Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Way Forward for Randy Dorn

As I sit here Sunday morning Randy Dorn trails Terry Bergeson by about 6.2% in their contest for OSPI here in Washington State, which is a pretty dramatic narrowing from the 11% lead Bergeson had on Election Night. A couple of thoughts:

1) About 27% of the votes went to the other candidates (Blomstrom, Blair, Duncan, and Hansler). If this is a "change" election, that could be trouble for the incumbent.

2) On the other hand, if you go back to the 2004 primary Bergeson only garnered 36% of the primary vote to Judith Billings' 35%, but she blitzed Billings in the general election by more than 11%.

3) Comparatively, then, a 6%+ lead now is a better starting point than a 1% lead in 2004. Consider, too, than in the 2004 primary she didn't take Thurston and Snohomish counties, but this time she did, a comparison that might not be valid because of the change to the top 2 primary.

4) Dorn's campaign only really took flight in May, and in a scant three months he was able to get within 6 points. That could bode well for him in the general.

Were I advising Randy Dorn, here's what I'd suggest:

1) He got absolutely blitzed in some of the smaller counties: 23% in Pacific, 25% in Skamania, 18% in Wahkiakum, 23% in Cowlitz, etc. I think he needs to prompt the network he has (the PSE, the WEA, Where's the Math?, etc.) to write letters to some of those small-town newspapers pointing out the deficiencies in the Bergeson administration. In Ferry County they might not bother with the Spokane Spokesman-Review, but everybody takes the Republic News-Miner. Talk to those folks about the cost of the WASL and the rising cost of transportation, and you'll get their attention.

2) Sort of building off of the above point, putting out a stronger position statement on the struggles of small schools and what he would do about it would get attention. Send it in a press release to every small-town paper, or write it as a guest editorial, and see what happens.

3) All of that said, no one has ever ridden into state office on the strength of winning the 1,300 voters of Garfield County. He has to pound Pierce, capture King, and snatch Snohomish to win.

4)....which is why the WASL results this year could be the dealbreaker for Bergeson's campaign. If a large portion of the I-5 districts see more schools falling into AYP, and if the parents start being told that their children are attending failing schools, that could get bloody. Then the status quo becomes the enemy, and Terry Bergeson is the status quo.

I'm not convinced that Dorn is the guy, but it's a conversation that we need to have.

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