The endorsement of U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell by 32nd District Democrats looked like a done deal. Until the day of the endorsement meeting, that is.
Cantwell was not endorsed by her home district at the Aug. 12 meeting. The Democrats did, however, endorse a homegrown candidate, one of Cantwell’s four challengers in the primary election, political newcomer Hong Tran.
“Hong Tran asked for an endorsement and she received it,” said district chair Lila Smith. “Maria’s campaign asked for an endorsement and she didn’t receive one.”
It was possible to endorse both candidates, said Smith, who added that one candidate was not endorsed simply because another was not. “They were very separate,” Smith said of the democrats’ endorsement decisions.
In order to be endorsed, a candidate must garner 60 percent of votes from members. The vote to endorse Cantwell was “very close,” Smith said.
Tran was present at the endorsement meeting, while Cantwell opted to send a member of her campaign staff, Mark Wilson. Wilson was campaigning as a primary opponent to Cantwell until he withdrew in July and endorsed the incumbent.
It was expected that Cantwell would receive an endorsement, Smith said, until Wilson “quite frankly insulted the people in the district.” She declined to elaborate on Wilson’s comments. Attempts to contact Wilson were unsuccessful by The Enterprise deadline.
Most members came to the meeting with the intention of endorsing Cantwell, agreed State. Rep. Maralyn Chase, D-Edmonds. Chase said she was at a legislative meeting in Nashville, Tenn. and didn’t attend the endorsement meeting. Chase did, however, have a letter distributed at the meeting in support of Cantwell and calling for her endorsement.
“We had the votes to endorse her, which is why I felt very comfortable not being there,” Chase said. “At the last minute, as I understand it, the campaign changed the strategy and fell apart.”
Some disparaging remarks were said about members of the district, Chase was told, and people were “livid.”
Chase’s letter highlights some areas of discontent with Cantwell, such as earlier positions on the Iraq war and trade agreements. The district still has more values in common with Cantwell than with Tran, Chase said, adding that one member told her she wouldn’t support Cantwell because she doesn’t answer her mail.
“Everybody understands where we differ with the Senator,” Chase said. “We have differences with her; that is the nature of politics.
“I was very disappointed,” Chase said about Cantwell not getting endorsed. “We had that thing wired; everyone was there with the understanding that we would endorse her as a district.”
As she heard people in the audience speak during the endorsement meeting, Tran said it became “less surprising” when her own candidacy was endorsed. Many people said Cantwell had strayed away from the principles of the Democratic party, Tran said.
“I was surprised, because as you know, the 32nd Legislative District is Cantwell’s home district,” Tran said. “It’s where she lives and cut her political teeth, so to speak.”
The war in Iraq was a divisive issue with members in terms of support for Cantwell, said Tran. Many people were upset, feeling that Cantwell has not been a significant presence in the district since she has been in the Senate, Tran said. People were very angry at the meeting, said Tran, who lives in North Seattle.
The endorsement means that 32nd District precinct officers will be walking the district and handing out Tran’s campaign literature to an anticipated 4,000 households, Tran said, which will be a “huge help.”