Whatever local suspense persisted in the weeks after the Nov. 8 election, it registered at a low hum on the buzz meter, and it faded to zero after county results were officially certified Tuesday.
On the national scene, Jill Stein and Hillary Clinton may call for presidential recounts in as many states as they please. Donald Trump may continue stirring up a Twitter storm with outlandish claims of being defrauded his rightful victory in the popular vote. And plots will keep swirling to deny Trump the presidency until the Electoral College finally meets Dec. 19.
But in Pierce County, there will be no recounts. The only cliffhangers around here are the occasional disoriented visitors at Point Defiance Park. And if there’s any anticipation in the air at the auditor’s office, it’s because staffers are getting ready for some well-deserved R&R.
Before the book is closed on the 2016 election, we’d like to share a few thoughts with some of the unflagging politicos who filled local mailboxes, answering machines, street corners and editorial columns.
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▪ To Pierce County Republican stalwarts:
Congratulations are in order. You will retain a County Council majority, and with the welcome election of Bruce Dammeier as county executive, you will control both the administrative and legislative functions for the first time in at least two decades. Gone is the threat of a Pat McCarthy or John Ladenburg veto.
Even so, it would be wrong to interpret this election as a political sea change or a mandate for an ambitious conservative agenda.
The council’s GOP majority remains a slim 4-3. Doug Richardson, R-Lakewood, will play his hand carefully, befitting a shrewd incumbent who defeated his Democratic challenger by fewer than 400 votes. Jim McCune, R-Graham, and newcomer Pam Roach, R-Sumner, are mavericks who won’t always toe the party line.
For his part, Dammeier earned a reputation in the Legislature as a moderate and a deal-making pragmatist; he has promised to meet soon with every council member.
His brand of bipartisan diplomacy should play well in a county that voted to legalize marijuana and went for Clinton over Trump, 48 to 41 percent.
▪ To Sen. Pam Roach:
Some folks underestimated your formidable campaign record and the sheer force of your ego. Some didn’t see you coming back from a 922-vote deficit on election night. They should have known better.
We’re not surprised you won a County Council seat, and we believe you will work hard for District 2 and fight vigorously for open government, as you always have in the Legislature.
But we also fear your tempestuous communication style could make big waves in the fishbowl of a seven-member council. It’s been corrosive enough over the years amid the larger group dynamics of the statehouse and Senate Republican caucus.
A sincere effort to improve interpersonal skills could go a long way. Also, please don’t delay fulfilling your promise to resign from the Senate; you need to focus exclusively on your new job.
As for the other Roach on the County Council, we encourage incumbent Dan Roach, R-Bonney Lake, to clearly set himself apart.
While it’s indeed historic to have family members serving together on the council, and while the mother-son photos from election filing day last May were cute, Pam and Dan Roach represent two distinct districts. Voters there didn’t sign up for a political tandem, only half of which would be directly accountable to them.
An old cliche says that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree — unless, as Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay has been known to say, the tree is on a hill. It is to be hoped that Dan Roach serves out his council term fruitfully and independently, and that he seeks his own level.
▪ To county elections officials, voting activists and political party operatives:
The abysmal voter turnout of 74 percent shows you have work to do.
Only five of Washington’s 39 counties fared worse, and it marked Pierce County’s lowest presidential election participation in at least 40 years. (Though to be fair, turnout here historically drifts near the bottom, and 74 percent is within striking distance of other quadrennial clunkers since 1976.)
On the bright side, population growth, technology and other factors helped propel the raw number of registered voters to more than 490,000 this year, roughly double the number from the Reagan era. That trend will continue as registration barriers come down.
But Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson says the newly registered are a fickle bunch; they cast ballots at an even lower clip than the rest of the county.
Why such passivity among our fellow South Sounders?
Perhaps, as Anderson observes, there’s a canary-in-a-coalmine syndrome at work.
“Just as Pierce County had the highest rate of home foreclosures, homelessness and poverty, we have poor voter turnout,” she tells us. “Distressed families are disengaged families.”
For the new county executive and council, engaging these families and helping ease their distress should rank as a top priority, straightaway.