Dirty. That's the only way to describe the race between Susan Hutchison and Dow Constantine for the King County executive's seat.
With no incumbent in a contest that is supposedly non-partisan, Hutchison more or less blames Constantine, who has been on the King County Council for seven years, for the nation's economic downturn and next year's county budget hole of $56 million, calling him a "reckless" tax-and-spend type -- code for Democrat, which Constantine is.
In return, Constantine charges that Hutchison, a former KIRO TV news anchor and director of the Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences, isn't coming clean with voters about her politics. She's anti-choice, Constantine says, is against light rail and environmental protections, and gave money to the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush and Mike Huckabee -- in other words, a right-wing Republican.
As proof, Constantine says Hutchison endorsed a policy guide published by a think tank called the Washington Policy Center that calls light rail "socialistic" and questions the validity of global warming. In a televised debate between the two last week on KCTS, Hutchison responded by saying that she also tells people to read the Washington Post, but "it doesn't mean I endorse everything in it."
At the same debate, even though a KING 5/SurveyUSA poll had just shown her edging ahead of Constantine, 47 to 42 percent, Hutchison downplayed the $500 she donated to Huckabee's 2008 campaign, explaining that a friend had convinced her to write a check for a local Huckabee fund-raising luncheon that she didn't even attend. She also said she supports light rail -- a claim that aggravates an otherwise reserved Constantine.
"My opponent has said that we shouldn't have built light rail to the airport, that you can take a cab," he says. Her supporters -- among them Bellevue Square owner Kemper Freeman -- are currently suing to stop light rail from coming to the Eastside, he adds, even though the majority of Eastside voters approved it.
In an Oct. 18 debate between the two on KOMO, Hutchison -- who did not speak with Real Change despite repeated requests -- said the lawsuit is about the misuse of roads money, not an attempt to stop light rail.
Constantine, a longtime environmentalist who fought to keep a gravel quarry from expanding on Puget Sound, says Hutchison is also not an environmental supporter: She has given substantial sums of money, he says, to the Building Industry Association of Washington, a group, he says, that works to dismantle environmental regulations.
Both candidates say they would offer new leadership and reform county government. But when it comes to the county's budget woes, Constantine says, Hutchison is blaming the wrong person: he's the one who helped put performance measures, capital budget oversight and whistleblower protection in place.
"My opponent has no serious experience for doing anything of the sort," Constantine says. "If she wants to run against the last executive," he says, "she's perfectly free to do it."