OLYMPIA, May 7.–Normally we don’t pay much attention to endorsements this time of year, except maybe the biggies from the state Labor Council and the Association of Washington Business. There are just too many groups, too many candidates, and frankly most of the announcements are pretty much what you expect. Unions endorse Democrats. Business groups endorse Republicans. And so it has gone, ho-hum, since pretty much the beginning of time. But one announcement that arrived in our email box late Monday afternoon is worthy of note.
The Washington State Patrol Troopers’ Association is backing Republican Rob McKenna in his race for governor. That’s a union, backing a Republican. True enough, law enforcement unions are among the few that might go either way. But what makes this one striking is the fact that there was a bit of a dust-up back in January and February when the troopers’ union announced its support for Democrat Bob Ferguson in the race for attorney general. Rank-and-file troopers went ballistic. That’s because, back when Ferguson was an idealistic law student in the early ‘90s, he signed on with the anti-death-penalty crowd and helped an Arizona cop-killer with an appeal. Not just a single cop-killer, mind you, but a fellow with two notches on his pistol-grip. The charming con originally got life when he gunned down an officer in West Virginia, and then he masterminded a large-scale prison break. On his way out he pumped a bullet into another. That one was a brother state trooper to boot. At the time Ferguson lent his helping hand to Ronald Turney Williams, the poor guy faced a death sentence in a third killing in Arizona. Ferguson said he felt good about helping the down-on-his-luck death-row dweller – it sure eased the disappointment of not making law review. But the way the front-line guys saw it, Ferguson didn’t deserve extra credit. Helping a cop-killer wasn’t much better than being one.
The idea apparently was that union leaders judged Ferguson to be more sensitive than Republican Reagan Dunn to collective bargaining issues. Furor from the front lines prompted union officials to poll regional representatives – but they wound up reaffirming the seal of approval.
Well, the announcement Monday seems to show party ties may not be the deciding factor with the troopers’ association – or at least that the union leadership hasn’t forgotten what happened last time. By backing McKenna for governor, the troopers are saying no to Democrat Jay Inslee, who has had the state Labor Council’s nod for months. The 1,200-member union notes in the announcement that it supported McKenna’s 2004 campaign for attorney general and that it has since maintained a close relationship with his office.
In a statement addressed to McKenna, union president Tom Pillow says, “Your public service record and agency management skills speak for themselves. These are very difficult times that require strong leadership experience and abilities essential for addressing the challenges that lie ahead. You have supported principles and issues that are critical to every trooper, both professionally and personally. Your commitment to honor and integrity are attributes that our members demand.”
Says McKenna, “I am honored by the support of the line officers who make up the Washington State Patrol Troopers Association. These dedicated professionals put their lives on the line every day in honorable service to our state. I’m grateful for the troopers’ endorsement in this race, and I look forward to working with them as governor to enhance public safety in Washington state.”