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Spokane politics will miss Jan Polek

Writing about caucuses brings to mind one of the best fans of caucuses in Spokane, Jan Polek, who passed away earlier this month.
Whenever I would rail about caucuses being a pain for a reporter to cover – which happened about every two years – Polek would gently remind me that they are great stepping stone into the system for many political novices.
She first went in 1984, and two years later she was running for the Legislature. . .

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 A Democrat in the solidly Republican 6th, she might’ve won, too, if incumbent Dick Bond hadn’t retired that year and been replaced by John Moyer, a local OB-GYN. In a race that turned on the women’s vote, Moyer had a slight edge, having delivered thousands of babies in Spokane. He won by 83 votes.
Polek was slightly ahead on election night, and I was the reporter who delivered the bad news after poll site votes were counted and the cheering supporters had gone home: She wouldn’t survive the GOP surge in the absentees, which was always good for about 5 percent in that district. She took it with good grace.
When I would scoff about the prospects of anyone doing more than sitting around for an hour or so then being roped into attending yet another meeting, she reminded me that she made the journey from caucus goer to national convention delegate in 1988 for Michael Dukakis.
In Atlanta that year, she spoke passionately about being on the floor to cast her vote for Dukakis, and of giving up a seat for an alternate pledged to Jesse Jackson when Jackson addressed the crowd. For her, that’s what politics were all about, passion and compassion.
Polek was a rare person in Spokane politics, an unabashed liberal who didn’t shy from the term. She never won elective office, but for a quarter century she provided a boost for many women to get involved in politics.
The precinct caucuses, and the rest of the political process, will be poorer this year for her absence.

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Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981. He is currently the political reporter and state government reporter in the newspaper's Olympia bureau office.

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