Matt Driscoll

Offensive tweets damaged his port commission campaign. Voters should finish the job.

Jim Jensen stop campaigning for a position on the Port of Tacoma Commission after offensive tweets he wrote came to light. But Jensen still could win the seat unless voters stop him, writes columnist Matt Driscoll.
Jim Jensen stop campaigning for a position on the Port of Tacoma Commission after offensive tweets he wrote came to light. But Jensen still could win the seat unless voters stop him, writes columnist Matt Driscoll. phaley@thenewstribune.com

Admittedly, voting in the Aug. 1 primary doesn’t sound as fun as drinking iced tea (or a stronger refreshing beverage) in the shade.

Or leaving town.

Or blissfully soaking up the sun, imagining for a few brief moments that the decent weather isn’t painfully fleeting.

But for anyone who doesn’t think this year’s primary matters, or that they have better things to do than participate, I have two words for you:

Jim Jensen.

Sure, Jensen has bowed out of the race for a seat on the Port of Tacoma Commission, but only voters have the power to put his candidacy to bed once and for all.

That should be all the motivation you need to cast a ballot for anyone but him.

Sure, Jensen has bowed out of the race for Position 1 on the Port of Tacoma Commission, but only voters have the power to put his candidacy to bed once and for all.

Jensen, as you might recall, is the young commercial real estate broker who made a splash, and then tumultuous waves, in the race for Position 1.

A relative unknown in local politics, the 37-year-old Fox Island resident got into the race in a big way by dropping $115,000 of his own money to get his campaign off the ground.

That campaign quickly ground to a halt, though, after screenshots of extremely offensive posts from his deleted Twitter account started making the rounds on the internet.

The posts in question targeted women and African Americans, among others. Jensen was forced to issue an apology after the environmental activist group RedLine Tacoma and The News Tribune helped bring them to light. Jensen described the tweets as “insensitive, unacceptable and unkind,” which is true, and also an incredible understatement.

He dropped out of the race in the same breath.

But Jensen’s name still will appear on the primary ballot because his announcement came after the deadline for candidates to formally withdraw from the race.

That means that if he manages to finish in the top two in a three-man race — which includes longtime Superior Court Judge John McCarthy and former port security director Eric Holdeman — Jensen will move on to November’s general election.

Is it unlikely? Perhaps.

But it’s far from impossible.

Such a scenario would be reminiscent of the Great Tony Ventrella Debacle of 2016, when the longtime sportscaster challenged incumbent Republican Dave Reichert for the 8th Congressional District seat.

Ventrella didn’t drop out of the race in shame like Jensen has. But he dropped out nonetheless, and before the results of the primary election were known.

Surprise!

Ventrella finished in second place. Inspired by the result, he rebooted his campaign and mounted a challenge to Reichert, albeit tepidly.

He ultimately lost and badly.

But with Jensen, we’re not talking about a seat in Congress. We’re talking about an under-the-radar spot on the local port commission.

In small-time local politics, strange things are possible.

Consider the name recognition Jensen has built up over the past few months. While it’s in the vein of Courtney Love’s “all publicity is good publicity” mantra, he’s still got it.

Then consider the fact that despite his numerous errors, Jensen still has an apparent base of support.

For proof, you need look no farther than the recent decision by the Pierce County Republican Party to “take a vote to support Jim Jensen and his family as private citizens for all they have done for our party.”

At that meeting we did take a vote to support Jim Jensen and the Jensen family as private citizens for all that they have done for our party.

Pierce County Republican Party Chairman Marty McClendon

Initially, liberal Tacoma Twitter had a field day with the development, describing the vote as an official endorsement. But according to Pierce County Republican Party Chairman Marty McClendon, it was not an endorsement.

OK then.

Still, McClendon said that members of his party “believe in forgiveness and second chances,” and they also offered the requisite thoughts and prayers during this difficult time for the Jensens.

Could the bruised Jensen squeaking through to the general election be part of a great Republican redemption story?

And could such a redemption story be furthered by Jensen’s deep pockets and available war chest?

The narrative is clearly there, unless voters write the final chapter of the Jim Jensen saga in the coming weeks.

They should. Because the book on Jensen the candidate needs to be shut for good.

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