We started our interviews with Primary election candidates today, and that effort will eat into my blogging/tweeting time for the next four weeks. So I thought I'd fill in the gap a little with periodic thoughts about the interviews and this year's city contests. Right now I'm thinking I won't use names, but that could change.
Our first two interviews today were with Republican at-large candidates, and they both made a point of emphasizing that they are strongly in favor of collective bargaining rights for public employees. One even expressed dismay at the City Council's recent "disrespecting" of those employees in the "rude" way it eviscerated those rights and noted that he was also opposed to the state's efforts to abandon the common wage for public projects, an emphatically pro-union position.
Those are not normally what we think of as GOP sentiments. But one thing I've learned from years of writing about politics is that strongly held partisan positions matter the least at the local level. In state contests, they matter more because constituents (or, if you prefer, interest groups) band together and make their influence known. And, of course, they matter most at the national level. In city and county races, voters care more about which candidate will keep the roads fixed at the most reasonable cost and basic amenities provided with the least hassle. The "wrong" political position might cost a few votes but usually not enough to swing the election.
So far, the at-large race looks like the most interesting one this year. Seven Republicans and seven Democrats are vying for the six slots in the general election. And because John Shoaff decided not to run, and Marty Bender can't (that pesky new state law forbidding city employees like cops from serving), not to mention John Crawford ticking off all those city employees with his perceived anti-union votes, this is pretty much a wide open race. If there is a chance the council can go from a GOP to a Democratic majority (I believe there is), at-large is the race to watch.