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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control: Giving credit where dubious credit is due

The best thing for political junkies about an off-year election – and arguably the worst thing for everyone else – is there’s another election so close we can feel it in our bones. We’ll barely have time to catch our breath.

But before the general population gets overwhelmed with more Republican presidential debates and the minutiae of selecting presidential delegates through the caucus system, Spin Control wants to take just a few minutes to recall the highlights and lowlifes of Campaign Season 2011.

The Bill Clinton “Comeback Kid” Award, for best recovery. This is a tough one, because a state initiative to get Washington out of the liquor business passed after two similar proposals failed last year, and the Community Bill of Rights went from losing by a landslide to what appears to be losing by a whisker. But the best comeback has to go to David Condon, who finished a distant second in Spokane’s mayoral primary – so distant he may as well have been in Colfax – but came back to win the general.

The Cloudy Crystal Ball Citation, for worst prediction. Often this goes to a pollster with really bad numbers, or a campaign strategist who misreads them. This year it goes to Spokane Mayor Mary Verner for her prediction at about 8 p.m. on election night that when vote totals would be released in a few minutes, “pandemonium” would break out. A few minutes later, the results showed her trailing Condon, and whatever the opposite of pandemonium is reigned.

The I Know You Are But What Am I Trophy, to the two sides of the I-1183 campaign for arguing over who was more guilty of subverting democracy with big money contributions, when they both spent outrageous amounts. Costco will receive the part of the trophy shaped like a pot; Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America Inc. gets the part shaped like a kettle. They can call each other and discuss shades of ebony.

The Jubilation T. Cornpone Medal for questionable strategy, named for the “Li’l Abner” character renowned for losing battles, goes to Spokane Valley Republicans precinct officers for their tortured and unsuccessful efforts to rig the appointment process to fill a state Senate seat. The PCOs really, really wanted Rep. Matt Shea to get the job, and fixed the nomination process to try to force the county commissioners’ hand by leaving former state Rep. Mike Padden off the list. Commissioners chose Jeff Baxter, who served well in the Legislature but lost the election to Padden, a much more experienced campaigner.

The In for a Dime, Out for a Dollar Citation goes to Tim Eyman and I-1125. After spending more than $1 million to get the toll-limits initiative on the ballot, the campaign spent a few thousand to try to persuade people to vote for it. Despite being denounced by public officials and chambers of commerce, I-1125 came within striking distance of victory. Eyman lauded the campaign for doing so well after being outspent. But losing on the cheap is still losing.

The Duke of Windsor Award for abdicating one’s responsibility, to the Spokane Democratic Party for ignoring the race for the state Senate in the 4th Legislative District. Yes, the Spokane Valley is very Republican, so yes a Democrat’s chances would be minimal. But under that logic, Spokane Democrats might sit out every legislative race outside the 3rd Legislative District, and maybe even next year’s congressional race.

The Luca Brasi Citation, named for the hitman in Mario Puzo’s “The Godfather,” goes to Peter Graves, executive director of the state Republican Party, for saying the Washington GOP gave $25,000 to Condon late in his campaign against Verner so he could “take her out before she gets a chance at a free shot at a great congresswoman in the 5th District.” Leaving aside the question of how anyone gets “a free shot” at a sitting member of Congress, that kind of rhetoric may work with the party faithful but really turns off the general public. It should sleep with the fishes.

Spin Control, a weekly column by Olympia Bureau reporter Jim Camden, also appears online with daily items, reader comments and videos at spincontrol.