Press Talk: Get the popcorn ready, it’s …

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian Editor

Published:

 

Just when you thought it was safe to venture outside, Madore pops his head out of his rabbit hole, grins and declares …

“I’m back!”

When we last left Republican County Councilor David Madore, voters had given him a spanking and tossed him out of the race for county chair.

That was shortly after they gave him a spanking by voting in a county charter.

Madore had prayed to the heavens the charter would fail, and he prayed again he would win the chair position.

So if you’re keeping score, the message being sent to Madore from above is “Move along, nothing for you here.”

But I suspect Madore is somehow interpreting the signals slightly differently. Something like “Hang in there buddy! The tide will turn.”

And maybe — just maybe — state Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas, will be Madore’s saving grace.

Pike, you see, is now entering the race for county chair. As a write-in candidate. And she is doing so at the urging of Madore and a few others.

If that wasn’t strange enough, Pike insists she told Madore and others that she has no interest in running for the position. So she intends to do nothing — nothing, I tell ya! — to campaign for it.

She’ll sit back, relax and enjoy the circus. And see how it all turns out.

So why is Pike the answer to all of Madore’s prayers? Pretty simple, really. After he got whooped in his primary run for county chair, he needs someone in the chair who appreciates his special brand of politics.

Certainly the two candidates left have no clue.

Enter Pike.

I should say up front that I like Pike. I don’t agree with all her positions. But she is a hard-charger, she represents her district well, and I’ve always found her to be pleasant.

And I embrace the idea that she’s getting into the race. What I don’t embrace is her getting into the race even though she doesn’t want to. And, frankly, I also am not crazy about her hitching her political wagon to Madore.

If Pike is sincere about having little interest in getting into this race, she should have told Madore to take a hike. She has enough political juice to say that.

But she won’t. So here we go.

The county chair race

It makes sense at this point to review what’s at play here.

When all the candidates for the county chair position were finally announced a few months ago, five names were on the ballot. Three of them — Madore and fellow county Councilors Tom Mielke and Jeanne Stewart — were Republicans.

Also, Democrat Mike Dalesandro and independent Marc Boldt got in. Boldt is really a Republican, but he went into this race as an independent.

Long before Election Day, I wrote in a May 30 column that I saw the likelihood of the three Republicans finishing third, fourth and fifth.

I was ripped by some of my conservative friends as to having no clue. Whatever.

The Republicans came in third, fourth and fifth.

That left the Republicans — especially Madore, who spent a ton of money to try to win this seat — shootsky out of luck.

Madore was devastated. He was literally grieving. But like the Energizer Bunny, he stuck his head out of his rabbit hole and hatched a plan.

Get Pike to run for the seat as a write-in candidate. He got on the phone quickly and ran the idea by her.

But Pike was — at best — lukewarm. She would later say it was her view the Republicans should take their lumps in this race, learn what they could from it, and move along.

It didn’t take Pike long to tell Madore no.

But “no” doesn’t really mean “no” if you’re talking to Madore.

Enter Christian Berrigan

There is something out there in the political world called the precinct committee officer. Virtually no one knows who they are or what they do. You’ll occasionally see them on your ballot. Sometimes just a handful of votes can elect a PCO. To most of us — honestly — who cares? But in the inner workings of political parties, they can be a force.

And while most people weren’t paying attention, the Republican PCO positions were being filled with people who think like Madore. One such PCO is Christian Berrigan.

Berrigan is best known for trying to rig PCO elections. He came up with this idea that the PCO candidates who thought like him should call PCO candidates who didn’t think like him and essentially say this …

“Hey, maybe if you really aren’t all that interested in running for PCO, you should kinda, sorta just step aside.”

Huh?

So this character was part of the cabal — along with Madore — to get Pike to run as a write-in. He will introduce this idea tonight at a PCO meeting.

On one level, this says something about the dearth of qualified candidates in the Republican stable. Why in the world would the party run someone who isn’t interested?

The answer may be found in big money. Remember Madore’s deep-pocketed buddies who each kicked in $75,000 to try to get him elected? That kind of money might be back if Pike agreed to be part of the plan.

So Berrigan called Pike back. All he needed from her was a commitment that if she ended up winning the race, she’d take the position. If she would do that, and the PCOs voted to support the idea … then the money would flow.

So Pike agreed.

With so much money involved, it probably wasn’t even fair to ask why Pike didn’t go all LBJ on Madore and Berrigan. You know…

“I shall not seek, and I will not accept … .”

But I asked anyway.

She says it’s because she will not deny the voice of the voters.

And I do get that. But — as noted — I still feel like Pike should break from Madore. But she simply won’t. She says she aligns politically with him, she voted for him, and she respects his positions.

And, frankly, Pike said she’s getting tired of the tying-people-to-Madore thing.

Plus Madore is a huge supporter of Pike. He is fond of calling her his “favorite legislator.”

Pike’s next step

For the record, Pike is telling anyone willing to listen that she feels she has little chance of winning. And she’s right in that write-in candidates are mostly long shots.

But part of it — my opinion here — has to do with lowering expectations. There is little downside in that.

If she loses, she can say, “I told ya.” But if she wins, it’s a victory of biblical proportions.

And make no mistake, she could win. She’s very popular to many in the county. And if Dalesandro and Boldt split the moderate vote Pike could squeak out a victory.

I get that Pike doesn’t want to go all-in on a write-in ballot. She has established herself as a strong conservative, and this county leans conservative. If she wants to take a legitimate shot at a county council seat, she’d simply wait to run — either in the district she lives in or the county chair position — when she’s ready.

That way, her name would officially be on the ballot. No write-in necessary.

Madore can’t wait

So Pike is very comfortable in simply waiting until she decides if she wants to leave the state House. She’s very much enjoying her role as representative and feels she’s 100 percent committed — full time — to the job. But Madore has no interest in waiting. He cannot bear the thought of taking orders from Boldt if he wins the chair. Remember, Madore defeated Boldt three years ago. He also has little interest in being bossed around by a fresh-faced liberal Dalesandro.

So Madore and Berrigan will take their chances by — first — getting the PCOs to vote in favor of this write-in idea and — second — getting us regular voters to put her over the top.

The circus

Where all of this will go is anyone’s guess. There are lots of community members who feel I want Madore out. But I don’t think in those terms. I want what’s best for the community.

If that means weakening Madore’s hold over us, then so be it.

But if I put my journalist hat on … are you kidding me? I love this Madore guy! I could not have drawn up a cartoon character any better than this to cover.

So I’ll just sit back, relax and enjoy the circus. And I have a sneaking suspicion Pike is joining me on this one.