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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Hard to see why national media made a big deal out of Inslee’s glasses

Gov. Jay Inslee caused a bit of a stir in Wednesday’s Democratic presidential debate, not for something he said, but for something he wore.

His glasses. There were references to the Clark Kent styling of his spectacles, which made for an amusing break in reports of arguments over different types of health care reform or whether crossing the U.S. border without the proper authorization should be a criminal or civil penalty.

But still. His glasses? Really?

Apparently the national news media either haven’t paid much attention to Inslee (which would account in part for him hovering at 1 percent in the polls) or just aren’t very observant. But Inslee has worn glasses for years.

He arrives for his news conference bespectacled if he’s going to read a statement and usually takes them off when fielding questions. Most of the photos in the newspaper from those events have him without the glasses because he’s a bit more animated when answering questions than when reading.

When he signs legislation, he wears them to read the synopsis about why this is a good bill, or why he’s going to slice out a section with a partial veto, and usually leaves them on when everyone poses for the camera to show how happy they are that the bill has become law.

The Clark Kent reference seemed particularly strange because when Clark Kent – “mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper,” as the intro goes – takes off his glasses, he’s Superman. Admittedly, you have to be pretty clueless to not realize they’re the same person, but that’s the whole DC Comics schtick.

When Inslee takes off his glasses, he’s still Inslee.

It was more surprising that in a group of Americans who ranged in age from 37 to 76, Inslee was the only one on stage wearing glasses. It seems unlikely that any group of nine out of 10 people in that age range have 20/20 vision.

Touting one first, but not another

The election of the top leader in one chamber of the Legislature usually rates merely a brief mention by leadership in the other chamber.

But when House Democrats were preparing to elect the chamber’s first female speaker last week (because all four candidates were women), Senate Republicans couldn’t resist issuing an “It’s about time” message on finally picking a woman for the top spot.

The Senate Republican caucus sent out a news release the day before the vote, reminding everyone that they had picked a female leader 40 years ago in Walla Walla Sen. Jeanette Hayner. She was elected Senate minority leader in 1979 and became majority leader, which is close although not exactly the same as the House speaker, two years later.

Hayner managed Senate Republicans as minority or majority leader with a steady but firm hand for 14 years.

The speaker and majority leader are the top members of their caucus. The main difference between the positions is that the speaker, or the person designated as his or her temporary replacement, presides over the House. The lieutenant governor, or his replacement, presides over the Senate, not the majority leader. The president pro tem is elected by the Senate as a whole, which means the majority usually, although not always, decides who that will be.

But the speaker and the majority leader do both get the nicest office, with the best view, of anyone in their respective chambers.

The Democrats selected Rep. Laurie Jinkins, of Tacoma, as the speaker-elect, a designation necessary because the Legislature has to be in session for the House to vote and confirm that choice.

Jinkins is also the first openly lesbian speaker. After her election, Senate Republicans didn’t send out a news release noting that they were ahead of Democrats on the gender orientation score, too, by electing Jim West as their minority leader in 2000 and majority leader in 2003. West was a closeted gay or bisexual.

Probably just an oversight.

Primary reminder

Although mentioned elsewhere in today’s paper, it bears repeating that even Washington residents who aren’t currently registered to vote can still vote in Tuesday’s primary election.

This is a significant change that just takes effect this year. Former Idaho residents who just moved across the border might rightly say “What’s the big deal? We’ve had that for years.”

But it is a bit different. In Idaho, an unregistered voter can go to his or her polling place on Election Day to register and vote. In Washington, an unregistered voter goes to the county elections office or a designated Voter Service Center. In Spokane County, that means the Elections Office at 1033 W. Gardner Ave. or CenterPlace in Spokane Valley. Both will be open Monday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

For everyone, ballots must be mailed so they are postmarked by Tuesday or deposited in a drop box by 8 p.m. that day.

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