By Jerry Cornfield
To say Snohomish County’s Democratic state lawmakers dodged a bullet in this election assumes facts not in evidence.
There were no bullets fired at them by this county’s Grand Old Party.
Republicans winged a few rocks in the direction of incumbents, some large enough to knock a couple of them off balance.
But those Dems — the big-spending, tax-raising, they-don’t-listen-to-us ones from Olympia — wobbled but didn’t fall down and they’re all going back.
How does it happen in the state’s third largest county, in a year of the Big Red Tide, Republicans couldn’t displace a single Democrat or snag either of two open seats in the south part of the county?
There’s no question a final blitz to turn out voters by the Democratic regime and Sen. Patty Murray’s campaign paid dividends.
To point solely to that as the difference-maker excuses and masks a continuing ailment of the Snohomish County Republican Party: It’s unprepared to win.
Since 2005, it’s been an organization in a bit of a freefall, led by volunteers filled with good intentions and plagued by poor execution.
The party is training too few candidates, raising too little money for them and providing no viable network on which they can rely when it comes time to run.
This year could have been a turning point. While the five incumbent Republican lawmakers on the ballot won re-election, no one new is joining them.
Things seemed so bright a few months ago at the state Republican convention in Vancouver, where the loudest and most vociferous voices in the ballroom belonged to Snohomish County residents.
Not one, or two, but dozens of tea partiers and patriots and constitutional conservatives were sitting alongside the county party establishment, everyone pumped up and hellbent on overthrow.
If those party leaders had harnessed that human horsepower, the county’s Republican machine could have roared back to life with a revived relevancy. With the political stars aligned in the GOP constellation, they might have been able to bring home a winner or two on sheer will and energy.
Rep. Mike Hope, R-Lake Stevens, doesn’t hide his disappointment.
“I think people showed up at this election thinking they were just going to win,” he said.
Though Republicans are gaining seats in the state House and Senate, Hope figured the performance should be better against a batch of Democratic candidates on their heels.
“We barely beat a really bad team,” he said.
Coincidentally, this week, House members of that Democratic team are gathering in Olympia to pick their leaders for the 2011 session.
House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, is facing a rare challenge from within; Rep. Mark Miloscia, D-Federal Way, says it’s time for a change at the top.
And the retirement of Rep. Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam, opens up the position of House Majority Leader who is the face and voice of the Democratic Caucus.
A number of people, moderates and liberals — even uber-liberal Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish — are vying for the post. Whoever is chosen may reveal how partisan — or bipartisan — Democrats intend to be come January.
And that person had better be alert to their surroundings.
Many Democrats who barely survived this election may not be so lucky the next.
Republicans already are restocking and reloading. One can’t help but think a few of those proverbial bullets won’t miss their targets in Snohomish County.
Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623 or email@example.com.