Jinyoung Lee Englund speaks during a candidate debate

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.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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