Friday, June 19, 2009

A funny thing happened on the way to the Endorsement

The Primary Endorsement Meeting of the 46th District Democrats was held last night, and it was not what was expected or hoped for by a lot of people, including me. This is my perspective and memory of what happened, written the "morning after". It's not a historical record, but a record of what I can remember of my actions, my thoughts and my feelings. Being human, that's all I can do.

The meeting room was packed. Probably 175 people total, although I realize now that I never called for a credentials report. The way we do endorsement votes is with paper ballots, and only voting members and/or PCO's get those ballots so it's pretty secure. It would have been nice to have the number, though. The number of people in the room raised the pressure a bit, and the temperature didn't help. I want to thank Rep. Scott White, who was very familiar with the facility and took it upon himself to contact the custodian so we could get the air conditioning turned on. Thanks, Scott!

I went through the 'Chair's Report' quickly, highlighting the Mothers March for Health Care that both my son and I marched in on May 30th. I mentioned the upcoming Seattle Pride Parade and July 11th Summer Holiday Party. I also mentioned that our August meeting was going to be on the regular schedule of the 3rd Thursday at Olympic View Church instead of the Elementary School. This is because the school is closed in August and it would cost us about $150 more to use the School.

We approved the endorsement rules, which had been changed a bit since the January meeting where we considered and endorsed Sherill Huff for King County Elections Director. Before approval, I went over the changes and highlighted the specific rule on how to Suspend the rules for any particular race. I anticipated needing to use that, and I wanted to make sure that campaigns that would otherwise only be considered in September knew that they could, and should, request a suspension of the rules in order for us to consider their race that night.

The first race we considered was Seattle Mayor. Nominations went smoothly, with all the candidates speaking to a body eager to hear from them. The first vote was called, and sent to the Tally Committee. This was where I made my first mistake, and caused the cascade of mistakes that I worked for the rest of the night to wrestle with.

Our Endorsement Rules state that "No Endorsement" is always an option on the first ballot. I had forgotten that, and did not ask Kathryn to include the option on the screen at the front of the room. When the vote came back, someone had evidently remembered because there were 3 votes for "No Endorsement". But, because I had forgotten to include it on the first vote, I asked her to add it to the screen. Then my second mistake hit the fan. I allowed a vote for "No Endorsement" on the second ballot.

What this did, and because nobody had caught it and either challenged it or corrected me (Note to district, please keep an eye on what I'm doing and how I'm following the rules. If you see something odd or wrong, hesitation to speak out... causes problems. I depend on everyone in the body, not just the Eboard members or trained parliamentarians to keep the rules flowing so we can avoid mixups.), is it allowed 9 people to vote for "No Endorsement" instead of either Joe Mallahan or Greg Nickels on the second ballot.

The next step in the rules after the second vote was to consider a motion for a dual endorsement. Someone, and my memory tells me it was Jason Sawatzki, stated that the language of the rules don't specify which candidates need to be considered eligible for a dual endorsement, and that it was within the rules to consider a motion for a dual endorsement of Mallahan and Michael McGinn. That really threw me. I declared that the intention of the rules was to conduct the Second and Third ballots as a run-off election from the first ballot, but I did not specifically rule that this was the only way that I would consider a motion. I probably would have, but I was saved by John Webber who made a motion to dual endorse Mallahan and Nickels. Thank you, John!

We did the vote for the dual endorsement by show of hands, and it did not receive the required 2/3rds majority. Then things got stranger. There was a lot of people talking around the sign-in table, and one of them was Matthew. He raised his hand to be recognized, and said something about trying to raise a concern about moving on before we had taken the Dual Endorsement vote. His concern was about continuing on when a mistake had been made in the ballot process, and he thought that we should consider reconsidering our consideration of the second ballot. However, there were objections raised by some people about revisiting a consideration after the fact, and then someone mentioned that it was already 9pm. That also threw me. Time flies when you're having fun, I guess. Anyway, I kept us going. Which caused more problems.

See, what Matthew was trying to do is a Challenge of the Chair. He was trying to get the body to reconsider the vote, but he wasn't clear enough for me to recognize it, nor even recognize or remember when he had raised his hand. Was it before we started voting on the Second Ballot? Was it after those results had been known? I honestly did not know. I thought and considered (and yes, I'm using that word too much), and did what I thought was right. I told Matthew and Larry Smith to answer this question: "What does Roberts Rules say about when a Challenge of the Chair can be considered?" I had a copy of RRO and there were a few others floating around the room, including the copy in David McDonald's head. The answer was that Roberts was silent on when a challenge may be considered. So, I told Matthew to talk to both campaigns affected, and get their input and thoughts on whether they wanted the body to reconsider the second ballot. The answer came back that they did want it brought up again. Ok. We can do that.

I thought about it too long. A few more races went by while I was wrestling with all of this, and I got poked by a few people who were watching people leave because it was getting late. So at the next opportunity, I told everyone what I was thinking, that after the Primary Races were done I would sustain the challenge. This was to prevent any more people who really wanted to vote on the Mayor's race from leaving. I think this was about 9:45.

We finished all of the Primary races at 10:15. I asked Kathryn to bring the Mayor's race back up on the screen, and talked about what I had heard and what I wanted to do. The ruling that I had made, ok at least the way that I had thought about it at the time, was that the 9 people who had voted for "No Endorsement" would have split their vote and the 2/3rds requirement would not have been met. So my ruling was that the result was No Endorsement and that we needed to move on with the Agenda. I asked the body to tell me whether I was right to move on. And I was supported 52 - 29. But we had to take that vote.

Lessons learned. We need to adjust the language in the rules so that they are more specific about the intent of the run-off election and who is eligible for a dual endorsement. My feeling is that the two candidates considered on the second ballot should be the ones we can consider for a dual. Others might have a different view. We'll talk about it. Also, I need more practice at this. I guess you have to learn by doing, and I hope my decisions and actions are more understandable now that I've written all of this down. Please feel free to comment on either Blogspot or Facebook. I did my best, and did what I thought was the right thing to do.

I want to thank Scott White for giving me the advice to make a ruling that could be challenged. It helped me get my feet back under me. I want to thank David McDonald for his depth and breath of experience. I want to thank Joe Mallahan and Senator Jacobsen (supporting Greg Nickels) for being so willing to help me work through the process of reconsideration. And I want to thank the hecklers who made me think and rethink. It's not fun to be declared "a failure of leadership", but when you get nearly a standing ovation when I asked for forgiveness for being human, it really means something.

Finally, I want to thank the Conlin, Ginsberg, Carr and Holmes campaigns for getting together and deciding together that asking for a suspension of the rules for a consideration (there's that word again) of their race was beyond what the district could deal with at 10:30 at night. To thank them, I announced that we would consider those two races, and those two races ONLY, at our August meeting. I hope we'll see everyone there.

Chad Lupkes,
Chair, 46th District Democrats


Michael McGinn said...


It is a tough job, and you did pretty well.

On the dual endorsement issue, my suggestion for the future would be to let the top-two vote-getters get first shot at the dual. If they get it, fine. Then if there is no endorsement, one could allow other motions for dual endorsements. If 2/3 supported such a subsequent motion, then the rules would permit the membership to express their preferences, consistent with the high bar of 2/3 support. The rules should allow the membership to express their preferences, so I think that was a weakness of the format in place. But, you had to work with the rules in front of you.

And don't let second-guessers get to you. A process like that needs finality, and you got there fairly enough. Thanks for your work on behalf of the 46th.

Chad Lupkes said...

Hi Michael,

My biggest concern about that kind of open endorsement policy is that anyone supporting any candidate could make a motion to support any two candidates, even the ones that got the least amount of support. We use the second ballot as a run-off election of those candidates who got the most support in the first ballot. I don't think it would be a good idea to just allow any endorsement motion regardless of the previous votes of the body. And I don't know that your suggestion would get a lot of support among our members, either. How would you address this concern?