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Posts published in “Day: May 2, 2008”

The district, or the candidate

Geoff Simpson

Geoff Simpson

Alot of political calculation probably is going on about now in and around the 47th House district, on the subject of Representative Geoff Simpson, D-Covington. He's got some trouble, the kind that might not be politically survivable.

Only but so many details are publicly available; we do know the case involves an evidently bitter divorce, a meeting between the legislator and his ex-wife, a call to local law enforcement, and Simpson charged in King County District Court with fourth-degree assault and interfering with a domestic violence report. (A police report has bee posted via Sound Politics; sounds like the case in question, but the names have been blacked out.) Simpson has predicted exoneration. Meantime, we learn today, House Speaker Frank Chopp has removed Simpson from his committee chair.

The political issue here involves Simpson's house seat. So, just a bit of background.

District 47

The district is in rural southeast King County, east of the Renton area; the main communities are Black Diamond and Covington, where Simpson has been a visible figure (in city government, too) for some years. Traditionally, this was part of the Republican King County east side, and Republicans did represent it for a long time. In 1996, for example, Republican Suzette Cooke took seat 1 with 62.4% of the vote; two years later another Republican, Phil Fortunato, took it with 52.6%. He lost the seat to Simpson two years later in 2000, in a 50.1%-49.5% squeaker.

In this decade, here is how the Republican percentages for that seat have gone: 49.5% in 2000, then 48.5% (Fortunato losing a second time to Simpson) in 2002, then 46.2% in 2004, and 40.3% in 2006. The trend line is matched on the other side. It's roughly matched by the other House seat and the Senate seat in 47 as well; in 1998 the district was all-Republican, and today it's all-Democratic.

Other conditions being more or less equal, you'd expect this House seat would remain Democratic this year. Depending on what emerges next in the Simpson legal case, though, Simpson may or may not be able to maintain that party advantage - this could be the kind of candidate-specific problem that could overcome partisan advantage.

Catch is, there's not long to decide. Filing time in Washington is just a month away. Simpson has, in other words, some political reason to try to resolve the case in his favor (if he can) by then. Otherwise . . .

Paid here, paid there

Mark Emmert

Mark Emmert

The theory behind paying those high executive salaries and compensation packages, like the $905,000 for University of Washington President Mark Emmert, usually carries the explanation that top talent needs top pay. Needs it, the theory goes, both as incentive to do a good job (though if they were so good, would such incentive be needed?) and as a loyalty encourager and enforcer: You wouldn't put any other obligation before the one that pays you so well, right?

Which raises a question of what degree of loyalty two of Emmert's newest employers - they are paying him for services rendered - might expect. They're both board positions, but Emmert will be compensated substantially for them: By Weyerhauser $70,000 a year and $70,000 in stock, and by Expeditors International $200,000 a year in stock.

Where exactly does that put him in any dealings those corporations might have with UW?

The story has broken all over the Seattle media; we were taken by this tag on a Post-Intelligencer blog post: "It isn't untypical for highly paid university leaders to sit on boards. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported earlier this year that the only two public university presidents earning more money than Emmert in the 2006-2007 school year both sat on corporate boards."

A closing thought: What if we offered to pay university presidents, say, $50,000 a year and reasonable expenses? Might weed out a lot of the money obsession; and our guess is that the level of executive talent wouldn't change much.