in August) is used to elim­i­nate can­di­dates from con­tention — if there be more than two per­sons seek­ing an office — and the sec­ond round (held in Novem­ber) con­sti­tutes the runoff. The top two can­di­dates advance to the sec­ond round regard­less of par­ty; there are no nom­i­nees being cho­sen in this sys­tem.

The Grange, which cre­at­ed ini­tia­tive that cre­at­ed the Top Two sys­tem (I‑872, approved in Novem­ber 2004 but not imple­ment­ed until 2008 due to court rul­ings) was well aware that propos­ing to do away with par­ti­san elec­tions alto­geth­er might not go over very well; plen­ty of vot­ers use par­ty affil­i­a­tion as a cue when voting.

So they insert­ed a pro­vi­sion into their ini­tia­tive (which lat­er became state law) which allows can­di­dates to state a par­ty pref­er­ence.

How­ev­er, as the Sec­re­tary of State has reluc­tant­ly admit­ted on sev­er­al occa­sions, this descrip­tor car­ries no legal weight. Can­di­dates can use this space to describe them­selves how­ev­er they’d like. For instance, I could file for office and say I pre­fer the Cake Bat­ter Ice Cream Par­ty, or the Christ­mas Par­ty, or the Stephen King Party.

When Tim Shel­don filed for office last year, he put “Prefers Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty” into the space allot­ted to him for a descrip­tor. So did one of his oppo­nents, Irene Bowl­ing, who went on to face him in the runoff.

How­ev­er, Bowl­ing, unlike Shel­don, is an actu­al Demo­c­rat. She cam­paigned with the sup­port of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty, she won the par­ty’s nom­i­na­tion (which Shel­don did not seek), and she was pre­pared to cau­cus with the Democ­rats had she won. Bowl­ing was the only Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­date in the 35th in 2014.

Shel­don cam­paigned with the sup­port of Repub­li­cans and has con­tin­ued to cau­cus with Repub­li­cans fol­low­ing his reelec­tion. Repub­li­cans, for their part, have wel­comed and accept­ed him into their ranks. He is serv­ing like a Repub­li­can mem­ber of the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate. That makes him a Republican.

It mat­ters not that Shel­don calls him­self a Demo­c­rat. The Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty decides who its can­di­dates and its mem­bers are; it has that right under the First Amend­ment to the Con­sti­tu­tion of the Unit­ed States. Free assem­bly is a great thing.

The Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty has dis­owned Tim Shel­don fol­low­ing his depar­ture from the Sen­ate Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus in 2012. It would be accu­rate to call Shel­don an ex-Demo­c­rat or a for­mer Demo­c­rat, as he did asso­ciate him­self with the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty once upon a time. But he is not now a Democrat.

Again, because of the way Top Two works, the argu­ment can­not be made that Tim Shel­don got elect­ed as a Demo­c­rat in spite of hav­ing been dis­owned by the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty. Tim Shel­don got elect­ed as Tim Shel­don. We have not had an actu­al pri­ma­ry to choose nom­i­nees for office in this state since 2007.

If any reporter would like to hear this same expla­na­tion from the Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty’s offi­cial spokesper­son, they can call up State Par­ty Chair Jax­on Ravens, who I am sure would be per­fect­ly hap­py to com­ment on the record.

Shel­don could do every­one a favor and sim­ply pro­claim him­self to be what he real­ly is: a Repub­li­can. If Mark Milos­cia can do it, he can do it. But, for what­ev­er rea­son, he con­tin­ues to adver­tise him­self as belong­ing to a par­ty he has renounced, and which has in turn renounced him. The rest of us, how­ev­er, are under no oblig­a­tion to play along with him. A spade is a spade. Reporters work­ing for mass media ought to stop refer­ring to Tim Shel­don as a Demo­c­rat — because he isn’t one.

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One Comment

  1. Seri­ous­ly, Shelden lost his cred­i­bil­i­ty as a leg­is­la­tor years ago.

    # by Mike Barer :: January 14th, 2015 at 4:57 PM
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