At 8 O’Clock, on the dot, I’ll be glued to my computer screen looking to see if Gerry Pollet won his 46th district state legislature race up in Washington State. I’ll be looking to see if all of my work – 8 hours a day, six days a week on average – in the summer ultimately paid off.
The race could not be more interesting. You have a younger, promising African-American man named Sylvester Cann who promises new solutions and fresh thinking going against the older, party favorite Pollet who got appointed to his spot a year ago and is fighting for his political life. Cann is relatively unexperienced and has steered his messaging slightly toward the middle (note: the “middle” in northeast Seattle is still pretty liberal) versus the staunch liberal activist who has worked the better part of his life fighting in court for the cleanup of Hanford nuclear waste site. They have differences, but the thing that makes the race the most intriguing is what they share: they are both registered democrats. That makes for a highly competitive race in a highly liberal Seattle district.
Sylvester Cann (left) and Gerry Pollet (right).
There are not very many easily identifiable differences in policy mainly because the challenger, Mr. Cann, hasn’t offered many policy specifics at all. There are a couple of differences though:
Cann has been boosted by huge amounts of money in contributions and independent expenditures from Charter School advocates. How Cann answers the charter schools question depends on what he perceives the person he is talking to thinks about it (a tack he takes with just about every issue), but his official position is that he is “for conversations about charter schools.” Yes, the guy who is promising new thinking and fresh solutions (in contrast to the supposed old ideas and thinking of Gerry Pollet) wants to have “conversations about charter schools,” – maybe we should do ten more studies on them too, or form a special committee or hold a hearing or something – or maybe just let the special interests that fund his campaign dominate the “conversation.” Sounds like the same old dysfunctional government bureaucracy he rails against to me.
Just stand up and take a position. If charter schools are going to help minority, underserved students then champion them. If you don’t and think they’ll delocalize decision-making and don’t offer any solutions a public school can’t offer, resist them. Then count the votes – and see if it passes or not. But the battle lines are drawn and we definitely don’t need to have another conversation about them – we’ve been doing that for the better part of the last decade, at least. Gerry Pollet has made his position clear: he opposes charter schools. Mr. Cann is still trying to get votes from both sides, even though he’s getting funded almost single-handedly by charter school interests.
When Mr. Cann isn’t accepting money from charter school corporations, he’s accepting money from special interests whose goals conflict with the basic Democratic party platform. Mr. Cann will literally accept money from anybody, mining companies that kill the environment, huge mega-developers, and on and on. Gerry simply doesn’t accept money from interests that aren’t aligned with his principles and beliefs. He accepts money from labor because he supports labor. That makes sense. He accepts money from Native American tribes because he supports them. He doesn’t accept money from people that don’t support him. Not that he gets offered it. In just one year, he’s proven that he’s going to be a fierce advocate for his constituents and not major corporations or other special interests – and the money going to Mr. Cann is not as much about supporting Mr. Cann as trying to defeat Gerry Pollet because of his effectiveness at standing up for his constituents.
Here are both Gerry Pollet and Sylvester Cann’s primary, positive television ads to give you a sense of how they’re trying to sway voters in the 46 district.
I like Sylvester Cann. I think he has a promising future and I wish he ran in Gerry’s seatmate’s race (an open seat for heaven’s sake) because I would have probably supported him. But, for some interesting reasons (it is a long, long story – this race is interesting in too many ways to explain all of them), he decided he wanted to try to unseat Gerry. And, he is outraising and outspending Gerry trying to do it. And the special interests that are behind him have supported him with double the money in independent expenditures as Gerry Pollet’s supporters. But, I worked so hard over the summer to beat him because I believe in Gerry Pollet’s work and what he brings to the state legislature. All of my other blog posts may have been about the presidential election. But, on Tuesday evening, it’ll be this little state legislative race in Washington that is at the forefront of my mind. And I’m hoping to be able to call Gerry and congratulate him on his win.
P.S. Do you want to see a truly amazing example of good transparency and disclosure of political contributions and independent expenditures. Check out www.pdc.wa.gov.