Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Republicans helping Democrats? Signs play double duty

 (The Spokesman-Review)
Frank Sennett Correspondent

Front yards and vacant lots across Eastern Washington are abloom with campaign signs, mostly promoting Republican candidates. Supporters of Rep. George Nethercutt’s U.S. Senate run have blanketed the area with placards big and small. But the Spokane congressman’s Democratic opponent, Sen. Patty Murray, has no sign visibility yet in these parts.

It’s not that Murray lacks support on the East Side. It’s just that she’s waiting until the start of the fall campaign to distribute placards. “We will have campaign signs following the primary election,” promises Alex Glass, Murray’s campaign communications director.

But Nethercutt, who charged to an early start in virtually every aspect of the campaign, has been pushing hard on the sign front since mid-August. His campaign’s Super Sign Saturday event on Aug. 21 distributed more than 2,000 placards to Nethercutt supporters in King County – where he must raise his profile dramatically if he hopes to win.

And features a prominent “Request Yard Sign” page where voters can order placards with the click of a mouse. (Visitors to can check a box to request yard signs on the campaign’s page soliciting volunteers, although the option isn’t emphasized.)

But the Democratic incumbent might get an assist on this front from state Sen. Brian Murray. The Republican is running for reelection in the 6th District, and his bright yellow MURRAY signs are ubiquitous throughout Spokane.

I asked Glass if she thinks voters driving by Brian Murray’s placards might think they’re for Patty Murray instead, giving the West Side Democrat an unintentional East Side boost. In response, the spokesperson e-mailed a tongue-in-cheek question of her own: “Re: the MURRAY signs: Isn’t the GOP planning to save money just by printing up signs that say “GEORGE!”?

Pique the press

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer recently broke with tradition to endorse Sen. Patty Murray for reelection before the primary vote. In an Aug. 22 editorial, the newspaper ripped Rep. George Nethercutt for bypassing primary opponent Reed Davis to jump into a general-election battle with Murray.

The editors chastised the Spokane congressman for refusing to debate his fellow Republican and – horrors! – for spurning an invitation to chat with the P-I editorial board alongside Davis. In an equal display of petulance and unassailable logic, the paper decided if Nethercutt was pretending the general election started early, so would the P-I. As the editorial put it, “it makes sense to cut to the chase: Murray should be returned to the Senate in November.”

If Nethercutt’s bid fails, we’ll never know how many voters turned away from him because of this fit of P-I pique. But a recent catfight between a different newspaper and U.S. Senate candidate suggests the impact of the early Murray endorsement will be negligible at best.

On Aug. 30, the St. Petersburg Times shifted its endorsement of Senate candidate Mel Martinez in Florida’s Republican primary to opponent Bill McCollum. The Times accused Martinez, a former HUD secretary, of “hateful and dishonest attacks” on McCollum, an ex-congressman. The Martinez campaign aired an ad calling McCollum “the new darling of the homosexual extremists” because he once supported hate crimes legislation. The Times rightly condemned such “nasty and ludicrous slurs.”

The editors thundered, “The Times is not willing to be associated with bigotry.” The next day, Florida Republicans “punished” Martinez by giving him 45 percent of the vote, to 31 percent for former frontrunner McCollum.

The pen may be mightier than the sword, but the negative ad appears to be kicking the pen’s butt.