Endearing crazies on Seattle’s ballot: Just a good laugh, or a sign of healthy democracy?

King County, Washington has a primary election August 1st. Each time I receive the Voter Guide in the mail, I have a good laugh at the bizarre and kooky candidates who somehow made it on the ballot. Is the Voter Guide an April Fool’s joke, I wonder?    Or are there other places in the country where grossly unqualified people who cannot write or spell get to have their platforms sent to every resident’s mailbox?

This year’s Voter Guide does not disappoint. Not only are these candidates amusing, but some actually have a few interesting ideas. To start, there is a candidate for King County Executive who wants to create a public utility district and build a 1.0 gigawatt solar farm east of the Cascades. He wants to enhance the Monorail with Elon Musk’s Hyperloop technology, which presumably could carry me downtown in a high-g, vomit-inducing 2.8 milliseconds. He would grow the solar output to 12 gigawatts, presumably over the course of his second term, and eventually he claims the solar plant would entirely fund the County in perpetuity because solar is becoming cheaper than even Bonneville’s wholesale rates. This guy sounds awesome!

Unfortunately, my ecotopia daydreams abruptly ended when I realized he’s a militant anti-vaxxer. A former lawyer, he was also debarred by the Washington Supreme Court for financial misconduct.

Well, that was fun.

The next candidate for King County Executive clearly shows that the elections department’s forms must be a cinch because, well, he isn’t actually a candidate at all. Bill Hirt‘s first sentence declares that “My candidacy’s an attempt to attract attention to my blog detailing the light rail debacle. I have no expectation or desire to win and will not seek nor accept any financial support.” I gotta hand it to Hirt for (1) being honest, and (2) creatively using the election system to publicize his views with a taxpayer-funded mailer sent to all registered voters. Perhaps I should be glad his views are, at least, related to politics; with no filter by the elections department in place, couldn’t spammers make a candidate out of penis enlargement pills in next year’s Voter Guide, I wonder?

Finally, there is the perennial candidate Goodspaceguy, a delightful fixture of King County elections for many years. Goodspaceguy’s platform mostly involves colonizing other planets, but it includes some earthly matters as well, such as abolishing the minimum wage. Goodspaceguy’s occupation is listed as “Part Owner: Boeing, Microsoft, Disney, Irobot, Southwest, etc”—presumably highlighting his stock-trading portfolio, but perhaps suggesting to more gullible readers a dazzling array of corporate directorships on his resumé. His dedication to space exploration rivals his dedication to seeking public office (this is his 16th attempt). In case you are curious, Crosscut’s “Definitive Interview with Goodspaceguy” explains that the candidate formerly known as Mr. Nelson went to court to officially change his name. And lest you think Goodspaceguy isn’t a serious candidate, remember that he inexplicably won 31,000 votes in 2015’s Port Commissioner race.

Goodspaceguy: The definitive interview with King County’s perennial candidate

These and other candidates fill King County’s illustrous Voter Guide, from which I derive great joy when it arrives in my mailbox. Yes, there are some “real” candidates spouting the usual political bromides, but they are far less memorable. The unreal candidates, in contrast, have bold visions—12 gigawatts of new solar! Kick Puget Sound Energy out of King County!—that are endearing. But what is really pleasing to me is the simple absurdity of the candidates on display. Surely the gears of our republic are in good working order when even these crackpots can get on the ballot! It says something about the accessibility of elected offices to the layperson.

Six months into the Trump presidency, I realize that now may be an inopportune time to extoll the virtues of these charming, anything-goes candidates, given that our President’s qualifications for public office overlap disconcertingly with the aforementioned candidates’ mental illness (Goodspaceguy), conspiracy theories (e.g., vaccinations cause autism), etc. Trump, after all, was “that crazy guy” right up until he won on November 8. Nevertheless, I think it’s time we embrace the crazy on our local ballots. (To be clear, by “embrace” I do not mean “vote for.”) After all, these fruitcakes unwittingly empower young people throughout the county by reminding them that anyone—and I mean anyone—can be a candidate. So break open your Voter Guide and behold the wackiness on America’s hallowed instrument of democracy.  §

 

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