More money has poured into the campaign chest of Tacoma City Council member Conor McCarthy than any other candidate in the four Tacoma races this year. In fact, with nearly $82,000 in contributions as of early October, McCarthy has already raised more than any Tacoma council candidate in a decade.
It’s a sign of the political heft the North End resident has built in the four years he’s represented the city in at-large Position 7. It’s a sign of the fundraising prowess of the McCarthys, one of Tacoma’s predominant political families.
What it’s not, however, is a sign of a competitive race. While this was the only Tacoma City Council seat in 2019 to draw enough candidates for a primary election, McCarthy ran away with it, winning 53.35 percent of the votes.
One might ask why the incumbent needs so much cash. It’s a fair question in an era when the public is cynical about deep-pocket donors lording over state and national politics — and when local offices are seen, perhaps naively, as the last refuge.
The bottom line is that McCarthy is an outstanding council member, worthy of a second term regardless of dollar signs and decimal points.
A respected attorney with backing across the ideological spectrum, McCarthy worked at City Hall before being elected to serve there in 2015. A top priority was restoring round-the-clock fire protection on the Tideflats, home to the Port of Tacoma, the Northwest Detention Center and the liquid natural gas plant now under construction.
McCarthy supports LNG as a transitional energy source. This is unacceptable to some constituents, including his election opponent, who want Tacoma to renounce any new fossil-fuel infrastructure. But McCarthy’s work to make the LNG facility safer shouldn’t be ignored.
He scores points in our book, too, for having the independence to stand up to the council majority. One example: He called for an audit of the council’s misguided “all in” plan to subsidize the Click cable network.
Locally, McCarthy has filled in as deputy mayor this year with aplomb. Regionally, he’s building a profile on collaborative projects like the Tacoma-Pierce Opioid Task Force, which he co-chairs.
The only suspense in the August primary election centered on which challenger would end up facing McCarthy this fall. It wasn’t settled until three weeks after Election Day, when a hand recount confirmed Love defeated Brett Johnson by 13 votes.
Love is a 42-year-old Tacoma native, just like McCarthy, but they have little else in common. She works as a metal smith assistant and has developed into a quixotic socialist activist in the Bernie Sanders mold. She’s an earnest spokesperson for Tacomans faced with housing, health care and food insecurity.
“Short of stature but loud as hell” is how Love describes herself on Facebook. And “Feel the Love” (a twist on “Feel the Bern”) is the best campaign hashtag we’ve seen all year.
That Love embraced the challenge of an uphill fight is commendable. But her record of public service can’t rival McCarthy’s. Nor is Tacoma City Hall a proper place to learn the ABC’s of limited local government.
Reelecting Conor McCarthy is the right call for Tacoma — and he didn’t need to raise $82,000 to prove it.
OUR TACOMA CITY COUNCIL ENDORSEMENTS
Position 1: (John Hines v. Nathe Lawver)
Position 3: (David Combs v. Keith Blocker)
Position 7: (Conor McCarthy v. Courtney Love)
Sunday: Position 8 (Kristina Walker v. John O’Loughlin)