by Kevin Taylor & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & H & lt;/span & ong Tran is told to walk the plank. Voters are told to walk the line. Local candidates wonder about putting up the "Gone Fishin'" sign. And Peter Goldmark is making waves on Capitol Hill.

These political tidbits are offered for your elucidation and/or amusement.

Donkey Kong

All she wants to do is stand up for peace, justice and the American Way. Instead Hong Tran's getting lectures, threats and chest-pounding from state Democratic Party boss Dwight Pelz, who apparently thinks he's King Kong.

"I will crush you. You don't know the meaning of power," shouted Pelz, Tran claims. After a meeting in Seattle's Central District, the 40-year-old Tran (who is challenging Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell in the primary on an anti-war platform) says Pelz "came over and started screaming at me."

What's her crime? She's asked for access to the party's list of voters in order to campaign effectively.

"I didn't expect the party would embrace me, but I have been surprised by the threats," Tran says during a recent stopover in Spokane. And the lies. When she first went public about being limited to voter rolls in 150 precincts in King County ("a pittance," Tran says), a party spokeswoman told the media that Tran had full access.

Only in the last couple weeks has the party "broadened" her access to include four counties. Tran, a lawyer who has dedicated her career to helping the downtrodden, jumped into the race because of Cantwell's vote in support of the Iraq war and her failure to change it.

"It's funny to see her TV ad where she says she was a waitress," Tran says of Cantwell. "She comes off like she's proud of it and she doesn't even see the irony that she supports all these trade programs that send high-paying jobs overseas and the only jobs left are service jobs -- like waitress -- that won't support a family."

Like all interesting people, Tran has a Spokane connection -- she worked at Spokane Legal Services for a couple of years in her journey through legal aid offices from the South to Seattle.

Her family fled Vietnam when she was 8. She still remembers her dad staying behind, a confused run for a harbor and floating on a disabled barge at sea until being rescued by the U.S. Navy.

Walk this way! Vote this way!

So look, outside your continued fixation with that Aerosmith/Run DMC music video, you're a rational, fully functioning adult who cares about the community and its elected leaders. You tend to vote for the best person, not just a political party.

This year, for instance, Spokane County's next sheriff is going to be a Republican. There's a crackling primary between two interesting candidates; vote now or forever hold your voice.

If you believe the county commissioners should have a Democrat -- whoa, maybe even a woman! -- in their secret clubhouse, the D primary is where you'll want to hang your chad.

We used to be able to weave back and forth across party lines like your drunken aunt on I-90. But guess what: You're going to have to vote the straight-and-narrow this year, because along came those humorless party bigwigs who sued to keep Washington voters from crossing party lines in the primary. (OK, OK there were those rare times we'd all vote up some poor schmoe in the opposite party just to see him get pounded in the general. But c'mon, it's a local tradition -- like cow tipping.)

The election-by-mail has candidates, already weary of glad-handing, doorbelling and jaw-boning, scratching their heads, too. One honest candidate for a Spokane County position noted the phenomenal amount of ballots already returned to the Elections office and said his race is probably already over.

"I'm still buying ads and going doorbelling, but I'm thinking, 'For what?'" he says. "I'd rather go fishing -- but if I do, I can just see the headlines."

This week, the Elections office reported more than 40,000 ballots returned. It may not sound like much after a total mailing of 238,000, but consider that this primary's turnout is expected to be 35 percent. By that reckoning, roughly half the votes are in a week before the "primary."

Meanwhile, Spokane County Auditor Vicki Dalton has added a stern voice message to the elections telephone line, admonishing voters -- angered by having to choose one party's ballot or the other -- to quit yelling at her staff. Fireballs and blistering comments were aimed at Elections staffers after ballots went out early in the month. Dalton reminds complainers that her staff didn't change the law -- they just have to follow it -- and if you want change, yell at your legislators. But please, no Aerosmith guitar riffs on the voicemail. Sigh.

From Fat to Slim

Peter Goldmark, the Okanogan wheat farmer and molecular biologist running as a Democrat against GOP incumbent Cathy McMorris for the Fifth District Congressional seat, recently had his chances for an upset upgraded.

Congressional Quarterly (or its online arm,, interviewed Goldmark and wrote this on Aug. 28: "The increasing visibility of Goldmark's campaign has prompted to change its rating on the race to "Republican Favored" from "Safe Republican."

OK, so it's an upgrade from fat to slim, but you can't blame the Goldmark campaign for waving the news around. Goldmark is confident that McMorris is beatable, given President Bush's plummeting popularity over the Iraq war, and a looming economic crisis in farm country that he hopes will create a populist upswell.

His campaign staffers also note that Goldmark, who didn't even start fund-raising until the spring, has doubled his money in the last two months and that the money has allowed him to run three television ads to date. He's now raised $532,672, according to an Aug. 30 Federal Elections Committee tally. That's still about half McMorris' total ($1,155,393), but much of her money came in last year, before she had an opponent. And nearly half of McMorris' funding is from political action committees, whereas Goldmark has stuck to his guns and raised almost all of his money ($475,678) from individuals. n

Spokane Folklore Society's Valentine's Dance @ East Spokane Grange

Sat., Feb. 11, 7-10 p.m.
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About The Author

Kevin Taylor

Kevin Taylor is a staff writer for The Inlander. He has covered politics, the environment, police and the tribes, among many other things.