Friday, July 25, 2008

Municipal League Rates Maxwell and Litzow

It's dangerous to vote if you don't know what you're doing, and it can be hard to get facts if you're a normal person.  You can read the newspaper, or follow other mass media, but they don't often go in-depth on candidates--and they have their own biases whether they admit it or not.  Fortunately, and partly thanks to the Progressive Movement (started by my Wisconsin ancestors) in the early 1900s, you can get independent, objective evaluations of candidate qualifications from the Municipal League, which has a King County branch that is a 501(c)(4) non-profit that's been around since 1910.

They just published their evaluations of the candidates running for District 41 (Mercer Island, Bellevue, and Renton) and here are the results for my two favorites:

Candidate Rating Questionnaire Web site
Marcie Maxwell Good Questionnaire Campaign Website
Steve Litzow Very Good Questionnaire Campaign Website

I was surprised at the League's thoroughness and objectivity.  Somebody from their org who saw my posts (Steve Litzow, Marcie Maxwell) contacted me directly to ask if I had more background information. At first I was skeptical about the League, thinking that if it's staffed by volunteers, it would no doubt be packed with partisans from one side or another.  But after talking to them, I think it would be hard to manipulate their results.  The decision-making process is pretty objective: they just want to know if the person is qualified.  The person who contacted me asked if I knew other facts about the candidates: things like criminal record, education, employment history, etc. -- basically a reference check to confirm that everything on the questionnaire was up to snuff. 

So why did Steve Litzow get a better rating?  I suspect it was the in-person interviews, which I bet he handled better.  Marcie's campaign depends on the lead in endorsements she enjoys from many well-organized groups--each of which has its own reasons for supporting her over Steve.  But endorsements represent a tricky calculation that takes into account many factors, including the likelihood that the candidate will win--and not necessarily whether the candidate is "best" for the district. Steve's campaign, perhaps of necessity, depends less on endorsements and more on one-on-one persuasion and how well he articulates his issues--all of which make for a better in-person interview.  "Vote for me because so-and-so endorsed me" works better on a questionnaire, but in-person you need to say persuasively "vote for me because I'll do X and Y".

Note that this does not mean Steve is necessarily better for you or for District 41.  You may not want X and Y.   But if you do, then I bet the League's ratings are accurate.

No comments: