Former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic has filed election papers to run for clerk of tiny Wahkiakum County, one of the most sparsely populated counties in the state.
The county auditor’s office confirmed to me this morning that Novoselic has filed not as a Democrat or Republican, but under the category “prefers Grange party.”
That’s a reference to Novoselic’s longtime involvement in the Grange, a rural community organization with its roots in agriculture and political populism. Novoselic is the Master of Grays River Grange No. 124, presiding over meetings and rituals.
“The formality of what Novoselic calls `The Orthodox Grange’ appeals to his sense of propriety and down-home togetherness,” state oral historian John Hughes wrote recently in his excellent profile of Novoselic. “The old wood-frame Grange Hall radiates history.”
The county is the third smallest in the state, with a population of less than 4,000 people. The county seat, Cathlamet, numbers just 565 people.
Novoselic has long been interested in the mechanics and promise of politics. In 2004, he wrote “Of Grunge and Government — Let’s Fix this Broken Democracy.” He’s a Democrat — in fact, he’s the chairman of the Wahkiakum County Democrats — but Hughes described him as “fundamentally a lower-case democrat who believes that partisanship and the politics of marginalization are harmful to the country.”
He’s also a longtime advocate of ranked-choice voting, also known as Instant Runoff Voting.
In a grange blog announcing his candidacy, Novoselic notes that the group is nonpartisan. But under the rules of the state’s new “top two” primary, candidates are allowed broad latitude to describe their political beliefs. (In the new primary’s trial run last year, one man ran as a candidate of the hitherto-unheard-of “Salmon Yoga Party.”
Novoselic, saying he’s a strong believer in the constitutional right of free association, says its a mistake to let candidates describe themselves as members of a particular party, regardless of whether the party actually accepts them. The state’s Democratic and Republican parties have made the same argument for years.
“My problem is not really with a top-two runoff election,” Novoselic wrote on the grange blog. “My issue is with the way candidates can appropriate the name of a private group.”
He’s running against County Clerk Kay M. Holland, who was appointed to the post in January after the former clerk retired. Prior to the promotion, Holland had served as chief deputy clerk for 14 years.
Holland, a fellow Democrat, said she knows Novoselic from the county party meetings, but hasn’t yet talked to him about the decision to file for the seat.
“Nice guy,” she said.
Novoselic keeps his hand in music, playing periodically, but is clearly attached to his rural life and the sense of community he’s found. Here, in an appearance a year ago at Seattle’s Experience Music Project, he talks about trying to balance things:
Hat tip: to Kelly Haughton, at the blog Ranked Choice Voting in Washington.