Continuing a long tradition of endorsing Republicans in key state and federal races, the Blethen-controlled Seattle Times editorial board has belatedly published an endorsement of Jinyoung Lee Englund, the Republican Party’s candidate for the state Senate in Washington’s 45th Legislative District.
To the surprise of many, the Times neglected to make an endorsement in the contest prior to the Top Two election — which Englund’s Democratic opponent Manka Dhingra easily won. But with ballots due to be mailed for the November general election in a matter of days, the Blethens have decided to back Englund.
Why? Because a Jinyoung Englund win means that Republican Mark Schoesler and his spiteful Caucus of No will remain in power and remain in a position to obstruct, quash, and delay… which the Blethens absurdly say is in the state’s best interest.
The Times’ unsigned editorial tacitly admits the editorial board considers Manka Dhingra to be the superior candidate. “A senior deputy King County prosecutor, Dhingra has a longer list of professional accomplishments, working on issues important to our region and this editorial board, such as crisis-intervention training, mental health and criminal-justice reform,” the editorial notes.
This editorial is the latest proof that the person really doesn’t matter more than the party, at least not to newspaper publishers like Frank Blethen.
We seem to hear that mantra a lot from newspaper editorial boards in this state, including The Seattle Times. If they truly believed in people above parties, they’d make endorsement decisions based on merit, and merit alone. But, as we can see, for the Blethens, party politics trumps qualifications, resume, and experience.
Manka Dhingra may have lived on the Eastside for decades. She may know her neighbors exceptionally well. She may have a “longer list of professional accomplishments”, in the words of the editorial, than her opponent. She may be better prepared to assume this important elected position than Englund.
But none of that ultimately matters.
What does matter is that Manka Dhingra belongs to the Democratic Party and would vault the party into the majority in the Senate if she wins.
Democratic control of both legislative chambers is not something Frank Blethen wants. Hence, the Times editorial page is backing Englund.
“Englund makes a persuasive case that her election will preserve a ‘balance of government’ that will better serve Washington state,” the unsigned editorial proclaims. “For that reason, voters in the 45th should elect her.”
In other words: Vote Republican! The Times is basically saying to voters in the 45th: Don’t worry about assessing which candidate is better qualified to represent you — just vote for the candidate who identifies with the Republican Party.
I happen to be a partisan voter and party official myself, so I have no problem with the logic of recommending a candidate or voting for a candidate because they belong to a particular political party. But I do think it’s ridiculous when newspaper editorial boards try to have it both ways… profess to be above party politics, but later turn around and make endorsement decisions on the basis of party politics.
I emphatically disagree that divided government is serving the state well. Back in the summer, I filed a lengthy post here explaining why Mark Schoesler and his Caucus of No need to be ousted from power by voters. Read that post if you’d like to hear the Times’ endorsement rationale rebutted and refuted.
I mentioned at the beginning of this post that the Blethen-owned Times has a long tradition of endorsing Republican candidates in key state and federal races going back to the turn of the century. This is an editorial page that has backed:
- Dino Rossi over Chris Gregoire (twice);
- Mike McGavick over Maria Cantwell (in 2006);
- Cathy McMorris Rodgers over Don Barbieri (2004);
- Dave Reichert for the United States House over all of his Democratic opponents except for Dave Ross (2004) and Suzan DelBene (2010);
- Susan Hutchison over Dow Constantine (2009);
- Rob McKenna over Jay Inslee (2012);
- … and perhaps most infamously, George W. Bush over Al Gore (2000).
In most of the aforementioned matchups, the Democratic candidate has gone on to win in spite of not receiving the Blethens’ support… and then, after demonstrating a capacity to govern, has ended up securing an endorsement from the Blethens in the course of their next campaign. This has happened to U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, Governor Jay Inslee, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and others.
When endorsing Republicans for executive positions, the Times’ rallying cry has often been, we need a culture change and the Democratic candidate can’t provide it. For example, here’s what they said in 2009 when they endorsed Susan Hutchison:
Susan Hutchison is a political outsider and brings a host of fresh ideas of how to tackle the budget. Because of this potential, she earns the endorsement of The Seattle Times.
Her opponent, Metropolitan King County Council Chairman Dow Constantine, has been on the council since 2002 and has led the budget committee. He is an insider who has had his chance to effect change at the county. He has not done so and it seems unlikely he would be able to as the executive.
Emphasis is mine. Constantine routed Hutchison in the election and quickly established a reputation as a competent executive with a passion for excellence.
Four years later, in 2013, the Blethens admitted they were wrong about Dow and enthusiastically hitched their wagon to Team Constantine.
Dow Constantine deserves to be re-elected — and no doubt will be re-elected — as King County executive.
He has done a good job even in the eyes of many who voted for his opponent. He has been an able administrator of county government during a time of prolonged economic weakness.
Because of his success, nobody of stature has run against him. His opponent, Alan Lobdell, is a man who has never held political office and has raised almost no money.
Emphasis is mine.
Similarly, in 2000, the Times said George W. Bush would make a good president.
Bush won, unlike Susan Hutchison, and turned out to be a disaster, prompting the Seattle Times to backtrack and endorse John Kerry in 2004.
Four years ago, this page endorsed George W. Bush for president. We cannot do so again — because of an ill-conceived war and its aftermath, undisciplined spending, a shrinkage of constitutional rights and an intrusive social agenda. The Bush presidency is not what we had in mind. Our endorsement of John Kerry is not without reservations, but he is head and shoulders above the incumbent.
If voters in the 45th District ignore the Blethens’ ill-advised prescription for Washington’s future and elect Manka Dhingra, she may well go on to earn an endorsement from them next year when she stands for election again.
The Blethens and their editorial board are on record in support of many ideas they know don’t have a chance of passing the Legislature so long as Republicans run the Senate… like the Voting Rights Act or tougher restrictions on oil trains. Don’t they want to see those ideas get considered? If not 2018, when?
The longer Republican control of the state Senate goes on, the worse off Washington will be. The status quo has produced disastrous results. Especially this year. We have no capital budget and a hastily-assembled operating budget that didn’t get the public input and scrutiny it needed before it was voted on.
Three times in four years, Republicans have brought the state to the verge of a government shutdown in order to gain leverage in budget talks. Their behavior keeps getting more extreme, and their rhetoric more arrogant.
And yet the Blethens want to keep them in charge. They are so invested in the concept of divided government they’re willing to overlook awful results.
But I imagine my neighbors in the 45th will feel differently as they sit down to cast their ballots these next few weeks. This district voted for change in August by a big margin. Now we’ll see if we get a similar result in the final round.
Senate Republicans naturally don’t want to give up their power. But if voters in the 45th take it away, the 2018 legislative session could go from being more of the same gridlock we’ve endured for years to refreshingly fruitful and productive, giving organizations like NPI and newspapers like the Seattle Times plenty of opportunities to flex our advocacy muscles in support of worthy ideas Washington needs.