This election cycle has brought us two very distinct and different candidates: Ultra-liberal Democrat Josh Brown and conservative Republican Jack Hamilton.
Patty Lent gave Democrats a panic attack because her defeat of Tim Botkin was a clear indication the liberal policies of the environmental mafia ruling the courthouse were wearing thin with voters, and no one knew for certain what to expect. Had she governed as the moderate Republican most voters thought they elected in 2002, Lent would have probably cruised her way to a second term. However, I do not believe she ever grasped the impact her deciding Critical Areas Ordinance vote would have on her immediate political future.
Enter Brown, a political neophyte with absolutely nothing to recommend him except a massive ego and a “D” behind his name. I believe it is a clear demonstration of just how much is at stake, and exactly how desperate the Democrats are to hold on to the courthouse for them to have rolled out the big gun — Congressman Norm Dicks — to help elect an inexperienced, unemployed, and unqualified 25-year old to one of the most powerful positions in the county.
Because it means losing control of all the decision-making and patronage machinery at the courthouse for at least two years, and longer if Jan Angel wins re-election in 2008. The fact all the department heads and many employees they now control will change is not lost on the Democrats. They also fear Hamilton’s stubborn conservatism — especially on land use and property rights issues — although I suspect the realities of the job will force him to temper much of that. Hamilton is principled, but also pragmatic.
However, electing Brown assures that Chris Endresen consolidates her authority, essentially getting two votes on every single issue. Quite simply, she will become the single, most powerful person in this county.
I have personally moderated three candidate forums and participated in two other closed-door interviews with both candidates. Hamilton is decisive and clear in his answers, even when they disagree with the group he hopes to impress. But you know where he stands. In contrast, I have never heard Josh Brown actually answer a question. His non-answers are tailored to appease whichever group he is talking to at the moment. For example, he flatly opposes NASCAR with environmentalists but claims to be open-minded about its economic development prospects in front of business groups. Which is it Josh?
I personally witnessed him tell one group the Critical Areas Ordinance does not go far enough, and NASCAR has no business in Kitsap County, but when confronted with those statements in front of a pro-business group, he flatly denied making them — a bald faced lie.
Josh Brown has been coached, and packaged for "sale" to the voters extremely well, mastering the ability to stay on message and avoid anything controversial. However, there is almost no substance behind the facade.
Jack Hamilton is experienced and well-qualified, but loosens the bowels of Democrats because he refuses to be intimidated by Endresen, understands the power of the office at least as well as she does (and certainly more than Patty Lent ever did), and is not afraid to make a command decision. With he and Angel in the majority, things will happen quicker and much more decisively. I expect the long-standing problems at DCD will finally be rectified because measurable results will be demanded, and “process” will become unacceptable as an excuse or delaying tactic.
If Brown is elected, I expect Jan Angel will retire rather than face another term being treated as disrespectfully as she was with Endresen and Botkin at the helm. Meanwhile, thanks to their ongoing dysfunctionality, the Republicans have absolutely no credible candidates in the wings. Inept Port Orchard Mayor Kim Abel - a liberal Democrat - is rumored to be salivating at the prospect of challenging Angel. But if Hamilton is elected, I believe Angel will run again and win as decisively as she did last time.
Make no mistake — Josh Brown will not be a friend to business. He will kiss the liberal and environmentalist asses that engineered and financed his “sale” to the voters, and be little more than Endresen’s lap dog. Look for them to implement higher property taxes if given the opportunity by the courts and the legislature, raise impact fees, and promote even more restrictive land use rules.
Hamilton, along with Angel, will certainly be business-friendly and should run the county more efficiently and business-like than it is now. Both have the financial background and experience to streamline operations and deal with the budget challenges facing the county. Hopefully, they will also have the common sense not to allow unrestricted, irresponsible development and to not unwisely challenge the state over environmental issues they will most likely lose. Remember, under Russ Hague, county lawyers are batting something like 0 for 25 against the state.
But what really bothers me most is how we got into the predicament of having to choose between these two polar opposites — a know-nothing, unqualified, unemployed 25-year old and a highly qualified, arch-conservative with a reputation as a hard-headed, take no prisoners, property rights advocate. There is no centrist candidate to represent all of us here in the political middle. That is what really sucks...
Can’t we do better? Don’t we deserve better? I believe so. But I also believe both the Democrats and Republicans alike have failed us — again.