EVERETT — It’s the first time on a ballot for Alabama “’Bama” Nightmare, but her fourth time as a candidate.
She’s running for the Democratic PCO in Everett’s Precinct 46.
What’s up with that?
Precinct Committee Officer, or PCO for short, can take as much explaining as her name.
PCOs don’t get the glory or scrutiny of other political candidates. It’s about as grassroots as you can get and still be on your party’s front lines.
“It’s an undervalued and underutilized position in the whole process,” Nightmare said.
She faces incumbent Jack Lockhart.
“A PCO is low-level, but it’s a starter level in a democracy,” said Lockhart, who has held the post for three terms. “It’s your first elected position in the democracy chain.”
PCO is a bottom-of-the-ballot partisan race in even-year primary elections only. In Snohomish County, it draws maybe 100 to 200 votes by party in a precinct. Each precinct selects both a Democratic and Republican PCO, but voters choose only one party.
You won’t see Alabama “’Bama” Nightmare and Jack Lockhart on your ballot unless you live in Precinct 46. Chances are, you won’t even see a PCO voting option on your ballot. Countywide, there are less than 30 PCO races in the 2022 primary. Many slots are either vacant or unopposed. An unopposed PCO candidate automatically gets the post and isn’t listed on the ballot.
It is Lockhart’s first time on the ballot too. No one ran against him in his three prior terms. Same with Nightmare in her prior stints elsewhere.
There is no cost to file for PCO and the post is unpaid. Duties include voter outreach, canvassing, recruitment, serving on committees and voting on endorsements. PCOs elect party leadership, help fill vacancies in elected offices and lead their precinct caucus every two years.
“We’re the ones who kind of start initiatives for the political party that go onward toward the platform,” Lockhart said. “You get involved and learn a lot. You can make what you want of it.”
Some of the PCO names on your ballot might be familiar. Public officials can also be PCOs.
Connie Allison, 50, elected to the Mill Creek City Council in 2021, is on the ballot for Republican PCO of the city’s Precinct 10, a post she holds now.
Contender Lenny Chacon, 33, who campaigned for her when she ran for City Council, said it’s a friendly rivalry.
“If she wins, I’m happy. If I win, I’ll be happy,” he said. “I didn’t even know what a PCO was until I started getting involved with the party a little bit over two years ago.”
Husband-and-wife Marylou and Mike Eckart both are running for the same Democratic spot in Lynnwood’s Precinct 13.
Wait, why both?
So they get their names on the ballot and name recognition.
“That helps the community know who we are,” she said.
She said the landslide was based on gender, not a popularity contest between her and Mike.
“I think everybody’s supporting women, because they are tired of what the guys are doing,” she said. He was a PCO for over 20 years.
Simone Tarver, 32, the two-term Democratic PCO for Everett’s Precinct 12, said she is following in the footsteps of her dad, Jason Tarver, a former PCO.
“I like having the opportunity to be part of the decision-making process for the 38th Legislative District Democrats and Snohomish County Democrats, and particularly like being able to participate in their respective endorsement processes,” she said.
She faces first-time candidate Shola Bolonduro, 28.
“People were telling me a lot of these PCO positions often don’t have anyone running,” Bolonduro said. “You can be a part of the change that happens in your community especially. That was right up my alley. Make this area better for folks, especially the marginalized.”
Lockhart, 56, a grants manager at the University of Washington, is a longtime resident of the precinct in the Evergreen neighborhood and a party treasurer.
If he loses to Nightmare, so be it.
“It’s a two-year position,” he said. “If I don’t win I can always look at it again in two years.”
Nightmare, 49, an artist who has dealt with housing insecurity, gave up prior PCO posts due to moving out of the precincts.
“I got involved during the Bernie campaign in 2016. That inspired me to take a seat at the table,” she said.
She legally changed her name in 2008 for personal, not political, purposes.
Her name comes from “Nightmare before Christmas” and Patricia Arquette’s character Alabama Whitman in Quentin Tarantino’s “True Romance.”
She said she had a “plain name” before.
Reporter Jerry Cornfield contributed to this story.