Committing Larsen-y

Posted November 15, 2004 at 5:03pm

Editor’s note: Shop Talk will return to its regular Thursday slot in January. It may appear occasionally between now and then.

An aide to Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) has thrown his hat into the ring for chairman of the Washington state Democratic Party, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported last week.

Bill Phillips, who is a caseworker in Larsen’s district office in Everett, is one of four Democrats currently interested in the wide-open race to fill a job that’s been held for the past decade by Paul Berendt.

Berendt is expected to seek re-election when the state Democratic committee meets at the end of January.

Others in the race are Greg Rodriguez, chairman of the King County Democratic Party, the largest county party organization in the state, and Kat Overman, a political consultant and labor organizer who is former chairwoman of the Snohomish County Democratic Party.

Overman’s political base significantly overlaps Phillips’.

Phillips told the newspaper that he is running because he has ideas for strengthening the state party, adding that his candidacy is “not about the current leadership and it’s not about the current chairman.”

Berendt has presided over a successful period for Washington state Democrats. During his tenure, the Evergreen State remained a presidential stronghold for the Democrats, the party retained most statewide offices, and Democrat Maria Cantwell ousted then-Sen. Slade Gorton (R) in 2000.

But this year, the Democrats may have lost the governor’s mansion — ballots are still being counted in the race between Democrat Christine Gregoire and Republican Dino Rossi — and the party has yielded the attorney general’s office, formerly held by Gregoire, to the GOP.

In addition, the Democrats were unable to win either of the state’s two Republican-held open House seats. In the 8th district race, which national Democrats had high hopes of winning, Berendt urged radio talk show host Dave Ross to enter the contest late, even though the national party had for several months been promoting high-tech businessman Alex Alben, who ended up losing the primary to Ross.

In the meantime, the race for Washington state Republican chairman may also be up for grabs in January. The incumbent, Chris Vance, has said he’ll decide whether to seek re-election soon after an official winner is declared in the governor’s race, which may not happen until next week.

Vance, who lost a 2000 House race to Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), has talked openly about challenging Cantwell in 2006.

Others potential candidates for state chairman, according to the Post-Intelligencer, include outgoing King County GOP Chairwoman Pat Herbold; Diane Tebelius, who ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination in the 8th district House race; Skagit County Republican Chairman Mark Hulst; Joshua Freed, an unsuccessful legislative candidate; and Rose Strong.

Herbold and her husband, Microsoft Corp. executive Bob Herbold, have both been mentioned as possible candidates for Cantwell’s seat.

Musical Chairs. State party chairmen are also vacating their posts in Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan and New York, according to recent press accounts.

• In the Bluegrass State, Democratic Chairman Bill Garmer announced his resignation last week. Garmer’s tenure coincided with the Democrats’ loss of the governorship last year — for the first time in a generation — and with severe losses in the state Legislature.

“I was just stretched beyond the limits of my emotional and physical energy,” he told The Associated Press.

The party vice chairwoman, Kerry Morgan, will take over until a permanent replacement can be named.

• In Maryland, Democratic Chairman Isiah Leggett has resigned. Four Montgomery County businessmen have been mentioned as his possible replacement: Gary Gensler, a former Treasury Department official during the Clinton administration and treasurer of the state party; Nathan Landow, a developer who is a former state party chairman and a major national Democratic donor; Terry Lierman, a former lobbyist and 2000 Congressional candidate who was finance chairman of Howard Dean’s presidential campaign; and R. Scott Pastrick, president and CEO of BKSH & Associates, a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm, and former treasurer of the Democratic National Committee.

• In Michigan, GOP Chairwoman Betsy DeVos announced that she will step down in February after six years on the job. Both she and her husband, Amway heir Rich DeVos, are mentioned as possible challengers to Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) in 2006. Betsy DeVos is also mentioned as a possible Bush administration appointee.

The early line has three frontrunners in the race to replace her: former state House Majority Leader Andrew Raczkowski, the 2002 GOP Senate nominee; Republican National Committeeman Chuck Yob; and Oakland County GOP Chairman Paul Welday.

• In New York, Republican Chairman Sandy Treadwell has stepped down. Stephen Minarik III, the Monroe County GOP chairman, is the frontrunner to succeed him. With Gov. George Pataki (R) expected not to seek a fourth term in 2006 and no obvious strong replacement waiting in the wings, the new state GOP leader will have his work cut out for him.

Legacies. The sons of two Members of Congress succeeded in their attempts to win seats in the New York state Legislature earlier this month.

In Buffalo, prosecutor Jack Quinn III (R), son of retiring Rep. Jack Quinn (R-N.Y.), won an open state Assembly seat. And in a Bronx-Manhattan district, José M. Serrano (D), a city councilman and son of Rep. José E. Serrano (D-N.Y.), defeated a long-term incumbent state Senator who had switched parties.

Meanwhile, 2,000 miles to the west, Peter Wirth (D), the nephew of former Sen. Timothy Wirth (D-Colo.), was elected to the New Mexico House of Representatives.

Put on the Green Eye Shade. Former Rep. Tom Campbell (R-Calif.), who has twice run unsuccessfully for the Senate, has a new gig. He’ll temporarily leave his post as dean at the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley to become the state director of finance for California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R).

O Henry! One of the few marquee elections in 2005 will be the Virginia governor’s race. Guiding the campaign of the likely Democratic nominee, Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, is Mike Henry.

Henry most recently was campaign manager for businessman Blair Hull, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic Senate nomination in Illinois in 2004.

In the previous cycle, Henry was campaign manager for Maryland state Del. Mark Shriver, who lost a Democratic Congressional primary to now-Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.).

In 2001, Henry was director of the Democratic coordinated campaign in Virginia that helped elect Gov. Mark Warner (D), so his Virginia bonafides are sound. Warner is barred by law from seeking a second straight term.

It’s a Boyd. Laslo Boyd, a 30-year veteran of government, higher education and public policy positions and an author on a book about Maryland politics, has joined forces with pollster Patrick Gonzales to form Gonzales/Boyd Political Consulting Inc. in Annapolis. The two plan to focus on state and local candidates in Maryland.