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CANDIDATE CRITERIA

NEWSLETTER -- 11 August 5, 2001

Seattle's electorate has an excellent opportunity to get away from being told how to vote. Simply:

Take time to learn all you can about the candidates -- then vote.

The following are from the Seattle Times, August 1, 2001 editorial "The debate season opens, with a twist.

"…. Well-run organizations will decide in advance to invite only serious candidates. This morning's Downtown Seattle Association's forum, for example, includes only the three major candidates: …..

"…. With 12 candidates and plots and sub-plots, debates leading to the primary are more important than ever. That's why debate organizers should feel free to be selective in whom they invite to the podium."

The argument is an unabashed, exclusionary rationalization used to justify a perverted form of the American elective process. Despite previous pleas for new, but knowledgeable, candidates to run for public office, the Seattle Times now recommends that debate organizers exclude them. Can Seattle's electorate vote intelligently in this or any other election if it lacks relevant facts? The Times obviously believes it can, as it assumes the role of chief apologist for those determined to reserve the elective process for preferred and "well-heeled" candidates.

It should not surprise the media that even the so-called "lesser known candidates" have also had to comply with all the established rules in running for office, including the filing fee they had to pay for being a candidate.

The editorial board made a point of noting that the Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) had excluded all but the so-called "three major candidates." Ironically, as those candidates were presenting their views to DSA, the Municipal League of King County (Muni League) was concurrently setting up interviews to rate candidates. Since both organizations are branches of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, it must be obvious to all that the Muni League cannot now be regarded as being impartial in its rating of candidates.

Yet, it is precisely the results of their candidate ratings, that will be used by both the DSA and the Seattle Times to certify their assessment of the candidates to be "honest and correct." In other words, the deck has been stacked against the "outsider." To prevent the abusive use of such a process, the electorate should demand to see the qualifications of those evaluators who do the job of evaluating for the Muni League.

What criteria, then, did DSA and the Seattle Times use to determine the viability of candidates? For one, all the "anointed" are elected officials, although in different capacities. As "incumbents," it is a factor that allows them to acquire large campaign war chests, which gives them an advantage that newcomers cannot match unless they're independently wealthy. The actions of DSA and the editorial staff of the Seattle Times can only lead a person to conclude that the two organizations have decided that just the "rich" need apply for the office.

Nevertheless, it's a sham when candidates are "viable" based only on their ability to buy a campaign. Will the electorate be voting on how well a campaign is being run, or will it be trying to hire a person qualified to do a specific job? Why, then, should a candidate have to show the following to be invited to the table?

· Evidence of substantial campaign activity, such as an announcement of an intention to run, presence of headquarters, campaign staff, issuance of position papers or campaign appearances.

· Evidence of significant voter interest and support, such as receipt of contributions from a significant number of supporters, recognition from the media and findings of pollsters.