Realtor, politician, and serial party-hopper Rodney Tom is running for the Washington State Senate, 48th district. He’s calling himself a Democrat at the moment, for what it’s worth, which is very little. Short version: Elected as a Republican to the House in 2002, in March 2006 he
sees the writing on the wall switches to the Democratic party, because of his support for Democratic positions on social issues generally and LGBT rights in particular. He’s later elected to the State Senate as a Democrat, and in 2013 joins with fellow “Democrat” Tim Sheldon to caucus with the 23 Republican senators, giving the “Majority coalition caucus” (that is, Republicans) control of the state Senate. (Sheldon’s biggest beef with the Democrats appears to be LGBT rights, so teaming up with him should have damaged his carefully cultivated “social liberal, economic moderate” in a less dumb timeline.”) He didn’t run in 2014, and his seat went Democratic, but his “majority coalition caucus,” with Sheldon’s help, continued to give Republicans control of the state Senate until Democrat Manka Dhingra flipped the 45th the November special election.
Because Washington, like California, doesn’t allow political parties to hold primary elections, he’s almost certainly going through to the November election. (The Republicans aren’t fielding a candidate; the only other person on the first-round ballot is an independent whose candidate statement says the only reason he’s filed to run is to attract attention to his blog, which chronicles his failed crusade to prevent light rail from coming to the district). So Washington’s August not-actually-a-primary election in a few weeks will mostly just give a sense of what his chances look like in November. He’s engaging in the absurdly cynical gambit of refusing to say who he’ll caucus with, probably because he wants to keep his options open–caucus with the Republicans if he (and fucking Tim Shelton) can give them control, but stick with the Democratic caucus and try to drag them to the right if they expand their majority elsewhere. (This cynical, play-both-sides strategy in what is supposed to be a primary election is, of course, only viable when you don’t let parties have primaries.)The district has been trending Democratic pretty hard lately, so the odds of Tom winning in 2018 seem slim, but he’s won the district many times, and Republicans, knowing he’s as good as one of them but with broader appeal, are getting out of his way, and the Seattle Times (who adore his party hopping) are all in, so it’s a threat worth taking at least somewhat seriously.
NW Progressive has an amusing post about Tom’s door-hangers, comparing the version in Democratic-leaning parts of the District to the version found in Republican-leaning areas. Cynical as hell, but the voting system we signed up for invites precisely this strategy, so I can hardly blame him. Most of the differences are entirely predictable, but there’s a particularly curious difference that’s puzzling to me. From the door-hanger targeting Democrats and left leaning voters:
My 89-year old father lives on a fixed income in the Eastgate house where I grew up. Since 2015, his property taxes have gone up 43%.
Still, my opponent pushed for even higher taxes last session.
From the flyer targeting Republicans:
My father just passed away this spring at 88 years old. He lived on a fixed income in the Eastgate house where I grew up. Under my opponent’s failed leadership and big-tax mentality, we’ve been burdened by the biggest property tax hikes in history. My father’s taxes had gone up 43% since 2015.
I’m fascinated with this. The innocent mistake interpretation–some printed before, others after, his father’s death–would seem to be belied by the ambiguity about his status on his 89th birthday. Unless his father celebrated said birthday in some sort of ambiguous state that could plausibly be described as “alive” or “dead” depending on one’s perspective, obviously one of these is a lie. But what’s more likely? Is his father dead, but he thought Democrats would like him more if his father were alive? Or did he decide pretending his father is dead would boost Republican turnout?