At a time when Washington State Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz’ greatest concern should be protecting a Democratic state Senate in danger in the pivotal state Senate race in the 26th legislative district race, Pelz this week spent his time kicking another moderate Democrat from the party bus for crimes against the party.
Previously, Pelz has labeled state Sens. Rodney Tom (D-Medina) and Tim Sheldon (D-Potlach) as traitors to the Democratic cause for their participation in the reform-minded and game changing Senate Majority Coalition Caucus. Now, it is former State Auditor Brian Sonntag who receives Pelz’ mark of shame.
Pathologically offensive liberal blogger David Goldstein (“Goldy”) revealed the details of Pelz’ unilateral purge on Wednesday at the Stranger by publishing excerpts from emails exchanged between Sonntag and Pelz.
What could have been the tipping point in Pelz’ decision to pull the handle and eject a former statewide official who was elected as a Democrat in 20 years’ worth of elections?
Did Sonntag announce opposition to legal same-sex marriage? No, and neither did Sonntag proclaim support for the pro-life movement or the demolition of the social safety net. His heresy? Pope Pelz believes Sonntag is not union-friendly enough.
According to Goldy, Pelz questioned Sonntag’s dedication to supporting labor unions, an accusation to which Sonntag responded by affirming his support for prevailing wage laws. Pelz’ response to his explanation cut to what appears to be source of Pelz’ conniption – Sonntag’s recent association with the free market and libertarian-oriented Washington state-based think tank the Freedom Foundation. From Pelz’ email to Sonntag, as printed at the Slog:
By joining the staff of the Freedom Foundation you have chosen to attach your name to its Right Wing, Union Busting agenda. In addition to attempting to pass right to work legislation in Washington, the Freedom Foundation has a long track record of attacking unions.
As evidence of the Foundation’s anti-union bias, Pelz chose to cite from a 2007 Freedom Foundation’s press release praising the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Davenport v. Washington Education Association. The Davenport decision affirmed that public sector unions cannot use fees paid to unions by non-members for political purposes without affirmative authorization. Our understanding of the ruling is that it did not directly affect actual union members in any way.
Pelz continued dressing down Sonntag (a man previously chosen several times by a majority of voters across Washington state) by chiding him for his support of the pro-transparency candidate in the 2012 gubernatorial race – former Attorney General Rob McKenna. Then, the coup de grace.
(For greater drama, folks of my generation and older may imagine these words spoken by Yul Brynner as in his epic performance as Pharaoh Ramses II in the classic 1956 film “The Ten Commandments.”)
Brian, if you are a fan of transparency it is time to acknowledge that you are a moderate Republican now working for a Far Right think tank. As Auditor you worked for Tim Eyman in attacking state and local government. Today you work for Karl Rove and the Koch Brothers – your new job is to bring Washington in line with Wisconsin and Texas and North Carolina as another state that adopts the ALEC agenda.
The lone act of integrity available to you is to simply pay your dues to the Republican Party.
Sonntag’s new colleagues at the Freedom Foundation responded quickly, suggesting that maybe the pressure posed by new leadership in his major opposition might be the cause of his outburst. The Foundation’s executive vice president Trent England wrote:
It’s important to teach children the difference between good attention and bad attention. Failure to do so leads to people like Dwight Pelz, chairman of the Washington State Democrats. With State Republicans in the news lately with a leadership transition from Kirby Wilbur to Susan Hutchison, Pelz seems to be feeling insecure and looking for attention any way he can get it.
There’s something to be said for England’s theory that we are witnessing an unraveling of Pelz under extreme pressure. Insider chatter following this year’s contentious legislative sessions held that Pelz and the Seattle-based Democratic leadership heard an earful from union bosses. Additionally, the recent record of Democratic losses in legislative elections has certainly been noticed by those who benefit greatly from one-party rule over state government. Add to that the fact that state Rep. Jan Angel’s (R) campaign for 26th legislative district state Senate is maintaining an aggressive underdog attitude even after her strong win in the primary over appointee-incumbent state Sen. Nathan Schlicher (D).
Considering those data points, it’s surprising Pelz hasn’t seen the obvious – while he’s ejecting moderates from his party, voters are slowly moving extremists within his party from power. And if Pelz isn’t careful, he might be the next to join the ranks of the formerly political power.