King County Executive: PubliCola Picks Dow Constantine

By PublicolaPicks October 19, 2009


Dow Constantine gets it. An out and proud Democrat, King County Council chair Constantine is a stalwart progressive on the environment, transportation, the economy, and civil rights.

As a new Sound Transit board member in the mid-2000s, Constantine helped bring the agency back from the brink of financial disaster and successfully led the fight to expand the system last year. He’s been a leader on environmental protection, fighting developers to curtail sprawl and battling Glacier Northwest's Puget Sound-polluting gravel mine on Maury Island. And as a state legislator in the 90’s and early 2000s, he pushed for an overhaul of the state’s regressive tax system and got the ball rolling on gay rights, pushing a nondiscrimination law.

Constantine's progressive leanings are matched with a no-nonsense approach to reform that bucks the Democratic establishment.

Not only did Constantine pass legislation at the county early in his council career to usher in stern performance audits and pass whistleblower protections for county workers who call out bad government management and inefficiencies, but in response to this year’s budget crisis, he initiated wise cost-saving fixes like shifting union health care coverage to Group Health, cut administration at the sheriff’s office instead of eliminating officers on the street, and won cuts of 10 and 15 percent to council and executive staff, respectively. And, against the county union’s wishes, he adamantly favors furloughs.

Even in slash mode, however, Constantine keeps King County’s liberal values (and programs) intact. He deftly convinced the state to free up money earmarked for future mental health programs to cover current programs that were underfunded. And he proposed a plan to redistribute health-care dollars away from top brass at the county to the rank and file.

Constantine’s mix of liberal values and fiscal common sense is ideal for King County, home to some of the most progressive voters, and the most innovative businesses and entrepreneurs, in the country.

He'll also be the first King County Executive who worked as a punk-rock DJ at UW, owns the Afghan Wigs' Gentlemen and the Flaming Lips' The Soft Bulletin, and whose contributors include acid-rock guitarist Kim Thayil of Soundgarden.

Constantine’s opponent, former KIRO-TV anchor and Seattle Symphony Orchestra chair Susan Hutchison, has run a slippery campaign based on “bringing people together” and “nonpartisan leadership” by a "nonpolitician." Both of these themes are pure fantasy.

Hutchison’s claims to “nonpartisanship” are a fabrication. She was a board member at the Discovery Institute, which infamously resurrected 1925’s Scopes Trial by taking its case for “Intelligent Design” to federal court. Fail.

She's also a big supporter of the Washington Policy Center, a hyper-conservative local think tank that issues papers opposing light rail (it’s “socialistic”) and environmental regulations. (The Charles Simonyi Fund, of which Hutchison is executive director, donated $100,000 to the WPC as well).

And follow the money. Hutchison herself has made hefty donations to: George Bush, Dino Rossi, GOP Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA), the ultraconservative Building Industry Association of Washington, Mike Huckabee, and failed Patty Murray opponent George Nethercutt. She has not donated to any Democrats, ever, despite implying she had during a televised debate with Constantine on KCTS last week.

Similarly, donors to Hutchison’s campaign are a who’s who of the local GOP establishment, including: Bruce McCaw (who also may be providing her with an illegal campaign headquarters—a PDC investigation is pending as we write this); mall developer and anti-light rail sugar daddy Kemper Freeman (who’s currently suing to stop light rail on the Eastside); cellular exec John Stanton, frequent anti-choice contributor Richard Alvord; Bush backers Linda Nordstrom and Peter Neupert, and estate tax opponents John Nordstrom and Charles Pigott.

Freeman, McCaw, the BIAW, and Glacier Northwest—go figure— are also funding a $100,000 independent expenditure against Constantine.

Siding with Dino Rossi and George Bush not only exposes Hutchison’s dishonesty about being “nonpartisan,” but it indicates where she’ll come down on important county issues, from budget priorities to environmental regulations to transportation policy.

There is one issue where Hutchison acts more like a Democrat than Constantine—labor negotiations. Kissing up to labor, Hutchison has said she will not get tough with the unions when it comes to demanding budget crisis remedies such as furloughs. Constantine says he will. We agree with Constantine: The county can't afford to mollify its unions any longer.

Meanwhile, Hutchison’s pabulum about “bringing people together” is also a canard.  She has no track record on this score.

Chair of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra? Listen to this embarrassing December 2007 expose in The New York Times on the Seattle Symphony (a year after Hutchsion became chair): “The Seattle Symphony Orchestra … carried disharmony to new heights lurching from crisis to crisis.” And when she retired as board chair this summer, the symphony was facing a $1.2 million deficit.

Her 20-year tenure at KIRO? It ended in a bitter lawsuit.

Hutchison is currently the executive director of the Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences, a  $75 million fund that issues checks to the Seattle Symphony, SAM, the library, and the Seattle Opera. Has she brought people together there? Perhaps. She’s the only staffer.

PubliCola Picks: Dow Constantine

Full disclosure: Dow Constantine spokesman Sandeep Kaushik co-founded PubliCola in January. He played no part in our endorsement process and has no editorial role at PubliCola.
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