Raising $46,000, meeting voters in all corners of the state and earning standing ovations from conventions of Republicans in Snohomish, King and Pierce counties apparently isn't enough.
Shahram Hadian, an Everett Republican, has done all that. Still, the Association of Washington Business isn't letting him on the stage of the Bing Crosby Theater in Spokane for its June 12 debate.
Only Democrat Jay Inslee and Republican Rob McKenna will be sitting there.
That's because it's AWB's party and its leaders can invite who they want to -- and since last fall they've only wanted the chosen ones of the state's Democratic and Republican parties.
"Our consensus was that Jay Inslee and Rob McKenna would be the top two going into the governor's race so we invited just those two," explained Jocelyn McCabe, vice president of communications for the state's largest lobby organization for business.
AWB officials didn't set out criteria for candidates to meet in order to participate as is sometimes done by debate sponsors.
For his part, Hadian hasn't made much of a stink about his exclusion. He's deliberately refrained from complaining in hopes of scoring a political point or two.
"It's disappointing they made that choice," he said Tuesday. "Honestly, if we had done that do you really think it would have made a difference?"
His campaign coordinator did email McCabe the evening of April 18 asking the AWB to allow Hadian to participate. McCabe responded the next afternoon:
"We appreciate your interest in the event, but are only inviting the top two leading candidates for governor for this debate," she wrote.
As far as those frontrunners go, well, philosophically they embrace a full-fledged conversation, but practically it's not their fight. They politely defer to the hosts on the logistics.
"It's publicly known that Rob is all for an exchange of ideas on the problems facing the state and solutions for them," said Charles McCray III, spokesman for the McKenna campaign.
Hadian's participation could cause more problems for McKenna than Inslee.
McKenna is a social moderate who needs the full support of conservatives to win. Right now, Hadian incites the passions of tea partiers and strongly conservative GOP voters better than McKenna because he hews the line of the Republican platform closer than does the attorney general.
As a result Hadian's presence in this debate -- or any other before the primary -- could potentially steer McKenna in a more rightward direction than he's interested in going.
Any rightward swerve would give Inslee fodder for the fall campaign. That's not something leaders of the AWB -- who are expected to endorse McKenna June 13 -- and the state Republican Party want to see occur.
The long-shot challenger understands this but thinks all the calculating shortchanges the party's rank-and-file.
"We are a legitimate candidate in this race," he said. "When you actually have a battle of ideas and talk about real issues, not poll numbers and fundraising totals, it will completely expose the facade built by the party's power structure that makes (McKenna) look conservative.
"The reality is, I don't think Mr. McKenna wants to debate us," Hadian said.
Them's fightin' words.
Maybe that's what it takes to get an invitation.
Political reporter Jerry Cornfield's blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com/thepetridish. Contact him at 360-352-8623 or email@example.com.
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