In the back of First United Methodist Church on Wednesday night, a pack of pale hot dogs rolled and churned in a pot of boiling water.
The experience probably felt similar for the hopeful political candidates in the room.
At stake for many was an endorsement from the 27th District Democrats, who gathered on uncomfortable folding chairs on a warm night to bestow their blessing on chosen candidates.
I was there because of the potential implications for two Tacoma City Council races worth watching closely.
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In District 3, where seven candidates are vying to replace the term-limited Lauren Walker, Justin Leighton — a government relations officer for Pierce Transit with a long résumé of community involvement — landed the sole endorsement. That said, Keith Blocker, a community activist and education adviser for the nonprofit Metropolitan Development Council, also had strong support in the room. The race seems destined to come down to those two, though don’t discount Tom McCarthy, a Pierce College teacher with ties to local labor.
In District 1, of course, we have incumbent Anders Ibsen squaring off against high school teacher John Hines and the relatively unknown Tara Doyle-Enneking.
More on her in a minute.
As for Hines, his jump into the District 1 fracas with the backing of all sitting council members short of Ryan Mello came with no shortage of intrigue. What, exactly, is behind Hines’ last-minute decision to challenge Ibsen in the 1st after initially committing to run for the at-large Position 7?
More directly, will Hines reveal himself to be the “Chamber candidate” that many progressives seem to fear, gobbling up political contributions from local business interests opposed to Ibsen’s stance on things like paid sick leave and a minimum raise hike?
It seems unlikely. At worst Hines is an opportunist, an upstart political candidate in the right place at the right time to take advantage of a City Council that’s now made clear it wouldn’t mind ridding itself of Ibsen’s style of play. But Hines is also a union guy and avowed “good Democrat,” as he said roughly 17 times during a 90-second plea for an endorsement Wednesday night.
In a room that felt more than half filled with Ibsen supporters, the endorsement wasn’t to be for Hines, even with words of support offered by state Sen. Jeannie Darneille. (Ibsen secured an early endorsement from the 27th District Dems and held on to it Wednesday.)
Councilman Marty Campbell also spoke in favor of a Hines endorsement, not shocking considering he’s personally endorsed Hines’ run.
But it was Campbell’s somewhat unexpected reasoning that’s worth examining.
According to the man who made a name as a small business owner renting out videos in the Stadium District, it’s Doyle-Enneking to be wary of. Campbell lobbied Wednesday night for a united effort that sees both Hines and Ibsen making it through the August primary and into the general election.
“We need to get two Democrats through, and that should be the focus for the primary when the third candidate is a Republican who has a lot of business support,” Campbell explained of his position, making sure to note he was speaking with his “Democrat hat on.”
The legitimacy of the Doyle-Enneking campaign remains to be seen. PDC reports show a challenger who has yet to officially raise a dime, though her website does include a varied list of endorsements, including the likes of Jeff Paradise and John Xitco of X Group Restaurants, Tim Tweten of the South Sound Restaurant Group, McDonald’s franchise owner Ed Maher and Carlyn Roy, the CEO of Tapco Credit Union.
Doyle-Enneking, whose husband, Mike, is a former Tacoma Stars indoor soccer player and says, somewhat Yoda-like, on her campaign website, “a modern day politician I am not,” tells me she “loves the fact” that City Council races are nonpartisan. She says her support so far has been “equally weighted” between political parties.
She says she’s not a Republican, though she has met some Republican leaders who have gotten behind her run.
“It will take everyone's support on both sides for me to win this race,” Doyle-Enneking tells me.
So is this the candidate that Ibsen supporters who cursed Hines under the presumption he was the “Chamber candidate” should keep an eye on?
The unknown challenger answers in one word: “no.”
Tacoma Pierce County Chamber CEO Tom Pierson, meanwhile, tells me the Chamber doesn’t endorse candidates and “will not be a financial partner in any of the City Council races.” He does note, however, that the Tacoma-Pierce County Business Alliance PAC, which is a separate organization from the Chamber but shares several members, plans to interview all three candidates in District 1 and will “make decisions from there” about financial contributions.
“I only met her for the first time after she filed her candidacy,” Pierson tells me of Doyle-Enneking. “I am interested to see how this race develops.”
That makes two of us.