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May 1, 2007

A premature verdict on Rep. Jamie Pedersen

Posted by David Postman at 8:27 AM

(NOTE: I reposted this because of formatting problems, which I guess still haven't been fixed. And I lost the original comments. My apologies.)

At the Slog, Stranger writers are arguing about Rep. Jamie Pedersen, whether he's done a good job and revisiting last year's battles over which Democratic candidate The Stranger backed in the 43rd Legislative District race. Eli Sanders today points to a P-I story about Pedersen's freshmen year to say he tried, but failed, to convince his colleagues that Pedersen was up for the job.

I'm not sure I can describe the amount of pushback I got from coworkers here at The Stranger for suggesting, during our endorsement debates last fall, that Pedersen would probably make a good legislator, and would certainly get more done more quickly than Stephanie Pure, who ended up being The Stranger's pick.

In particular, Josh Feit and Erica Barnett predicted that a Pedersen regime would be disappointing, annoying, and even corrupt. Did this doomsday scenario materialize?

Feit bites back here, and mentions "Eli's coverage of Pedersen, which Pedersen used as a campaign hand out."

I'm happy to have voted, along with Dan, Annie, Erica, Sarah Mirk, and David Schmader for Stephanie Pure, who, I believe would have been a solid legislator, particularly on renters' rights, where Pedersen flopped. Having said that, as my post below shows, Pedersen got due credit from me during the session.

The Stranger was tough on Pedersen. Dan Savage called the candidate a weasel, which became something of a theme. A headline on a Feit post from June said:

Pedersen is a Weasel. Part 9.

Barnett didn't like Pedersen's corporate buddies during the campaign or that he planned to stay employed by his law firm. Today she responds to Sanders:

And while we did predict that Pedersen would be disappointing (particularly on issues of interest to renters, which turned out to be true), we didn't say it would be "corrupt." What we pointed out was that Pedersen would continue to work for Preston Gates & Ellis, a corporate law firm that lobbies the Legislature, while serving as a legislator, which struck us as a conflict of interest.

I appreciate that Stranger writers are having this debate in public. No harm will come to the paper and it is likely to help people understand a little more about how the paper works. I'm all for public fights.

But if The Stranger wants to fight about Pedersen's first year they need to do more than read this morning's story in the P-I. It relies on quotes only from Pedersen and his seatmate in the Senate, Ed Murray. Pedersen thinks he did a good job.

"I had six bills that made it all the way through the process," he said.

And the P-I added:

Passing six bills is not the norm for freshman lawmakers.

"Being seatmates with the speaker of the House is not a bad thing," Pedersen said.

In fact, this year it appeared to be the norm for a freshmen Democrat to pass six measures, including bills, resolutions, joint resolutions, etc.

There are eight freshmen Democrats this year.

Roger Goodman had six bills pass.

Don Barlow had five bills and a resolution pass.

Deb Eddy had six bills pass.

Troy Kelley had five bills pass.

Christine Rolfes had five bills and one resolution.

Larry Sequist had four bills and two resolutions.

Kevin Van De Wege passed seven bills.

The bills seem to be pretty evenly doled out so all the new guys can return home with a list of accomplishments. It's certainly not all heavy stuff. Most of the freshmen carry at least some of the more non-controversial measures, like Pedersen's bill, "Recognizing Juneteenth as a day of remembrance."

I have no reason to dispute that Pedersen had a good first year. But before Eli, Josh and Erica spend the day fighting, they should dig a little more before assessing what kind of legislator Pedersen has turned out to be.

UPDATE: Not that the Stranger crew needs my play-by-play, but since I quoted Feit's poke at Sanders, here's Sanders' response from the Slog comment thread:

Just to clarify: Josh was my editor at the time I wrote that piece. And when a local campaign consultant wrote him to ask whether Pedersen really deserved the attention he got in my piece, Josh wrote back:

First in a series on the election. Focus was on Jamie cuz the facts stand: He's got some early advantages. Namely cash and gay I.D. for Murray's seat. The intent was to make that point, but then set him up as simultaneously vulnerable with all the challengers. I believe the ending and Murray quote get at that

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