Seattle Port Commissioner Gael Tarleton is fending off criticism from the Teamsters, who condemn her for not backing legislation to give independent contract truckers at the port better benefits, by citing a 9th Circuit case that says the legislation could violate federal law.

But Tarleton is in the crowded field of Democrats running to replace retiring longtime State Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson (D-36, Ballard), whose signature issue is an affront to federal law. Dickerson, who has endorsed Tarleton, by the way,  has been the legislature's lead proponent for legalizing marijuana.

In my discussion with Tarleton over her opposition to the Teamsters-backed truckers bill that would have given Port contract truckers unemployment and workers' comp benefits---Tarleton pointed to a September 2011 9th Circuit court ruling ruling that prevents ports from doing so—she said: "I totally think we need to work on truckers' wage issues, but we shouldn't be making things happen in a violation of federal law."

"My goal is to get a win," Tarleton told me. "I want want to have disability insurance and workers' comp, but we have to write law to get that win."

On her election questionnaire with the Teamsters Tarleton would not answer "yes" or "no" about the bill and proposed a different approach, writing: "Would have sought to create a State-level insurance pool ... to achieve these goals consistent with federal law. Port commissioners have no legal authority ... to override federal laws."

This raises a funny question for Tarleton, though.  Does Tarleton support Dickerson's progressive cause? Certainly, legalizing pot is a violation of federal law. (Dickerson, by the way, voted for the trucking bill—it died in the senate.)

Tarleton told PubiCola: "She [Dickerson] is pushing regulated marijuana legalization, regulating  it like a prescription drug, states have the right to do that. Her big issue is access to it when it's needed for medical uses, medical marijuana."

Dickerson's issue is not simply medical marijuana, though. She is a big advocate of selling pot in state regulated liquor stores for the general public and using the tax revenues to help the state budget. She has proposed the idea in the state legislature several years in a row and supports I-502, the marijuana legalization measure that's on the ballot this fall that would do just that.

On that score, Tarleton told PubliCola she supports marijuana legalization and I-502. "I told Mary Lou I'd thought she would stay in office until she won that fight," she quipped. All the other candidates vying for Dickesron's seat also support legalizing pot.

Speaking of I-502, 16 state legislators, including Seattle Sens. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-36, Ballard, Queen Anne), Adam Kline (D-37, S. Seattle), Sharon Nelson (D-34, W. Seattle), and Margarita Prentice (D-11, S. Seattle) and  Reps. Dickerson, Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34, W. Seattle, Burien), Bob Hasegawa (D-11, S. Seattle), and Jamie Pedersen (D-43, Capitol Hill) endorsed the measure today.
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