In politics, past losers can easily be on top

  • By Jerry Cornfield Herald Columnist
  • Sunday, November 22, 2009 12:01am
  • Local News

Three cheers for Susan Hutchison for doing what few others have done this election.


Only one day and two ballot counts passed before she called Dow Constantine to congratulate him on becoming King County’s new executive.

None in Snohomish County acted that quickly. Actually not many did so at all, and it’s much too late to do so now. Come Tuesday, the 2009 election will be certified and formally finished.

Such political decorum is becoming rarer and rarer since the post office became our state’s permanent polling place.

No one’s quite sure anymore when to claim the title and when to give up. Those trailing Tuesday night await new numbers Wednesday believing this batch of uncounted ballots contains a mathematical equation for bending defeat into victory.

If it doesn’t happen, there’s Thursday’s update. Or Friday’s. Hope springs eternal or at least until no miracle or assist from ACORN could make a difference.

This trend has robbed election nights of their revelry and given headline writers at newspapers fits trying to decide if Dewey beat Truman or only leads with an update from King County coming after deadline.

It’s also meant election nights no longer are marked by hearing the vanquished speak to supporters about what went right and what lies ahead.

These concession speeches are difficult to deliver no matter when they get delivered.

Elections are very personal. The verdict of voters is very painful, especially when you’re the mayor of a small town like Monroe or Granite Falls and you know most of the electoral jurors by name.

“The possibility of defeat pervades politics. The feeling that you are left with is that the public knows you well enough to reject you – that the loss wasn’t a fluke,” writes former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley, in his memoir “Time Present, Time Past.”

How one reacts in defeat can be revealing about a politician’s character and a test of their “strength of ambition and personal resilience,” Bradley writes.

These defining moments are not always the conclusion of a political career.

Remember Richard Nixon?

In Snohomish County, Mike Hope didn’t let two losses stop him, and now he’s serving in the state Legislature.

How about Dave Somers? He won a seat on the County Council last decade, lost it, regained it and this month won re-election to a second straight term.

“Whoever is down today in politics can be up again tomorrow, and anyone who is up today will sooner or later experience the inexorable pull of going down,” Bradley said.

In other words, conceding may be the beginning not the end for Susan Hutchison.

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at He can be heard at 8:15 a.m. Mondays on KSER (90.7 FM). Contact him at 360-352-8623 or

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