OLYMPIA, Oct. 30. – Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna breezed through Washington’s capital city Monday for a noontime rally during a final-week tour of the state, firing up the troops for a last-minute push – and you might say there was more than one story in that crowded parking lot. For instance, the one about whose parking lot it was.
The big story – the only one that actually matters to anyone outside the Olympia city limits – is the fact that the McKenna campaign has been cranking up the phone banks in the days leading up to the election. McKenna said some 1 million phone calls have been made since Aug. 1 as part of get-out-the-vote efforts in this too-close-to-call gubernatorial race. Another 300,000 calls will be made as next Tuesday approaches. Nov. 6 is election day, though in this era of by-mail voting, what it really means is that Tuesday is the deadline for Washington voters to drop their ballots in the mail.
McKenna, the most prominent Washington Republican holding a statewide office following two terms as attorney general, said he hopes to change the direction of state government, which has been captained by Democratic governors for the last 28 years. He addressed a crowd of about 100 outside the historic McCleary mansion, about eight blocks north of the Capitol.
Location, Location, Location
And that was the other story – the location. Though that one might be of interest more to Olympia insiders. The McCleary mansion is the headquarters of the Building Industry Association of Washington, the homebuilders association that in previous elections was one of the most powerful players on the Republican side of the aisle, spending millions on its own independent-expenditure campaigns. There was a rather public rift between BIAW and McKenna two years ago as political opponents on the left side of the aisle peppered BIAW with charges of illegal campaign collusion between the organization and 2008 Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi. Nothing ever was proved on that score, but the huge volume of documents flushed out during the discovery process gave political opponents ammunition to allege other campaign violations. The whole complicated case would take an encyclopedia to recap, but the key thing is that it forced the attorney general’s office to negotiate a settlement, and the office held out for a big one.
The ultimate figure was $242,000, with another $342,000 suspended, but at one point, the attorney general’s office was suggesting a fine in the million-dollar range. BIAW, among other things, suggested that it might be a good time to elect a Democrat as governor, fired daily potshots at McKenna with its website, and posted a big photo of McKenna in the windows of the mansion with a circle-slash over his face. Since then BIAW’s leadership has been replaced, following a dramatic upheaval in a 2010 internal membership election, and it has become a rather quieter player. Revenue from its worker-comp “retro” program has been on the decline, and it doesn’t have millions to spend. But it has endorsed McKenna in this year’s election and contributed $500,000 to the independent campaign effort being mounted by the Republican Governors’ Association.
And the idea that a McKenna rally could take place in the BIAW parking lot? Well, there has been some talk of unseasonable weather somewhere far, far below.
The Final Pitch
The substance of McKenna’s final pitch, being delivered this week at 28 different locations statewide, is that his campaign depends on the support of those who consider themselves Democrats, but who are willing to think critically about the direction of state government over the last three decades. He urged supporters to make 10 calls apiece to people who are still trying to make up their minds.
“I want you to ask them the following question,” he said. “It is not the usual question that you hear at the end of a campaign, the one that says are you better off now than you were four years ago, because we know the answer to that question. It has been a tough four years. I want you to ask them this question instead: Do you think that if we put the same people back in charge of state government in the next four years that your family and you and your small business would be better off four years from now? That is the question to ask them.
“The fact is that a majority of the people who are undecided in this election are Democratic voters. The independents have shown almost no undecideds, the Republicans are decided, it is the Democratic voters who are really wrestling with this decision. If they vote the way they usually vote order they join tens of thousands hundreds of thousands of Democratic voters around the state who are voting for a new direction. If you call them, if you ask them to vote for me, to vote for [Secretary of State candidate] Kim [Wyman], our other great candidates, not because it is important to us but because it is important to you, you will be amazed at how often they will say you know what? — That is right.”