Politics is not an art. It’s not a science. It’s a disease. And, fortunate or unfortunate I was born with it. My great-times-four grandfather was the Mayor of Danzig, Germany (now Gdansk, Poland). His name was Danziger. I don’t know if the town was named after him or he after the town. I have no pictures of Grandpa (x4) Danziger, but I believe this was his synagogue.
My cousin, Bailey Gatzert was the eighth mayor of Seattle, serving in 1875 and 1876. He was the first Jewish mayor of Seattle, narrowly missing being the first Jewish mayor of a major American city (Moses Bloom became mayor of Iowa City, Iowa in 1873).
In 1952, when I was 15, Adlai Stevenson was the Democratic Candidate for President and my Uncle, Bernard Reiter, ran for the Seattle School Board. His campaign was handled by Bill Speidel, Seattle historian, newspaperman and a public relations consultant who handled primarily Republican candidates, including the campaign in Washington State for Nelson Rockefeller’s 1968 run for President. Speidel became my first politricks instructor. His unique office was heated by a standing pot-bellied stove. “Your first assignment,” he said, handing me a tabloid sized brochure for Al Stephan, my Uncle’s opponent, “is to pick up all of these you can find, bring them back here and put them in the stove. This is how we heat the building.”
So I was working for a Republican and volunteering daily at the Stevenson for President headquarters. I got the bug.In 1959 I ran a one-issue write-in campaign for myself for President of the Senior Class at the University of Washington urging “the abolishing of Class offices due to lack of interest.”
While living in New York City I became involved briefly in the John Lindsay for Mayor campaign before returning to Seattle where I worked professionally on the campaign to re-elect Warren Magnuson to the U.S. Senate. When I opened my own ad agency, I was asked to handle the mayoral campaign for a long-shot. He had a miniscule budget. The two finalists spent $35,000 each and Irving Clark, Jr. spent $5,000 and came in third. Our cost per vote was extremely low and the phone began ringing off the hook (phones had hooks in those days) with underfinanced underdogs. Incidentally, Irving Clark, Jr. a young attorney, was best known for having his picture in Time Magazine swallowing gold fish while in law school at Yale.When I had an 18-game winning streak going, politics became an important part of our business.
Along the way my mother decided to run, first for Precinct Committeeman, then for the new expanded King County Council, where she served three terms.
- WE NEED A WOMAN ON THE 9-MAN KING COUNTY
- COUNCILWOMAN BERNICE STERN IS A PENNY-PINCHER
- RETURN STERN
The 1988 abduction and murder of a dear friend, Diane Ballasiotes, triggered off my own run for Mayor of Seattle in 1989. Diane had left her job at a Pioneer Square advertising agency one evening at 5:30 and disappeared. The missing-person posters her friends nailed everywhere described her as 5 feet-5 inches, 110 pounds, 29-years old, with curly shoulder-length auburn hair. A Parks Department employee found her body a week later, while looking for garbage being dumped in another part of town. Eugene R. Kane, Jr. was serving a 12-year sentence for assaulting two women in Yakima and Kittitas counties when he walked away from a downtown Seattle work-release center and abducted Diane. Kane was turned in by his father when he showed up at his parent’s home in Diane’s blood-filled car. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
I met with the Chief of Police and King County Attorney who both told me “there is not enough room in the jails,” and began a search for a candidate for Mayor who would vow to clean up the growing crime, gang and drug problems in Seattle. When I couldn’t find one, I ran myself. I didn’t win, but came in third out of 13 candidates and made a point.
In the mid 1990’s when Margaret and I made Scottsdale our permanent home, I promised her I would stay out of politics. I kept that promise.However, I didn’t say I wouldn’t write about the current presidential campaign.
Tune in tomorrow for more about my illustrious political career and my sourly-happy observations of the feces-throwing-fest called Romney vs. Obama 2012.