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Spin Control: For unknown candidates seeking coverage

By Jim Camden The Spokesman-Review

The inbox had a candidate request that every political reporter can expect at this point in the election cycle. Different candidate each year, same request: Don’t ignore my campaign.

Cregan Newhouse asked that his campaign be given serious coverage – well, actually any coverage – while continuing to give many of his rivals short shrift. Who? some readers just asked.

Newhouse is running for governor, as are 35 other people, the majority of whom you never heard of. It’s a record number, as we’ve noted previously , enlarged somewhat by the fact that people who said they could not afford the filing fee were absolved of the requirement to collect one valid voter’s signature for every dollar in the fee, to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

One can imagine the conversations at kitchen tables around the state:

“Hey Martha, I’m running for governor!”

“That’s nice, Harry. I’m sure you’d make a great governor based on all the advice you give the television when Inslee is on. But you know we can’t afford that.”

“Not to worry, Martha. There’s no filing fee.”

“Well, if it won’t cost anything, have at it. You need to get out more, anyway.”

Newhouse, it should be noted, paid his fee. Nine of his rivals, however, did not. Some of the others are perennial candidates who scratch the itch to run for something every election season even though they failed to attract significant voter support in previous attempts.

Newhouse is not one of them, either.

He is an independent, who apparently knew enough to write “no party preference” in the proper space on the candidate form, as opposed to those who wrote “Independent,” which implies they prefer a nonexistent Independent Party.

So he gets a style point there.

It is his first campaign, and he has the optimism of a novice candidate as he looks at his prospects: “The leader of the crowded field of Republicans is only 8 percentage points ahead of me, according to the latest poll,” he writes. This refers to the latest KING-5 poll that shows Tim Eyman leading Phil Fortunato and Joshua Freed by a couple of points with three other Republicans a few points behind.

But Eyman is only at 8%, so by being 8 points behind, Newhouse is at 0%. Not a good place to be less than two months before an election, although as he notes, he wasn’t in the poll.

So he could be closer, and he can’t be below 0%.

Newhouse suggests I ignore half the field because they don’t have an online presence and cull out others with “inflammatory language or disjointed messaging.” Sorry, if I used that standard, I’d exclude 90% of all candidates in all races.

He gives a nod to Liz Hallock, the Green Party candidate, for being one of the few women in the race and having ideas “that can’t be dismissed out of hand.” Point for chivalry, maybe?

Newhouse manages a warehouse for COVID-19 emergency equipment. His website calls for a progressive income tax for people who make more than $300,000 to pay for universal pre-K and lower the sales and property taxes. He says he will somehow pass meaningful climate legislation that Inslee couldn’t and push for a constitutional amendment to limit governors to two terms.

He has one thing that may be unique for a campaign website: a request that people NOT send money. He says he won’t accept it, and plans to limit campaign spending to $5,000.

So OK, Cregan Newhouse, there’s a bit of coverage for your campaign. You’ll get more when warranted. If you generate some measurable interest among voters, reporters will likely start writing about it. If not, they won’t.

Coverage follows interest. It isn’t designed to be the other way around.

And there’s this: In the history of the state’s top two primary, no independent or minor party candidate has advanced to the general in a primary that had both a Democrat and a Republican. It’s true that no statewide primary has had 36 candidates, with 15 of them claiming some connection to the Republican Party and four Democrats challenging their party’s incumbent.

So the future is wide open, as Tom Petty would say. But maybe a bit less so for an independent.

To any other struggling candidate seeking more coverage: Don’t write and ask for equal time because you, too, have great ideas. We only have so much space and never do this more than once in an election season.