Spin Control: Reporters voter their interests, thanks for asking – Sun, 02 Aug 2020 PST

This time of year, people sometimes ask me how I’m voting, which I don’t answer because it’s against the reporters’ code of revealing details that someone somewhere will use in a fulminous screed on voicemail, Facebook or Twitter.

So, being a smart aleck, I usually say I’m putting my ballot in a drop box.

If they persist and ask who I’m voting for, I don’t answer because it’s against my grammatical scruples to answer a question that ends in a preposition and I know by mentioning that, the rejoinder is “Who are you voting for, dipstick?”

So I tell them instead that reporters tend to see the candidates more than most people, but we vote our interests just like anyone else. Teachers tend to vote for people who will spend more on education and reduce the number of kids in a classroom. Business owners tend to vote for people who will reduce the regulations they have to follow or the taxes they have to pay. Union members tend to vote for people who support collective bargaining and oppose right-to-work laws.

Reporters tend to vote for people who will create lots of news in the next two to four years they’ll be in office without making our lives miserable.

Democrat, Republican or independent isn’t that much of a consideration. Most of us are programmed to cheer for underdogs because they make better stories, so standing in the polls doesn’t usually come into play and having the most money doesn’t much matter. But most of us wouldn’t waste time filling in an oval for someone whose campaign fund and polling numbers are both at zero this close to the election.

Given a choice between someone who’s a great orator and someone who can barely exit the same sentence they enter, we’ll pick the orator because they’ll give us better quotes and their supporters won’t accuse us of misquoting them, as happens sometimes when quoting a poor speaker verbatim.

We’ll pick a candidate who promptly returns calls over one with a staffer who always says, “The candidate is REALLY busy today so can I send you a comment by email?” We’ll also pick the candidate who replies by email over the one who doesn’t bother to respond.

In a choice between a dull but earnest candidate and a flashy but obviously shady candidate, we’ll pick the shady candidate 99 times out of 100. We’re pretty sure he’ll do something stupid, we’ll catch him and get several days of front-page stories out of it. Possibly more if the citizenry rises up to recall him from office.

That rule would be relaxed if the flashy but shady candidate seems more likely to hold secret closed-door meetings or increase the number of exemptions to the Public Records Act, making it harder to shake loose the type of information needed to keep state or local government honest. But experience has shown it’s more likely the dull-but-earnest types who will try to sneak that sort of thing past you.

An incumbent who has tried making it harder to find out what they’re doing in government can basically kiss off the reporters’ vote for the rest of their career. We’d probably vote against them if their only opponent was Goodspaceguy.

We’ll never vote for a candidate who has no clue about the office and dodges every inquiry with “Great question. That’s a serious problem that we’re taking some time studying before we propose a five-point plan that’s in keeping with our goal of doing good things for the good people of our good community.”

Candidates often govern like they campaign, so who could stand two to four years of that stuff?

Update on anti-Semitic mailer

Last week’s column described a postcard-sized mailer from fringe gubernatorial candidate David Blomstrom, touting a self-published book claiming COVID-19 was a Jewish conspiracy and saying he was running for governor.

It wasn’t clear whether it was an ad for the book that mentioned his candidacy, or a campaign ad that mentioned the book. “I don’t know. Maybe both,” was his answer, although if it was the latter it was missing the required sponsorship information.

The Public Disclosure Commission couldn’t say if it violated state law at that point because no complaint had been filed. Last week, two were filed.

Not that we’re claiming credit: Both came from Bellingham.



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