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Spin Control: Retirement leaves Lampert no time for 17th candidacy

When the dust from candidate filing week settled at the close of business Friday, there were a few surprises in who is running for what. But the biggest surprise was who isn’t running.

For the first time since 1996, a Spokane primary election ballot will be printed without Barbara Lampert’s name on it.

The retired nurse’s aide said after that first campaign 16 years ago she planned to run every year for something until she got elected or turned 70. In that span, she has run for almost every office short of president, from U.S. Senate down to city council member. She is such a fixture that some political reporters joked recently about betting on which race it would be.

Joke’s on us. Lampert, at 66, is shy of her self-imposed age limit and hasn’t wound up with the most votes in a general election. But Friday she said she’s getting spoiled in retirement and isn’t up to a run this year. “I was just too busy with other things,” she said. “There’s no sense to kill myself.”

She rarely spent much more than the cost of the filing fee on any campaign. Sometimes she’d have photocopies of a page listing that year’s positions, but definitely no signs or commercials. She always had a set of issues to run on, even if some of them weren’t what other candidates were talking about, like ridding the city of vermin. She showed up for pre-primary debates, like those sponsored by the League of Women Voters at City Hall, so she became relatively recognizable on City Cable 5.

She always used the state Public Disclosure Commission’s minireporting option for low-budget campaigns. “If nobody ever runs a low-budget campaign, they’ll do away with it.”

Hardly any candidate for a significant office wins by running on the low-budget option, and Lampert may be a testament to that. But she didn’t always finish last. Two years ago, running in the primary for Eastern Washington’s congressional race, she didn’t make it to the general election ballot but did poll better than the local Democratic Party’s hand-picked candidate. Local Dems were more than a bit torqued over that, but she didn’t mind.

“They were already giving me so much grief, ever since I started running, that I couldn’t tell the difference,” she said.

Her favorite candidate to run against was Joe Shogan, whom she challenged for council and council president. She and Shogan only live a couple blocks apart, served together on a neighborhood association before he ran for office, and she always thought highly of him. So why run against him?

“I didn’t want him to win a race and think that he had beat nobody. He deserved to say he beat somebody,” she said. There were never any hard feelings, she added. During the big snowfall a few years back, Shogan hiked to her house to see if she and her 90-year-old mother were OK; he found Lampert out shoveling and helped her finish the job.

She is running for Democratic precinct committee officer in her precinct, a post she’s held for years. But there’s no Democratic opposition, so she’ll get that job without appearing on the ballot.

She might run for something next year, and then again she might not. “It was a lot of fun, and if I had it to do over again, I’d do it. I feel I got my money’s worth.”

Well, it is called a political party

Washington’s top-two primary doesn’t just bring out a wealth of candidates. It brings out the creativity in some of those candidates as they list which party they “prefer.” Preference is a key part of the top two, because it doesn’t limit the general election field to one Democrat and one Republican, so no matter what party is listed on the ballot, if a candidate finishes first or second, he or she goes on to November. Finish third or worse and it’s “Later, gator.”

This year we have a candidate from the Human Rights Party running for secretary of state, candidates from the FDR Democratic Party, the Progressive Independent Party, the Employmentwealth Party and the 99% Party running for various congressional seats (all on the West Side, of course). Lieutenant governor attracted the most creativity, with candidates inventing an Indep Republican Party, a Democracy Indep. Party and a Neopopulist Party. And there is the usual schism between candidates who want to list Republican Party and others who want to list the GOP Party. The latter ignore the redundancy because spelling out the acronym would mean they prefer the Grand Old Party Party.

Or they just really like to party.

Jim Camden, also appears online with daily posts and reader comments at blogs/spincontrol.

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