The personal nature of politics is on display in Washington.
Let’s start with the presidential primary, an $11.5 million demonstration of democracy with a very limited impact on deciding who will be the nation’s next leader.
Its value for the state Democratic Party amounted to bragging rights for the eventual victor because all the delegates were distributed through the labyrinth of caucuses.
The Republican Party will dole out 44 delegates based on final results. But having only one candidate still competing to be the Grand Old Party’s nominee would seem to dull the excitement.
Yet people really like to vote and all the talk about such low stakes didn’t deter them. In fact, the number who cast ballots in last week’s primary is expected to be the highest since the state started conducting these exercises in 1992.
Interestingly, initial numbers showed more Democrats voting than Republicans. On the Tuesday of the primary, there were 175,000 more ballots marked for Democratic candidates than Republicans statewide.
Another example played out last week when leaders of the Washington State Labor Council gathered in Seattle for the ritual of endorsing candidates in this year’s elections.
By the time it ended, the state’s largest labor organization had decided not to publicly support the re-election of Democratic U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, who has championed nearly every cause of Big Labor in her tenure.
But these same labor leaders did back the re-election of Republican state Sen. Kirk Pearson of Monroe, who has voted “correctly” with council positions 16 percent of the time in his legislative career.
In Murray’s case, the reason is her vote in 2015 giving President Barack Obama “fast track” authority to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. The council wound up refusing to endorse all federal office-holders, Democrat and Republican, who voted for the fast-track bill.
Organized labor strongly opposes the trade deal. Its leaders insist with great passion it will make it easier for U.S. companies to move jobs overseas in order to take advantage of cheaper labor and less restrictive workplace regulations.
“This is a choice between bad trade policies and good trade policies,” state labor council president Jeff Johnson said in a statement. “And today, Washington’s working people sent a clear message to our congressional delegation that this issue is too important for them to ignore.”
In Pearson’s case, he’s constructed strong personal relationships with correctional officers at the state prison complex in Monroe who belong to the Teamsters.
They, in turn, convinced leaders of unions representing state employees, health care workers, machinists and firefighters — to name a few — to give the group’s full backing to Pearson.
It didn’t matter that Pearson isn’t embracing a union-backed ballot measure to boost the state minimum wage and provide full-time workers with sick leave. Nor does it matter that he’s supporting Republican Donald Trump for president.
“Democracy can be messy,” David Groves, a spokesman for the labor group, wrote in an email.
And it can be personal.