After a four year hiatus from legislating and campaigning for office, party switcher Rodney Tom is back in the arena, challenging the second of his successors as State Senator of the 48th District in an attempt to reclaim the position he once held.
Tom is the only legislator in recent times (and possibly ever, although we’d have to check with legislative historians to be sure) to have served in all four caucuses in Olympia. He is a Republican-turned-Democrat-turned-Republican-again.
Tom started out in the House Republican caucus in 2003, went over to the House Democrats in 2006, became part of the Senate Democrats at the end of that year, and then abandoned the Senate Democrats to become Senate Majority Leader as part of a power coup he engineered with the Senate Republicans in 2012.
Although Tom caucused with the Republicans for two sessions, became a right wing political operative after leaving the Legislature, and urged 45th LD voters to back Jinyoung Lee Englund in last year’s special election to pick a successor to Andy Hill, he has continued to state publicly that he considers himself a Democrat.
The Democratic Party fiercely disagrees, and argues Tom only filed as a Democrat for his comeback bid because he wouldn’t win as a Republican. (The 48th has become a much more progressive district since the last time it sent a Republican to the Legislature. The year was 2004; the candidate was Rodney Tom.)
Tom declared at a candidate forum Monday night that he has just knocked on his five thousandth door as a 2018 candidate. If true, that means he’s been out on the doors a lot. We were curious what Rodney is telling voters in the 48th about his candidacy, so we obtained two pieces of his doorbelling literature..
At first glance, they looked to be the same, but we quickly realized they weren’t.
What we’ll call Version A appears to be targeted to households that are more left-leaning, while what we’ll call Version B seems meant for households that are more right-leaning. The pieces share the same design, but the messaging is different.
Also, the stock photo that’s in the left leaning version (depicting a woman with children and what appears to be a chemistry set) isn’t in the right leaning version.
Here is Version A:
And here is Version B:
Here is a comparison of the talking points on the front of Version A.
|Version A (left leaning)||Version B (right leaning)|
|We need Rodney Tom as our Senator… again.||We need Rodney Tom as our Senator… again.|
|A proud social progressive and a proven leader.||Cut tuition for college students for the first time in state history.|
|Will reverse the vote his opponent took to hide her Senate emails. Senators should not be allowed to hide their emails from the public… period.||Worked with Republicans and fiscally responsible Democrats to pass balanced budgets with no tax increases.|
|Will fight to roll back car tab fees and property taxes.|
|Rodney changed state law so undocumented immigrant students have access to in-state tuition and financial aid.|
“Rodney Tom… is more fiscally conservative than most of the Republicans in the legislature.”
— John Carlson, KVI Radio
Notice the differences? In Version A, Rodney brands himself a “progressive” (which he most assuredly is not), emphasizes his views on public disclosure, and takes credit for the state-level DREAM Act that almost didn’t pass back in 2014.
In Version B, Rodney emphasizes his anti-tax positions and ends with a fawning quote from well known right wing radio host John Carlson.
Version B appears to be the doorbelling piece Tom is using to pander for Republican votes, which he needs in order to have a prayer of being competitive.
Now, here is comparison of the letter that’s on the other side.
|Version A (left leaning)||Version B (right leaning)|
My 89-year old father lives on a fixed income in the Eastgate house where I grew up. Since 2015, his property taxes have gone up 43%.
Still, my opponent pushed for even higher taxes last session.
I take this personally.
We can’t displace seniors out of their homes. We’ll never make housing affordable if we drive up costs.
I am returning to public life for two main reasons: to advocate for education reforms and to keep taxes in check.
I hope my record as a social progressive and fiscally-responsible leader earns your vote once again.
My father just passed away this spring at 88 years old. He lived on a fixed income in the Eastgate house where I grew up. Under my opponent’s failed leadership and big-tax mentality, we’ve been burdened by the biggest property tax hikes in history. My father’s taxes had gone up 43% since 2015.
I take this personally. We can’t displace seniors out of their homes. And we will never make housing affordable if we keep driving up costs.
I am returning to public life for two main reasons… to advocate for education reforms and to keep a check on taxes.
I hope my record as a fiscally responsible leader earns your vote.
Notice that the left leaning version only says Kuderer “pushed for even higher taxes last session” without going into more details.
The right leaning version, on the other hand, spitefully tries to directly implicate Kuderer in Tom’s late father’s suffering by falsely blaming her for the suburban and urban property tax increases Tom’s own Senate Republican caucus insisted on during operating budget/McCleary funding negotiations in 2017.
As far as Tom is concerned, it does not matter that Kuderer was a NAY vote on the property tax levy swipe scheme and was in the minority in the Senate at the time it was proposed and approved. It seems Tom will say anything in an effort to secure the votes his campaign needs. The truth doesn’t matter.
All that matters is winning, and getting his old position back.
Also notice that Tom calls himself a progressive again in Version A, while that label is conspicuously absent from the wording in Version B.
From what we can tell, Version A was made first, and Version B was created several weeks later. Both versions are currently being distributed by Tom’s campaign.
This, readers, is what pandering looks like. This is politics at its worst.
It’s clear that Rodney Tom really, really, really wants to return to the Legislature and resume his power games. Unfortunately for him, Patty Kuderer stands in his way.
Because the 48th is heavily Democratic, the only way for Tom to win is to turn out the Republican base and convince a substantial number of Democratic voters to betray their party’s own true standard bearer in favor of him.
Tom is simultaneously chasing after two very different groups of voters and trying to win them over to his side by telling them what he thinks they want to hear.
That’s disturbing, but not surprising coming from someone who hooked up with his old political party in return for a corner office and the title of Majority Leader.