Press Talk: Something’s happening here

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian Editor



Lou Brancaccio is The Columbian's editor.

What’s in a name?

Who knows? But when the name is Benton, you can rest assured it will evoke a strong response.

That’s why, when a Mary Benton showed up at the county elections office to tell the world she was running for a county council seat … well, her husband, Don, said he almost coughed up all those free lunches he’s been eating.

He was shocked, I tell ya! Shocked!

Oh, I guess I should more appropriately introduce Mary’s husband, Don. Yes that Don. “Boss Hogg” Benton.

I’ll assume you know many of the details by now of Don Benton. So let’s just say his unfavorable ratings are higher than the customers down at Sticky Buds. But let’s be open here. It is not — I repeat is not — fair to paint Mary Benton with the same Boss Hogg brush.

It’s possible — for example — that she doesn’t believe a wholly unqualified person should be appointed to a high-paying county job just because this person knows a couple of politicians.

It’s possible, right?

Oh wait! Before you guess the answer to that question, you might need more information about the Donald.

Don Benton is the wholly unqualified person who was appointed to a high-paying county job just because he knows a couple of politicians.

Yes, Don is the county’s $110,000-a-year environmental services director, even though he can’t tell the difference between stormwater runoff and stromboli.

Don is also one of our state senators and — yes — he is magically able to do both of these government jobs at the exact same time.

Now, I say it’s possible Mary Benton would be against these shenanigans but, ah, I’m not betting on it. I suspect she likes the two taxpayer-funded checks coming into the household. And if she wins this election, not only would she have a little influence on Don keeping his county job, the Benton household would have a third taxpayer-funded check coming in.

But I’m a “give the candidate a chance” kind of guy. And you all should, as well! So I shipped Mary Benton an email earlier this week hoping she’d answer a few questions:

“Congrats on getting into the race.

“Could you send us some bio material; jobs, education, how long you’ve been involved in politics, etc., as well as your views on some of the more important issues facing our community? I don’t think … the community knows you very well. …

“I will assume — unless I hear differently from you — that you are willing to speak to The Columbian so the community has an opportunity to get to know you better.

“Thanks much.”

I put that last part in the email — about assuming she will speak to us — because her husband Don hasn’t been very good about it.

He and his crony buddies — County Councilors David Madore and Tom Mielke — don’t like answering difficult questions, so they talk through their Facebook pages and the weekly Battle Ground Reflector.

I felt it was important to introduce the M&M boys now because those were the guys who slipped Don through the back door and into his high-paying county job.

So if you’re connecting the dots right about now, if Mary Benton wins, she would join the M&M boys as a county councilor. Exactly what our great county needs!

(I don’t know why the song “Oh Happy Day” just popped into my head, but I thought you should know.)

So far, Mary Benton has yet to respond to my email. You know how slow email can be.

Seriously, I am hoping Mary Benton is a thoughtful, insightful, independent candidate who can positively impact our community. But if she tries to communicate without allowing the mainstream media to question her, she will, unfortunately, stand little chance.

In the meantime, I wanted to circle back to the beginning of this column, when Don was saying how shocked he was that his wife had filed for the county council seat.

No, really.

“Yesterday my wife Mary dropped a bombshell on me.”

That’s the way Don’s Facebook page told the world about Mary Benton’s decision.

Now, I’m no family counselor or anything, but I’m thinking a little more communication couldn’t hurt here.

Soon after her decision, Don began working the phones, looking for high-profile Republicans who would endorse his wife. He wasn’t having great success because, in part, a number of them had already committed to support Republican Julie Olson, who announced earlier. Don, of course, was quick to rationalize that’s why Olson was hogging all the endorsements.

“I … know that many chose Julie before they realized Mary was a candidate,” Don said in another Facebook post.

Ah, OK.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. Because, just like the Clintons, we could never have too many Bentons in politics.

No, really.