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Opinion >  Column

Spin Control: Coming to your Washington ballot in August is a candidate from the ‘JFK Republican’ party

In this April 30, 1963 photo, President John F. Kennedy listens while Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg speaks outside the White House in Washington, D.C. A U.S. Senate candidate from Spokane listed his party preference as “JFK Republican” when he filed for office last week. He contends that Kennedy would be a Republican if he were alive today.  (William J. Smith)
In this April 30, 1963 photo, President John F. Kennedy listens while Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg speaks outside the White House in Washington, D.C. A U.S. Senate candidate from Spokane listed his party preference as “JFK Republican” when he filed for office last week. He contends that Kennedy would be a Republican if he were alive today. (William J. Smith)

One of the advantages of Washington’s primary system – for dark horse candidates, if not for voters – is that a person can try to signal something about themselves by the way they list their “party preference.”

That’s because Washington does not have a partisan primary for partisan offices, in which Republicans run against Republicans and Democrats against Democrats. Everyone gets into the race together and the candidates who finish first and second in August win the right to be on the November ballot, regardless of the party they say they “prefer.”

That occasionally involves some candidates being creative and others relatively obscure when filling out the party preference line on the form. This is most common in some statewide or congressional races where the number of wannabe office holders can outnumber the field at a crowded Kentucky Derby.

This year sees the return of Richard Boyce in Western Washington’s 10th Congressional District, who lists his preference as the “Congress Sucks” Party. Although a fair number of voters in Tacoma and Olympia, the largest population centers of that district, might share Boyce’s opinion of Congress, it should be noted that he ran for the same office as that party’s standard bearer in 2020 and collected barely more than 1% of the vote, finishing 16th in a field of 20. That was arguably worse than he did in 2016, when he listed no party preference and collected 3.5% of the vote, and finished fourth out of four.

Up the Interstate 5 corridor in the 2nd Congressional District, Cody Hart is running as a MAGA Republican, in an attempt to distinguish himself from the four other Republicans trying to unseat Democratic Rep. Rick Larsen. That may or may not make him aligned with Leon Lawson, a Shelton resident running as a Trump Republican against Democratic Sen. Patty Murray.

There are three other just plain Republicans, as well as four Democrats, four independents, one Socialist Workers Party and two “No Party Preference” candidates in the race against Murray. But the one that’s a bit of a head-scratcher, if not an outright oxymoron, is Dave Saulibio, of Spokane, who lists his party preference as “JFK Republican.”

While this might have the 35th president spinning in his grave, Saulibio said he’s a former Democrat who would like to go back to the way things were in the Kennedy years, which he describes as a time when everything was made in America, there was no Rust Belt and the middle class was prosperous.

“Kennedy believed in low taxes,” the 74-year-old retired Boeing manager and business consultant said.

Actually, although Kennedy did support some tax cuts, taxes were higher in the 1960s than they are today. The Kennedy years were also a time of rising racial tensions and the beginning of the nation being drawn into a war in Southeast Asia.

If Saulibio’s halcyon look at the Kennedy years sounds a bit like Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again pitch, that may be because he ran as a Trump Republican in 2020 in the 8th Congressional District. He also ran in Eastern Washington’s 5th Congressional District in 2018 as a plain Republican, albeit as a “disciple follower” of Trump who would pass his “MAGA agenda” if elected to Congress. He finished third, with 2.4% of the vote.

“If JFK was alive today, he would be a Republican,” Saulibio contends. While there are plenty of Democrats who would dispute that, he’s hoping enough disaffected former Democrats like himself will be attracted to the title and vote for him. If not, he said he’d be OK with Trump Republican Lawson, or even regular Republican Tiffany Smiley, the likely frontrunner in the competition to challenge Murray.

The word is out

The state Supreme Court won’t be saying “marijuana” again in any of its opinions, unless a justice is directly quoting something where the word appears.

In its recent decision that upheld the state standard for driving under the influence of THC, the active ingredient in that plant, a footnote explained that from now on, they’ll say cannabis.

“We recognize that using the term ‘marijuana’ instead of ‘cannabis’ is rooted in racism,” Justice G. Helen Whitener wrote in her 9-0 decision.

The Legislature passed a law to replace marijuana with cannabis in state statutes, Whitener noted. She also quoted a 2019 law review article that pointed to the switch in the early 20th Century away from the scientific term cannabis to marijuana because of anti-Mexican and other racist and anti-immigrant sentiments and efforts to demonize cannabis.

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