Matching chairs

So curious that not only did Washington state’s two main political parties both elect new chairs on the same day, but – even more – that essentially the same underlying logic informed both choices.

Dwight PelzNew Democratic Chair Dwight Pelz (replacing Paul Berendt, who held the job for a decade), is no insurgent or boat-rocker. He’s been around, as a community activist, a labor organizer, a state senator, a member of the King County Council (replacing Ron Sims on that panel). he just ran and lost a race for the Seattle City Council, but had no lack of Democratic-based interest group support in the effort.

Endorsed by such fellow party members as Governor Christine Gregoire, Senator Patty Murray and Sims, you can expect that Pelz will keep things rolling very much as they have been. If you wanted major change within the Democratic establshment (from a Democratic standpoint), you probably supported the other candidate, natural-born boat-rocker Laura Ruderman. But Washington Democrats have been doing pretty well; there’s a good argument for staying the course.

The parallel with the Republican selection is not precise, since Republicans do need to change something about their act; in a state where the partisan split is precariously balances, Republicans have been losing (a little) more than their share of elections. Consequently, any candidate for the Republican chairmanship had to run as something of a change agent.

The longer shot but more interesting choice here was Fredi Simpson, the state party’s vice chair and by various accounts an aggressive partisan. She was endorsed by Dino Rossi, who so closely lost the governorship last year. Her loss in the bid for chair may say more about Rossi – whose name failed to work magic in an intraparty contest – than anything else.

Diane TebeliusBut a word is merited too for the winner, Diane Tebelius. She is, like Pelz, a safer, more establishment choice; during her unsucessful run for Congress last year, she was often compared to former Representative Jennifer Dunn, and not just because of appearances. Both passionate in her views and articulate in expressing them, she is unlikely to fall into some of the rhetorical traps to which outgoing Chair Chris Vance was occasionally prone: A former prosecutor, she is likely to plot her moves carefully.

Rational choices on both parts, with chairs who will have to hit the field hard just as the campaigns gear up.

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