Off the Press

November 10, 2009

By Warren Kagarise

Take in campaign season from a journalist’s eye

Warren Kagarise Press reporter

Warren Kagarise Press reporter

Election Day ended early, with a slow coast to prime time. Results were delivered in a single, anticlimactic burst at 8:15 p.m. with no nail-biting suspense. The frontrunners opened up big leads early, snuffing the chance to track trends or offer last-minute prognostications. Issaquah voters knew the make-up of the next City Council and school board well before “NCIS” was over.

Despite the quiet coda, campaign season was chockablock with memorable moments, at least for someone outfitted with a notebook and a digital voice recorder. Throughout the campaign, I jotted down observations and asides about the candidates and the race to public office.

What I observed — among the Issaquah candidates, anyway — were amicable, issue-oriented campaigns accessorized with the usual yard signs, candidate fliers and e-mail blasts. But the best — and cheapest — campaign tool I saw was the laminated placard Nathan Perea placed beside him at coffeehouses: “I’m running for Issaquah City Council. Please stop and chat!” the sign read. And it worked: Voters stopped to talk with the first-time candidate.As the clock ticked toward Election Day, addenda sprouted atop campaign signs as endorsements rolled in. Endorsements from The Seattle Times, Washington Conservation Voters and other boldfaced backers were touted in simple notes taped to signs — “bling” in the words of Councilman-elect Tola Marts.

The occasional grumble about yet another campaign questionnaire reached me, too. In a decision motivated by space limitations — and maybe a little sadism — The Press limited the candidates to 25-word responses. Marts likened the questionnaire process to speed dating.

Candidates also reached out to voters in subtle, sartorial ways. Perea donned a snappy, color-coordinated sweater-and-tie combo in the same colors as his green-and-orange campaign signs at a televised campaign forum.

The biggest campaign mishap was the result of a technical glitch: Audio problems scuttled a televised school board forum, but the good-natured candidates agreed to endure the forum a second time.

Back when the King County executive race was too close to call, I wrangled interviews with the candidates at Seattle coffee shops — where else? — to talk about how the Seattleite candidates planned to attract Eastside voters.

Dow Constantine, joined by a campaign aide, barreled through a stack of questions about Eastside-centric issues related to growth and transit. He and I met in a Seattle’s Best near Columbia Center, where Constantine had been making fundraising calls. The interview was wedged against another campaign event; Constantine was a man in motion.

Susan Hutchison and I met a week later at a Tully’s near the Laurelhurst neighborhood where the former KIRO newscaster lives. She — unaccompanied, chatty and relaxed — offered me part of her croissant as she sipped a gargantuan mug of tea. Turns out we both graduated from the University of Florida journalism school.

When I asked the executive candidates for final remarks directed toward Issaquah voters, Hutchison recounted how Issaquah was a tiny town when she arrived in King County almost three decades ago. Constantine, ever businesslike, produced a lengthy list of the Eastside elected officials backing his campaign.

On Nov. 4, with the Issaquah races settled, I asked Marts to reflect on the campaign. He said the campaign highlight for his preteen children came when I interviewed him and his wife, Tracy, at the joint victory party thrown by Marts and Council President Maureen McCarry.

Lucky for the Marts kids, the election was decided long before bedtime.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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