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Good advice from Uncle Clyde

“How are you Republicans managing to keep from throwing yourselves off high buildings?” I asked my favorite Speaker of the House, Clyde Ballard. “Talk is your party is in such disarray it’ll be a dozen years before you’ll even have a shot at power again.” “I think, with all due respect,” said the East Wenatcheean who wielded the gavel from 1995 to 1999 and was co-Speaker with Democrat Frank Chopp for two more years. “the press generates a lot of this. The fact of the matter is that politics is the same as always. You can win or lose in legislative or congressional districts no matter what the Seattle press or whoever says if you have a good candidate and they work the district. Republicans can still win elections.”

Was John McCain a poor choice for president? “I never was for him in the beginning,” said Ballard. “I felt at times he was more interested in getting his name in the press.

So who are your corners you’re hoping to see step out in upcoming elections?

“I think Jeb Bush has a lot of talent,” he said. “He’s done everything he promised.” So do I, I said. But the Bush dynasty is over, the name is poison. Has Dino Rossi shot his wad?

“An interesting thing,” said Ballard, “I had a guy who’s really active in the business world say Rossi will never run again. I said, you know, I wouldn’t put that in the bank. A number of national candidates have lost twice and won the third time if the timing is right. I would not rule Rossi out. He’s smart and he’d do a good job as governor.”

Did the GOP’s tea parties do any good? “The people in the real world are dying for someone to stand up for what they believe,” he said. “People still want leadership.” What’s going on with Obama is really frightening, said Ballard. “He’s trying to meet with the guy from Iran and the guy from Korea. Those people will eat him for breakfast.” What did you think of what the Legislature did? “I am totally baffled,” he said. “I watched it to the place I just tuned out.”

I don’t know if Clyde will be active in future elections. I guess it depends on who’s running for what. After his election as Speaker, he called in the lobbyists and told them to listen to the needs and wants of both parties, not just the majority the way they had ignored him as minority leader before he got the gavel. He opened up all conference committee meetings where the final deals are made on bills. They had been closed for years. He cut down the number of committees by combining or abolishing them. He reduced the session staff and the permanent staff that is in Olympia year round. He ordered sessions to start later Mondays and adjourn earlier Fridays so members could be home in their districts with their families and constituents. And he ordered a return to zero based budgeting where each department has to justify its request, not just an increase over the previous year.

In 1998, he sent the message across the state that you didn’t have to believe in Jesus Christ to be a Republican. That was to prevent the convention from requiring a litmus test for endorsement — you vote our way or else. It worked. No litmus test.

So how come the voters made it 49-49 in the House in 1998 and gave it to the Democrats after that? Because the unions registered anybody who was breathing to pass the minimum wage initiative and pledged raises, health care and lower class sizes. It’s attempting to fulfill those pledges by promising more than the state could afford that has put us in the shape we’re in today.

What we need is more Clyde Ballards.

(Adele Ferguson can be reached at P.O.Box 69, Hansville, Wa., 98340.)

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