For local political activists, selecting one candidate to receive the party seal of approval can be difficult.
“It doesn’t do anything for the district organization, and it usually tears things apart,” said MJ McGalliard, Democratic chairman in the 31st Legislative District, which straddles the line between eastern King and Pierce counties.
This week, endorsements became contentious for one local Democratic Party organization.
Leaving a Monday night meeting of Tacoma’s 27th Legislative District Democrats, supporters of Laurie Jinkins’ state House campaign thought she had won an endorsement.
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Turns out it wasn’t so clear-cut. The local party compared the votes to the meeting’s sign-in sheet and turned up some irregularities.
“We had some votes cast by people who were not members, and we had more votes cast than the number of people that signed in,” vice-chairman David Schroedel said.
Was it mischief or honest error? The party’s trying to sort that out, Schroedel said, along with the number of ineligible votes.
By a margin of just two votes, the local party had given a dual endorsement to Democratic rivals Jinkins and Jake Fey. It was a boost for Jinkins because the party had endorsed Fey alone in March.
Fey and Jinkins are running for the seat vacated by Rep. Dennis Flannigan. Two other Democrats, Janis Gbalah and Jessica Smeall, are running, along with independent Ken Nichols.
Parties can provide a candidate with money and campaigning help. An endorsement from the district party usually leads to the backing of the Pierce County party.
Such backing could be less important in the era of Washington’s top-two primary, when party nominations don’t appear on the ballot.
Party support isn’t pivotal, but it helps, said Ken Miller, who is with Jinkins’ campaign.
Some district party organizations have declined to endorse candidates in intraparty races, preferring to wait for the Aug. 17 primary to sort out the field.
McGalliard’s 31st District board decided to try a novel approach: Endorse all Democrats, then rate them on their issue positions and campaigning skills.
The idea of rankings didn’t go over well with candidates, drawing opposition in particular from Rep. Christopher Hurst, D-Enumclaw.
Party members decided to postpone endorsements that had been scheduled for June. The district party’s board will consider Wednesday whether to change the process.
The debate comes against a backdrop of division in the 31st district over Hurst’s decision to file as an “Independent Dem.” He and other moderate Democrats organized this year under the nickname “Roadkill Caucus,” saying they’re constantly run over by liberals.
McGalliard said the base is confused about where Hurst and other Roadkill members stand. Hurst said that’s none of the party’s business.
“We’re not down there to represent just a handful of people,” he said. “Once we get elected, we’re down there to represent the district.”
A group of Republicans in the district could sidestep the thorny issue of endorsements altogether. The 31st District GOP on the King County side of the line will endorse neither Shawn Bunney nor Cathy Dahlquist until after the primary, chairwoman Darlene Hamilton said.
“I wish it would just hurry up and be over,” Hamilton said, “so I could put somebody’s sign out.”
Jordan Schrader: 360-786-1826 firstname.lastname@example.org; blog.thenewstribune.com/politics