As the cauldron bubbles in the 48th Legislative District, at least we can say one thing – Ross Hunter won’t be stirring the pot. The House Appropriations chairman says he’s running for reelection this year, and not for the Senate seat that is being vacated by fellow Medina Democrat Rodney Tom.
Indeed, Hunter has a mighty classy way of saying no-thank-you. With all the nastiness and bad feeling that seems to be swirling about the Senate race right now, his Facebook post Thursday was probably one of the few bits of niceness likely to break out in the 48th District between now and November.
Legislative races just don’t get any more bitter than the one that was shaping up in the 48th. Tom, who has represented the district for the last dozen years, is a Republican-turned-Democrat who felt no great loyalty to either party. That independent streak led him to turn the Senate upside down in 2013. He and Democrat Tim Sheldon decided to caucus with the 23 Senate Republicans, and by forming a bipartisan majority coalition, they rendered the 24-member Democratic caucus a powerless minority. Tom became leader of the new Majority Coalition Caucus.
Furious Democrats seemed willing do anything in their power to knock him out. So they declared war on him in this year’s election campaign, and they passed a resolution at a party gathering declaring that Tom no longer had the right to call himself a Democrat – actually, he does; political parties in this state have no such power. They recruited a candidate, former Kirkland Mayor Joan McBride.
But when Tom announced this week he would not seek re-election, all eyes turned to Hunter, who might have had the best chance of anyone to retake the seat for the Senate Democratic Caucus. What is striking about Hunter’s demurral is that he refuses to engage in the Tom-bashing that is so common from Democratic quarters. In fact, he goes out of his way to say he wants no part of it.
Hunter acknowledges that he holds a powerful position in the House and would rather keep it. But he also says he never wanted to take part in a race where third parties would likely spend enormous amounts to trash Tom’s reputation.
I could run a clean campaign, but I cannot imagine that the external forces would agree to do so as well, and they would have probably outspent my campaign by over $1 million. I was concerned about ‘wearing’ this negative advertising against someone I consider a friend. It’s too bad we are in a world where campaigns are no longer controlled by the candidate. The specific concern is obviously gone today, but it still [is] a problem in the campaign world in general that I do not know how to solve.
The district’s political nabobs are still in a state of turmoil. The Republicans don’t have a candidate. And on the Democratic side McBride supporters appear to be waging armed Twitter warfare to convince the district’s other representative, Cyrus Habib, D-Kirkland, to stay out. But Hunter’s principled statement against the sort of campaigning that takes place whenever a Senate seat comes open rises above it all, and comes as a breath of fresh air.