Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Friday, October 15, 2010

WA-23rd Endorsements Reflect Red Shift in Kitsap County

by Johnny Walker
@KingstonJW on Twitter

Acting as a liaison between almost 13,000 readers and the politicians who would have their vote, the North Kitsap Herald published key political endorsements Friday that will certainly influence November elections. As these endorsements reflect the editorial boards confidence readers have come to rely on, I want to use this opportunity to give an independent and perhaps alternative perspective. You should take the time to read the Herald’s endorsement in print or on their online service when published, but more importantly research the candidates yourself to make the most informed vote.

With the exception of the Kitsap Public Utilities District (KPUD) race, I’ve followed each of the following candidates at several forums and events during the campaign season, testing them for consistency of message and foundational approach to governance.

Incumbent Sherry Appleton (D) v. challenger Pete DeBoer (R):

The NKH endorses Pete DeBoer and I agree. Pete is the right stuff for north Kitsap. He has strong and implementable positions on job creation, fiscal accountability, reduced spending, education, and the value of limited government. He understands the tactical problems inherent to our ferry system, and is well positioned to improve that vital service. I’ve written much more about Pete here.

The case against Sherry Appleton is equally persuasive. I don’t have to be as polite as the NKH. She epitomizes the problem with State spending and out of control government. Appleton is unapologetic about taxes, voted to suspend I-960 and would look forward to a State income tax. She believes the State should continue to retail liquor and is not generally supportive of privatization. Appleton’s philosophy is clearly to tax, spend, and grow government services and has directly contributed to our State’s budget crisis. This makes sense to her because she believes the role of government is to give services, when it is constitutionally chartered to protect individual rights.

Incumbent Christine Rolfes (D) and challenger James Olsen (R):

The NKH endorses Christine Rolfes and I strongly disagree. While I commend NKH for transparency in its rational, I’m surprised by the conclusion. To be clear, the NKH advisory board voted 4-3 in favor of Olsen but was over-ruled by the managing editor and publisher to support Rolfes. I won’t question the personal motivations of this override, but I will question the rational: “the Herald’s editor and publisher were not convinced he made a compelling argument for change. Furthermore, Rolfes’ professionalism and calm demeanor worked strongly in her favor.”

So let’s be clear, the differences between Rolfes and Olsen are night and day, and quite similar to the difference between Appleton and DeBoer. In almost every respect, Rolfes and Appleton have walked hand in hand on taxation, growing government, suspending I-960, and support of a State income tax. Rolfes is a self-acknowledged progressive who is part of the spending problem. Like DeBoer, James Olsen is a career Coast Guard vet and small business owner who understands how small businesses create jobs. There is clear contrast between Olsen and Rolfes, and they are unmistakable to those who will look. The NKH knows this.

What I suspect the real reason is behind the vetoed endorsement is that Rolfes is perceived as more “professional” and “calm” than Olsen; something I can acknowledge.

James Olsen is a self-identified “fighter” who does not mince words, expects the truth and is harsh on those who prevaricate. I actually like that. The advisory board was correct to think he would be the one to “shake up” Olympia. Yes, Olsen is an energetic, passionate, and incisive communicator that ruffles feathers. So the question is this; “Do 23rd district voters want performance in government or style?” Vote for James Olsen if you want change in performance because we know what the progressive performance of Christine Rolfes has delivered. She helped create the problem. Why does anyone think she would change?

Incumbent Josh Brown (D) and challenger Abbey Burlingame (R)

The NKH endorses Josh Brown and I disagree. The case for Josh Brown is a little too easy. Yes, Brown has served for one term and it was a steep learning curve, but to suggest that Burlingame could not overcome the same curve in the same time is disingenuous. Short of evidence to the contrary, I dismiss it. There are two other Commissioners to balance the load and the County will not fall apart if Josh isn’t there. It could be true that the NKH did not believe Burlingame made a compelling argument for change but they didn’t say that. I suspect the endorsement for Brown was that he presents himself well as a career politician (style) and has a good management of detail. Burlingame inherently will have less grasp of detail because it isn’t her full time job. Go figure – the incumbent has the advantage, and that shows during tactical discussions at the forums. So why, then, Abby? There are lots of good things to say about Abby Burlingame but I’ll mention just a few pragmatic points here.

Personally, I’d like to see a conservative (R) balance on the otherwise Democrat controlled Commission. Both of the other Commissioners are Democrats. Look what has happened in Olympia and D.C. after years of total Democrat control. Balance is a good thing.

Burlingame has the right foundation to deliver prioritized core services that are required by law and rationalize these transparently to voters. She advocates a zero based budget process. Josh Brown has prevaricated on this issue in recent forums.

In my observations of Burlingame over several months, I’ve noticed she has a good connection with every day working folks. She will represent them well. What I’ve observed about Josh Brown is that he has a tendency to be elitist policy wonk, condescending, and arrogant; the kind of career politician that rules instead of represents. We’ve had enough of those.

I’ve also observed Brown to distance himself a little too hands-off from the performance of other elected leaders. The County Commission is critical in the balance of power, and Josh should be more interested in how other Departments are influencing the pulse of the county. It is not enough to say he collaborates well. He also should balance County power and protect individual rights.

Incumbent John Armstrong v. Linda Gabriel

The NKH endorses Linda Gabriel and I agree. I admit that I know least about these two, having only observed them once at the North Kitsap forum in Hansville, but the truth is that incumbent Armstrong neither asked for my vote nor compelled the audience as to why he was a better choice. Linda Gabriel asked for the vote, told us that her impressive credentials in finance were important and could be put to good use. I agree that in this time of increased scrutiny of government expenditures, Gabriel’s experience could be well put to use.

In the final analysis, it seems evident that the North Kitsap Herald’s endorsements mirror increasing disenchantment with an oversized and overspending government but I think they miss the mark on Christine Rolfes and Josh Brown. I'm not as quick to reward incumbents for creating an unsustainable mess by returning them to office.

Know your candidates and vote. November is coming.

1 comment:

James M. said...

Publisher of Sound Publishing Ms. Etchey and Editor NKD Cornish got caught with their hands in the Democrat cookie jar. The NKN and the sister publication ran a slanderous hit piece by a Ms. Milton, of Bainbridge Ovation Group. The paper dutifully ran a clear hit piece in 4 papers under the same title. I called the paper out immediately about the slanderous letter. Editor Cornish said she would put my rebuttal but her editor Etchey said she would not. After warning of the "Nuclear Option", Publisher Etchey did the right thing (published my defense) for probably the wrong reason -- $$$$. Needless to say, the fix was in on this endorsement irrespective of what the NKH Citizens Group voted. Etchey and Cornish revealed themselves to be party hacks and once they were cornered, they were not going to give OLSEN the endorsement.

Johnny Walker captures the differences quite well. I am also sure the voters will see their Publisher and Editor have jumped the shark and made their endorsement of Rolfes just more hack journalism.

Thanks Johnny for your fair evaluation.