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Spin Control: Some awards to mark 2020’s political highs and lows

On a visit to fire-devastated Malden, Wash., Gov. Jay Inslee arrives at a town meeting with a basket of fresh honeycrisp apples picked from the Governor’s Mansion’s apple trees on Sept. 10. The apples later had to be collected and destroyed because they had apple maggots. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Before slamming shut the book on 2020 – a year the numerical equivalent of perfect vision but that often made us wish we could close our eyes and keep them shut – Spin Control wants to keep with tradition and award some of the political and government highlights and low points of the year.

The Fruit of the Forbidden Tree Award goes to Gov. Jay Inslee, who decided it would be a neighborly thing to bring boxes of apples from trees behind the Governor’s Mansion to burned-out residents of Malden and Bridgeport after the catastrophic wildfires last summer. Unfortunately, the mansion is in Thurston County, which is an apple maggot quarantine zone for a reason. The agricultural services had to be put on alert, the infested fruit rounded up and properly destroyed, and the governor’s staff required to write, “We will not let the boss endanger the state’s most recognizable crop” 100 times. His name will be carved into the base of the award, which is made from a paving stone lifted from the road to you-know-where.

A Mini-Me Statuette, to Republican gubernatorial candidate Loren Culp, for running a campaign most like a larger political candidate. What’s larger than the governor’s race? The presidency, of course, and Culp’s campaign had some striking similarities to President Donald Trump’s effort, from its populist themes to its multiple campaign rallies with unmasked attendees during the pandemic, as well as a huge gap behind the winner in the state and unsuccessful legal challenges of the results by the loser.

A Jubilation T. Cornpone Citation, named for the character in “Li’l Abner” famous for really bad strategies, to Republican Joshua Freed. An early front-runner in the gubernatorial race, the former mayor of Bothell finished third and thus out of the money in that primary. Undaunted, he announced a write-in campaign for lieutenant governor, which featured two Democrats who finished first and second in the top two primary. This despite the fact that no one has pulled off a write-in win for a statewide office in a general election. That record remains intact. Freed shares the award with donors who ponied up some $130,000 for the doomed campaign. But at least it gave some rock-ribbed Republicans someone to write on the ballot in the lieutenant governor’s race.

The Say What? Award, to Chirayu Patel, the Republican candidate for insurance commissioner whose unusual campaign platform included inviting his opponents to share the duties of the office should he be elected and a statement that he could channel the minds of Thomas Jefferson and Ronald Reagan in redesigning the state’s insurance regulations. Accompanying the award is a “Better Red than Dead” shoutout to the 14 counties that voted for Patel over 20-year-veteran Mike Kreidler in the general election.

Thanks But No Thanks Letters of Nonappreciation, to the various armed “militias,” Proud Boys, 3 Percenters and others who showed up to help “keep the peace” at various demonstrations for police reform and racial justice. And belated copies to members of militant progressive groups who decided last month that they, too, would come armed to a protest and counterprotest near the state Capitol. As almost anyone with half a brain could predict in such a scenario, someone did get shot.

A Whac-A-Mole Award to the ubiquitous Tim Eyman, who turned up in so many places he made the Energizer Bunny seem like a slug. He stood outside the Supreme Court building demanding highly unlikely legal redress of grievances, then asked followers to email the justices to overturn their unanimous decision against the $30 tab initiative (they didn’t). He campaigned for governor in the primary but finished fourth, then served as a “warm-up act” for Culp in the general. He attended rallies against Inslee’s COVID-19 restrictions, and railed against Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

And of course, he filed initiatives, because no year is complete without dozens of Eyman initiatives filed with the secretary of state.

A Despite Friends Like These Trophy to Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman, who constantly had to push back against the claims of others in her party, particularly the top Republican in the White House, who spent months suggesting mail-in voting was more tainted than last week’s sushi. Wyman and elections officials in 39 counties – some Democrats but many fellow Republicans – managed to assure worried voters while preparing for a wave of late registrations and near-record turnout.

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