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Postman on Politics

Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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April 7, 2008 1:07 PM

On Ellen Craswell

Posted by David Postman

When I heard this morning that former Sen. Ellen Craswell had died I thought back to her 1996 campaign for governor. That’s how I came to know her. And I will always remember how at ease she was in discussing her Christian faith.

This is from a 1995 Seattle Times magazine story that introduced Craswell to many voters:

Although she'll talk about more than her Christian agenda - she has positions on property rights, welfare reform and government regulation that will appeal to a broad range of voters - she's also willing to confide that she's just sent a quickie "arrow prayer" heavenward, asking God to help her discuss her faith honestly, in a way that honors the Lord.

Everything in her life in one way or another is a reflection of God, she says. And He's a God who sweats the details.

When the circulation of her "Family In Touch" newsletter grew to the point that production deadlines were threatened, she prayed for a machine to fold the pamphlets. Not long afterward, a friend with a print shop donated just such a contraption, which Craswell took to be, literally, divine intervention.

"God provided a folding machine!"

The story was written by Mark Matassa. Craswell liked that story so much she had her staff copy it and hand it out at campaign events. She and Matassa formed an unlikely friendship over that story. After I let Mark know today that Craswell had died, he wrote about her at the blog he co-writes.

She was an old (75 when she died on Saturday), very conservative, very religious retired politician without much humor or even common cultural references. She didn't see movies or watch TV, and didn't read much of anything except the Bible. In her political career she wanted more religion in schools, softer laws against child abuse and, most famously, castration for sex offenders -- views that I, as a voter, probably wouldn't support. Yet I considered her an exceptionally warm person, a terrific journalistic subject and, finally, a sort of long-distance friend.

… Anyway, like a lot of people, as I got to know Ellen I was totally disarmed by her sincerity and her lack of pretension. I've known a lot of politicians and a lot of religious zealots and I have to say that, whatever one may think of her beliefs, she was the most honest of the lot. There wasn't an ounce of charlatan in her. She didn't even have the good sense -- or the trickster ability -- to soft-pedal her wackier ideas when a reporter was following her around with a notebook and tape recorder.

Read the whole thing here.

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