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Executive Action

By Josh Feit July 1, 2009

As we reported in the Fizz this morning, the four Democrats vying for King County Executive faced off in a debate at Town Hall last night. The debate was sponsored by a crew of environmental groups and focused on environmental issues.

For a night that was shy on substance, the most notable thing about the evening was how adamant Dow Constantine was about defining his image.

Constantine— who's made gains by going on the attack against Republican frontrunner Susan Hutchison—continued to turn up the volume last night. Although this time he wasn't trash talking Hutchison, he was boasting about his own street cred when it comes to fighting evil corporations.

Whether he was saying "we had to recognize the forces at work"  when it comes to protecting the Growth Management Act (that'd be big developers), or that "we have to hold polluters accountable" when it comes to finding a tax revenue source to pay for Duwamish cleanup, or even if was simply name checking Glacier Northwest—the strip mining company Constantine's been battling on Maury Island for years—nearly every one of Constantine's answers was anchored to a script that cast Constantine as an anti-corporate warrior. He set up his heroic role with his very first answer, saying there's "a lot of happy talk about green this and green that" but the real task comes when we disagree with "the moneyed interests" and need somebody who will "stand up."

Later in the debate, he added: "Who stood up [to developers] for [green] retrofits? Who stood up [against Glacier Northwest] for Maury Island? Who will have the spine to stand up?"

Did he just call his competitors spineless?

Ross Hunter also used the night to push an image: The hardass office manager who will cut costs. He did this by dropping all sorts of scary stats about county expenses (Metro is 22 to 40 percent more expensive than other transit agencies around the country, five percent annual pay raises are built into union contracts) and steely-eyed pragmatism: "We will not be able to convince the people we need a revenue increase [interim K.C. Executive Kurt Tripplett has proposed sending a tax increase to voters] until we get our costs under control," Hunter said in his opening statement to a room full of lefties.

Ironically, it was actually Hunter who provided the clearest example of standing up to, and (this is key) actually beating, the corporate bad guys when he detailed how he ushered an anti-toxics bill through the State House—the first legislation in the country to ban toxic flame retardants known as PBDEs—in the face of "entrenched interests" from the chemical industry.

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