Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Connelly: "Democrats hold crab feed on stormy seas"

Joel Connelly (seattlepi.com):
LACEY - Usually an upbeat evening in state politics, Washington State Democrats' annual crab feed on Monday had the feel of a ship battening down for a nor'easter or a battalion marching to the sound of the guns.

"We have not had a good couple of months," U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the first member of Washington's congressional delegation to back Barack Obama for president, told the crowd at St. Martin's University.
Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., predicted that health care reform will pass Congress, but privately commented on the sudden announcement by Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Indiana,
that he won't run for reelection.

"There's a lot of bad blood back there (Washington, D.C.)," McDermott said.

Even if one of their Washington, D.C., luminaries was waving Bayh!, Democrats in the capital of this Washington were coming off a good day.

With help from unions, a big noontime crowd rallied at the State Capitol to call for preserving social programs facing the meat-axe if the state cannot find new revenue sources. It far outstripped a no-new-taxes rally earlier in the day.

"The tea baggers had 500 people: We had 5,000 - it sends a message," said Ivan Weiss, a longtime Seattle Times editor who, in retirement, has become a leader of the 34th District Democrats.

Actually, the crowd at the save-social-spending rally may have been smaller, but progressive forces in the state remain organized and ready to fight.

But Republicans are fielding a fairly strong lineup of legislative candidates, and will make a major run at the 3rd District congressional seat of retiring Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash. They are also directing a stream of negative boilerplate press releases at Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash.

The Democrats' response, on display Monday night, has been to adopt populist soundings - Larsen promised to "hold Wall Street accountable for driving us into a ditch" - and to depict Republicans as a party of naysayers.

If the crab feed had a theme, however, it might be summed up as "Rocky Days are Here Again."

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., while a favorite for re-election, acknowledged to the crowd that "there's a lot of teabaggers and whatever out there . . ."

"It is not a time to give up: This is the time we show wisdom and courage and stand up for what we believe in as Democrats," said Murray. The three-term senator is a member of the Senate Democratic leadership.

Old pep lines did not seem to rouse the crowd.

"Are we ready for 2010?" shouted Gov. Chris Gregoire.

"Yeah," responded a few of the party faithful. "I don't know about that," Andrew Villeneuve of the Northwest Progressive Institute, a savvy young party activist, quietly observed.

The governor kept up her queries, as if addressing a sleepy high school class. "Patty Murray in 2010 by a landslide? Right?" asked Gregoire. Again, the response was underwhelming.

The crab feed was used to roll out four Democratic hopefuls hoping to take Baird's place in Congress. After they spoke, state Democratic Chairman Dwight Pelz made the candidates show their prowess - or lack of it - at juggling and tying balloons together in the shape of creatures.

Only one of the four 3rd District candidates - state Sen. Craig Pridemore of Vancouver - actively worked tables of Democrats munching on crabs.

Pridemore came across as a proud liberal, hitting such themes as abortion rights and the right of same-sex couples to marry.

State Rep. Deb Wallace noted that she unseated a Republican legislator and has held onto a "swing" district in Clark County. Wallace argued that she would be in the best position to take on state Rep. Jaime Herrera, being pushed by national Republican strategists who see the opportunity to elect an Hispanic woman.

"I've spent the last 10 years growing companies and growing jobs," said Denny Heck, onetime legislator and TVW channel co-founder. A less known candidate, Cheryl Crist, came across as a peace advocate eager to get American out of "these wars."

The seeming dysfunction of the U.S. Senate in Washington, D.C. - where more than 200 House-passed bills await action - drew a sharp rebuke from Craig Pridemore. He noted the lawmakers of his party who have failed to follow President Obama.

"A lot of Democrats let him down and let us down," said Pridemore.

In the 2006 and 2008 campaigns, 8th District hopeful Darcy Burner received an enthusiastic welcome at the crab feed. She ran twice and lost to Republican Rep. Dave Reichert. Former Microsoft executive Suzan DelBene, running against Reichert this year, has assembled a crack campaign team and raised more than $1 million - but didn't exactly raise the roof last night.
DelBene spent much of her time at a VIP reception, did not work tables, and delivered a tepid speech that received a like reception.
Howie P.S.: Sounds like DelBene may be suffering from Mallahanitis.

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