Interview with Richard Pope, Candidate for King County Council

I met with Richard Pope at the Eastgate Tully's in Bellevue for an interview last week.  We sat at a cafe-style table overlooking the parking lot of Michael's Toyota and the entrances to I-90.  Pope, who has recently run for public office as a Republican, is on the Democrat ticket this time.   He's challenging Jane Hague in the King County Council's 6th district.  

Hague's credibility has collapsed since she filed for re-election early in the summer.  In rapid succession, she's been revealed as falsely claiming a college degree for the past two decades of her public life; commiting numerous violations of campaign disclosure laws; driving drunk; and responding to the DUI arrest by taunting and cursing the police, using technical strategems to avoid responsibility, and concealing the matter from the public until after the filing deadline for her campaign.

Pope is known for his oppositional research. But he may have just wrapped up his greatest research tour de force production to date, uncovering not only Hague's campaign finance violations - but also the suspicious circumstances surrounding the removal of the judge assigned to her DUI case.  The replacement, a hand-picked pro-tempore judge who also happens to be a Republican activist and a twice convicted criminal, promptly delayed Hague's trial until after the election.  Pope's research resulted in the removal of the pro-tem judge from her case.


As we were talking, a man who introduced himself as a retired law enforcement officer approached to shake Richard's hand.  He and Richard talked for a while and he said something like 'I saw you on TV and I plan to vote for you.  I'm tired of the arrogance of these people like Jane Hague. She seems like she's set to be in that office for life. I'm glad to see you're running: a real person facing real life situations. I don't know much about autism, but I'd like to understand more. I wish you and your daughter well.'

Richard Pope is a Bellevue attorney who has run for public office 11 times in 13 years.  His modus operandi in this Council race is signature for him: run with sparse financial and political infrastructure against an incumbent who can't be beaten, research -- and not too infrequently embarrass -  that opponent, and with seeming stoicism, endure a resulting barrage of personally discrediting press from politicos, bloggers and traditional media.

If nothing else, Pope's campaigns have given Washington's public disclosure laws more meaning.  Besides the fines he's caused for Jane Hauge, there have been recent hefty ones for the King County Republican Party ($40,000), for Port of Seattle Commissioner Pat Davis (she also had to repay campaign money she pocketed), and "Citizens for a Healthy Economy" -- a PAC fighting to keep the Port under the control of special interests that milk it for their own personal profit.   Currently, Pope is threatening to sue King County's Prosecuting Attorney for its refusal to compel the Republican Party to enforce the law for Jim Noble's campaign for King County Assessor.  Pope has filed ethics complaints against Democrats as well, complaining, for example, that Governor Gregoire violated state law when she auctioned off a dinner at the governor's mansion as a fundraiser for Darcy Burner's congressional campaign. And he uncovered Aaron Dixon's less-than-perfect civic record when he ran for US Senate as the Green Party candidate.

Pope took custody of his daughter, Katie, in 2005 and has been raising her as a single parent.   Katie, who is now 4, has autism and Pope cites this experience as a significant factor in coming to a recent appreciation of Democratic policies of adequately funding healthcare and education and caring for the vulnerable. For most of his elections, Pope has run as a Republican.  Pope has a degree in economics, graduated with high honors from the University of Washington School of Law, and served for 7 years in the Army National Reserve.  More resume details are here.

Media Coverage
Voters trying to make up their minds in this race will find little serious coverage in the traditional media of what Pope has to offer as a candidate for King County Council.  For years, there has been a remarkably consistent approach of dismissing Pope's credibility without offering explanation. With the exception of David Goldstein of HorsesAss who provided thorough substantiation for his opposition to Pope's bid for district court in 2006, reporters tend to write about Pope in a smug style as if they're sharing an inside joke about "perennial candidates".  Even in this race, where Pope has a chance to win, there's little of substance that tells us where he stands on the issues.  That's beginning to change but, again, David Goldstein provides what I think is the most substantive information in his 710 KIRO interview in September.

Media organizations have a responsibility to explain the positions they take on public issues and candidates.   A recent PI editorial declares that Pope's lack of social skills disqualify him for a county council seat.  If the PI editors know something that most of its readers don't, they should speak up.  Otherwise, this is a patently absurd and prejudicial dismissal of a person who may soon represent many King County residents. Civic organizations haven't been very helpful, either.  The Municipal League has rated him as Not Qualified --- but doesn't disclose the basis of its ratings.

In a case like this, it's helpful to remember all the times that mainstream media and other socially-determined consensus has simply dissolved after it's caused considerable harm -- because it was absolutely wrong.

Some of the anti-Pope rhetoric on political blogs has been so extreme that it's inspired me to wade through way too many comments in fear of later embarrassment.  The quote below, is excerpted from the remarks of a HorsesAss commenter who doesn't identify himself or provide facts to back the claims.  Because I find no basis for these kinds of accusations, I consider them to be relevant only as an indication that Richard Pope has pissed off a lot of people across the political spectrum:

He IS abusive, mean, a racist, a bigot and a fool. That's my Constitutionally protected opinion and I intend to voice it loudly no matter who likes it....  People need to know some of the things this fool stands for if he's going to run for office. He's usually just regarded as a joke but the voters but you never know, he could have a friend on the inside who's planning to help him steal the election so we can't take chances.

Party Switches and Multiple Candidacies
When Pope's many bids for public office are criticized, he points out that he has repeatedly challenged "entrenched" incumbents that no one else had the courage to oppose, thus giving voters a choice they would  otherwise lack.  That's a good point.

Pope is criticized for disloyalty or opportunism because he's twice switched parties.  Given the way that the Republican Party has strayed from conservatism into ideology and recklessness -- and considering Pope's demonstrated lack of ability to ignore evidence and his generally conservative leanings -- I would be surprised if he were not conflicted about partisan matters.  His observation that the Democratic Party policies are better for children and the poor and vulnerable can't be argued with.

I see no intrinsic reason to dismiss Pope as a candidate because he's made a career of running for office or has switched parties.

Sincerity and Capability
There is natural question to ask here: what is Richard Pope's motivation?  Is it a sincere public service motive based on a realistic understanding of what that entails?  Or is he out simply to make a point or to promote himself or to advance some individualistic cause?

I've concluded that Pope's sincere.  Based on what's already in the public record, there's no question that he grasps King County's key issues and political realities -- and would excel at sorting through complex policy issues.  When you look behind the "perennial candidate" label, which conjures up such candidates as Goodspaceguy Nelson, you see a lifelong interest in public policy, a sense of fairness, a sharp grasp of issues facing the county, and reasonable positions on important county issues like land use, taxation, and public services.

Professional History
There are valid questions about Pope's professional record.  These include missteps on four cases committed between 1997 and 2006 that involve late and frivolous filings, failure to timely comply with judges orders and, in one case, unprofessional conduct, which is discussed in our interview, below.  None involve breaches of ethics or censures from the state bar association.  There is no pattern of abuse of women, as charged by the current Republican hit page on Pope or implied by Jane Hague's recent comments on King 5 TV.  It's reasonable for voters and editorial boards to take this history into account -- hopefully with an understanding that the whole story has not been told, that there is powerful political motivation to distort and lie about this record -- and that such lies are considered to be constitutionally-protected free speech in Washington.  I ask Pope about one of these cases in our interview, below.  His answer did affect the way I understood the allegations.

Changing Roles, Moving from Opposition to Collaboration
If Pope is elected, will he moderate his role of oppositional outsider enough to work productively with the other Council members?  Will he avoid sidetracking into issues that may be important in themselves -- but secondary to the business of the Council?  Every candidate is an unknown quantity, inherently unpredictable.  If Pope's elected -- this could be interesting ... My best guess is he'll do a good job.

I don't live in King County's 6th District, but I'd like to see Pope win this race.  It would be a lovely thing to see an uprising of public sentiment against corruption trump the huge fundraising advantage of a corrupt incumbent and the establishment that backs her.  (1)

Pope was easy to talk with.   Sometimes he was funny.  He didn't have stock answers. He didn't avoid questions.   David Goldstein noted during his interview with Pope: "I'm listening to him, he's answering my questions.  He's coming across as reasonable."  That was my experience at Tully's in Eastgate.   Thinking about it later I tried to put my finger on this feeling I got from him.  Part of it was a mixture of personal reserve and wonkishness that contrasted interestingly with how easily he smiled or showed outrage over political misbehavior or injustice.  The other thing is that he's a pretty young guy - 45 -- but he struck me as having a bit of an old-time conservative feeling -- that tendency to think about the present in light of history and tradition, to be predisposed to give more credence to something that has the weight of tradition behind it.

Notetaking and accuaracy:
I took handwritten notes during our conversation on key points of exchanges I thought would be most interesting for readers, and have transcribed this account from those notes. This account is not a verbatim transcript, though I kept the order of our conversation and as much of the original language as I could. A couple of minor fact corrections were made after the interview by email and, as noted, some additional information provided.

I felt a kind of visceral dislike for Jane Hague, watching that clip on King 5.  She's smiling - coyly refusing to admit that she was driving drunk, trying to get off on a technicality.   She puts people's lives at risk --  and she thinks she shouldn't be held accountable.  As if she's better than her constituents.  It's an insult.

Richard Pope
I agree. I had an aunt who was killed by a drunk driver.  It was September 17, 1984.  The funeral was held on her mother's birthday, my grandmother.  My aunt was 35 years old and had a 2-1/2 year-old son.  

I'm sorry to hear that!  Where was this?  Was she a pedestrian, driving a car?  

Richard Pope
It was in Alabama.  She was driving.

Did you grow up in Alabama?

Richard Pope
I grew up in New Orleans.

Katrina must have had an especially intense impact on you.

Richard Pope
It's shocking.  It's just shocking.  The local political system didn't have the capacity to rise to the challenge.   That was part of it.  But the federal government's neglect ... it's just atrocious.   It's sad.

Did you go to public school in New Orleans?

Richard Pope
I went to private school.  I had what might be called a privileged upbringing.  Ironically, this is something I think about now.  I think that the percentage of families in a community sending their children to public schools - that's an important indicator.  I wouldn't want to live in an area where at least 85-90% of the children weren't in public school.  For one reason or another, parents are losing trust in the public schools and that's something we need to restore.  

There's a book called Metropolitics that changed how I see the relationship between schools and communities.   When the quality of public schools in a community declines enough, the only families that stay are the ones that can't afford to move. So you get this social stratification and declining tax base concentrated in an area. It can start off a whole cycle of poverty and decline.

Richard Pope
So many things that are wrong in society are reflected in our schools -- or start in our schools. When I was growing up, I saw it all around me.

What do you mean?

Richard Pope
Well, the signs in restrooms that I saw as a child - separate restrooms for children, "White" and "Colored"....

You and I are about the same age. I thought that segregation ended in the 1950s - or very early in the 1960s.

Richard Pope
I was born in 1962. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was supposed to eliminate this kind of segregation -- which was mandated by many state laws at the time--  and it took several years before many places finally got rid of these signs, especially in more remote areas.

Do you see any policies on the county level where you think policy change could help reduce the race disparity in the rate of incarceration and disenfranchisement? The disparity here in Washington is even worse here than the rest of the country. I wrote about this on Washblog. I feel haunted that something like 25% of Black men in WA can't vote.

Richard Pope
There is a connection between voting and race. It surprised me when I looked into it how many people don't vote in the 6th district.   Some of this may be related to our relatively high immigrant population.  31% of this district is minority, primarily Asian and Hispanic.  And we have a lot of immigrants from Russia.

Do you see this, primarily then as an outreach or educational issue -- or do you think there are any policy approaches on the county level? I was alerted to the outrageous disparity in three-strikes lifetime convictions in King County by your candidate's statement when you ran for King County Prosecuting Attorney.

Richard Pope
We have in the United States the highest incarceration rate in the world. The highest percentage - and the higher number of people.   We see these high rates in Washington.

I have no problem taking away someone's right to vote while they're serving their sentence.  I have no problem with more aggressive enforcement to get the fines paid. But it's downright unfair to link voting rights to ability to pay. Should those who are poor or disabled, with no ability to pay be disenfranchised? The right to vote should be restored after the sentence is served. (2)

This is a socio-economic as well as a race issue. We see this issue of privilege on the prosecution side.  One of the things I've seen in King County with the prosecutor's office is that you're much more likely to be able to plea bargain if you're coming from a position of privilege.

If you think about Jane Hague's treasurer who embezzeled from her campaign.  She was lucky enough to come from a family with enough money to repay what she stole.  This was a factor in avoiding jail.

You can look at Richard Lewellyn Jones (the pro-tem judge that Jane Hague brought into her drunk driving case).  He had two things that should have been felonies.  The Bellevue detective that dealt with the rental car in 2000 wanted Jones charged with assault with a deadly weapon (the automobile).  The prosecutors charged a lesser felony and then Jones was allowed to plea bargain down to 2 misdemeanors. Then in 2005 he was charged with the felony of residential burglary. But he was allowed to plea bargain down to misdemeanors.

It sounds like much of what you're talking about on the county level is a matter, as you said, of cultural attitudes -- and who gets elected.

You've been called an opportunist for changing parties. I questioned that charge because it seems to me any reasonable person is going to be conflicted about the political parties - especially the Republican Party now. I think better of someone whose loyalty is to ideas and people instead of to a party label. But then I see this quote from you in late 2005 on Sound Politics about your earlier switch to the Democratic Party. You say: "I see it as making a mistake in 1998 and later correcting that mistake in 2000 - and not making the same mistake since then."   And you're questioning here a prominent Republican's endorsement of Democrats in a way that seems like you're endorsing party loyalty as a value in itself.

Richard Pope
About the political parties.  I've tried.  There are a lot of things about politics that I've been conflicted about in my mind.   The single most important influence (in his recent change to the Democratic party) has been dealing with my daughter, thinking about how society provides for the vulnerable, for children, for disabled people. I've put a lot of time into thinking about this. And I've done a lot of praying. I look at my own religion (Mormonism) - and I've looked at what a lot of other religions say. Interestingly, I've learned that Joseph Smith (the founder of the Church of Latter Day Saints) was a Democrat.

I've also done a lot of research into my family history. I've tried to put myself in the shoes of my grandmother and grandfather. Every one of my ancestors were Democrats.

Were your parents Democrats?

Richard Pope
My mother is a Democrat. My father was a Democrat but he became disillusioned. In 1965, he ran for city council in Pascagoula, Mississippi. This is the city that Trent Lott was from.  When I was a little boy, his parents had a grocery store and Tent worked there.

Did Trent Lott ever serve you as a cashier?

Richard Pope
Probably he did other people in my family, but I was very young when we moved from there. So I wouldn't remember.

My father had spent some time outside the south when he was younger.  He had been in the military. There were fights at the time over segregation. In the early 1960s it was socially acceptable to be racist.  My father was not in agreement with this.   He had influence and popularity in the town.  He was the head of one of the American Legion posts.

There were two American Legion posts in that city?

Richard Pope
One for each race. (3)

There were six positions for the city council election, all elected on the same ballot.  You voted for up to six of the candidates, and the top six voter getters were elected.  Technically, the winners were "nominated" -- this was a Democratic primary. But no Republican candidates were running that year -- 1965 -- nor had any run for many decades previously.  So the primary winners were "elected" for all practical purposes.  They would stand on an unopposed general election ballot a couple of months later.

At the time, there was also an organization called "White Citizen's Council", or simply "Citizen's Council". Later, it came to be referred to as the "Council of Conservative Citizens". This was common in the South. The majority of people in leadership positions in that community belonged to it. When my dad went to run for City Council, he was pressured to join the Council of Conservative Citizens. He refused and he came in last in the election.There were something like two dozen candidates on the ballot, and my father came in last place.  He had been Commander of the American Legion Post just a short time previously, and actually got far more votes in the election for post commander than he got in the city council election.

My father held that against the Democrats. He associated Democrats with racism, with his political defeat; they disrespected him for his principles. When we moved to Louisiana, he first registered as a Democrat. But then he switched to the Republican Party.

I know that your father died not too long ago   Did he stay a Republican to the end?

Richard Pope
Well, my dad was 21 or 22 years old when Strom Thurmond ran for president in 1948.  He knew what that campaign was about, he knew what Trent Lott was referring to with his remarks.  So it's interesting.  It's ironic.  When Trent Lott made those statements, my dad was disgusted.   What an idiot!  That's how he saw it.   My mother is a strong Democrat.  She's always asked me, `why do you run as a Republican?'  Lately, I can't come up with a good reason to answer her with.

Well (laughing) here's the $64,000 question... how many times did your father actually run for office?

Richard Pope
Just that once.

What is it about the Republican philosophy that motivated you to stay and return to the party?

Richard Pope
When I turned 18, my father was a Republican.  So I registered as a Republican.  I liked Reagan.  I liked his stand on national defense.  And I had been appalled by the federal budget deficit under Carter, which had reached into the billions.  Of course, under Reagan,  (laughs) we were going into the hole $200 billion every year and we got over a trillion in debt and now with Bush we're on a different scale almost.  In real terms, we were probably worse off in the Reagan years than we are now under Bush.  

I know this is a personal question, so I understand if you don't want to answer it.  But who did you vote for for President in 2004?

Richard Pope

Even with his economic policy - and the Iraq war?  

Richard Pope
I liked Dean.  It was disappointing to me that the Democrats rejected him.  

I was a Dean supporter too.  The Democratic establishment killed that campaign.  They didn't want Dean in there.  It's part of my disillusionment with the party.   We could have won that election.  Would you have voted for Dean if he had been the candidate?

Richard Pope
I might have.  When I saw what happened with Dean I thought - these Democrats aren't any better than the Republicans.   And I didn't see Kerry as all that different than Bush.  They had the same background; they even went to the same school.

Kerry, though - he fought in the Vietnam War and opposed the Iraq war.  Bush pushed the war -- and he had avoided service!   That seems completely different to me.

Richard Pope
Well... (smiles)  With Bush it was also the evil you know versus the evil you didn't know.

I've brought a copy of the King County Democrats Candidate Questionnaire that you filled out.  And I also have a copy here of the King County Democratic Party platform.  In the questionnaire, you say that you support the platform.  It seems so difficult to believe that someone who's recently been a Republican can support everything in this platform.  But then I realize that "support" doesn't mean, literally, that you agree with everything in it - rather that you are willing to uphold it.  Is that what it is?

Richard Pope
I don't think many people support every part of any political party platform.

Well, that's the weird thing for me - I read this and I can say I agree with virtually everything in it.  I think that either in the state or county platform I saw one or two things I didn't agree with.

But I'm curious, anyway, if we can just go into a few typical Democratic stances and talk about where you are on them.  Much of this is not related to policy you'd be working on on the council - but it helps give an idea of where you're coming from.

Richard Pope

How about civil unions and gay marriage?  I read an exchange in the SLOG where you criticize Washington's new law because it applies only to gay and older couples -- heterosexual domestic partnerships don't get the same deal as gay domestic partnerships.  You point out that the model in Seattle is more equitable.

Richard Pope
I support civil unions.  I have to say I prefer them to gay marriage.  Seattle's law is pretty limited, but it does open up the partnership benefits regardless of orientation.  That's preferable.

Abortion isn't a policy matter you'd be dealing with on the Council either.   But I'd be interested to know where you stand on it.

Richard Pope
There's a difference between the religious and political points of view. On a political level, I support choice.

In my religion, we are not highly motivated to come up with an interpretation of when human life begins, whether it begins with conception.   We believe in a pre-mortal existence and that everybody has the opportunity to be born on this Earth.   So in areas of the country where there is a high percentage of Mormons, there isn't the same fervor to pass anti-abortion legislation as you see in other areas.

So, while I believe that the choice of abortion is usually not a good choice, on the other hand, it is morally justified under certain circumstances. God provides guidance for doing the right thing on Earth, but may not reveal everything.  

Where candidates stand on climate change, for me, is a litmus test.  Probably the most important one for me.  And The King County Council, actually, has a lot of influence over policies that address climate change.

I see this not only as a survival  and an economic issue -- but also as an indication of whether a politician accepts the validity of the scientific method.  The denial and obstructionism that so many Republicans have toward climate change is one of the reasons I think the Republican party has just gone off the rails.  Do you agree with the scientific consensus that climate change is a serious problem, that humans are the main contributor, and that we need to act?  

Richard Pope
Clearly our climate is warming.   Clearly, human beings have added a significant amount of CO2 to the atmosphere.  There's no question that adding CO2 to the atmosphere makes the Earth warmer.  There's no question that this is a major challenge for a multitude of reasons.  It's a global concern that everyone has to take part in addressing.  How do we slow the warming, where are we going to get energy from?    

The oil companies are gouging us.  Hydrocarbons are becoming more and more scarce.  I see a future in which we will be getting much more of our energy from solar - as there is a high amount of energy per square meter with solar.  There is enormous potential with this technology.

Are there other policy areas you see as involved - in addition to alternative energy sources?  How about city planning?  Zoning, working towards reducing the amount of travel people do to get to work?

Richard Pope
This is an important consideration.  I go to talk to my daughter's teachers.  Hardly a single one of them lives in Bellevue.  They can't afford to live here - so they commute from outside the area.  There is so much political pressure for development of high-end residences in Bellevue.  The condominiums in downtown - what they cost is simply beyond what many people who work in downtown can afford.

The BIAW and the construction industry in Washington state have incredible power.  I see them as a major corrupting force in state politics.  Are you going to stand up to this industry?  

Richard Pope
(laughs)  I was at the 32nd district Democrats meeting in 2006, when I was running for district court judge. Someone asked me if the construction industry was funding my campaign.  I said - I haven't gotten a dime from the building industry.  But, by God, if I could only get money from someone, I think I'd have to take it.

How did you vote on I-933?  (I-933 was the building industry backed initiative in 2006 that would have required government to pay property owners for following land use laws.)

Richard Pope
I voted against I-933.  I felt sorry for people whose stories I heard. But I could see that there were special interests behind I-933.   The justice of the situation is that there's a rationing of permits for land use.  There's favoritism toward high-end developments.  It's more difficult to get permits for modest developments.  

Jane's getting most of her money from development interests.  The King County Republicans last week tapped mostly developers for the hit piece against me.  

What did you think of BIAW's overt bid in 2006 to remake the Washington State Supreme Court by funneling in tremendous amounts of out-of-state funds?

Richard Pope
Groen's not necessarily such a bad person.  But the attacks on Justice Alexander were a mistake.  He's very well-respected.  It's amazing that the BIAW, which was behind that, decided to attack Alexander.  

Here's something important - an interesting thing.  The ads against Alexander attacked him for being supportive of Bobbe Bridges for her DUI.  Alexander  wasn't endorsing Bobbe Bridges, he was being humanitarian.  And Bobbe Bridges had accepted responsibility for her drunk driving.  But they pilloried the guy for supposedly, "supporting a drunk driver."  This was the BIAW behind this.

So now we have Jane Hague caught driving drunk and she isn't accepting the responsibility.  Guess who's supporting her?  Well, it's not the BIAW, but close, the Master Builder's Association - really the same people who supported John Groen.

John Groen is endorsing Jane Hague and giving money to her campaign, even though she is charged with DUI and all that.  His law firms partners have also all endorsed Jane and given her money.  Which may be fodder for attack ads against Groen, should he run for Bridges' seat in 2008.

It's the kind of hypocrisy we expect in politics, particularly from the Republican Party.  I'd like to ask you - on a personal level - about your response to attacks against you by the Republican party and bloggers and journalists.  I read some of this stuff, and I feel disgusted.  I'm a bystander with no stake, but I look at your response on blogs and in the media and it's remarkably restrained.  I'm wondering if it gets to you - if it makes you hurt or angry.

Richard Pope
Yes, I feel hurt.  I feel disgusted.  Sometimes it takes a lot of effort to not have a stronger reaction.  What really got me, most of all, is the Republican hit page against me that announced: "Pope files for bankruptcy."  That infuriated me.  That was my father's bankruptcy, not mine.  It's obvious on the petition, this is a different person - with a different career, everything.

Is it the shoddy research, the fact they didn't check it before publishing, that got to you?

Richard Pope
They brought up my father!

It was clear this wasn't my case.   It was hateful. I was able to talk with GOP friends who had it taken off the page.   The rest of it is still there.  See the Democratic Party structure is more democratic than the Republican. But the GOP chain of power allows for the chair to be accountable only every two years.

I was hoping to also talk about your court cases that have been cited in opposition to you in various campaigns.  You've been sanctioned by judges a couple of times for mostly procedural stuff, missed filings, things like that.  You had an anti-harrassment order filed against you by the opposing attorney's client after you lost your temper with her in a deposition.  The GOP posted that complaint on their hit site-- but didn't put the backup documentation cited in the complaint.  There's a lot of puffed up hype on that page.  I've read all the documents I can find pretty closely - including your response on HorsesAss and a document filed in 2005 that detailed several serious crises in your life at the same time.   I don't know how to evaluate this information fairly..  But I don't see any dealbreaker for for this race.  You don't look like you've done anything unethical.  

But I still have an issue here.  And that has to do with some of these filings that the court ruled were frivolous.  The one that really puzzles me is that Ms. H. claims that you filed a restraining order against all members of law enforcement agencies in the area that would prevent them from arresting you for 6 days for any reason.  That's how I understood it.  So, assuming the order got signed and then you decided to go on a bankrobbing spree ... the police would have to just stand around for 6 days, watching you?  That's what Mrs. H. was saying here.

Richard Pope
I lost my temper at the deposition.  That is clear.  There is a transcript of me doing that.  My language was very upsetting to Ms. H.  I didn't lunge at her.  I didn't follow her outside the building to yell at her.

Do you think she was frightened of you?

Richard Pope
I think she was angry at me.

The restraining order was meant to relate to this case, not to any crime.  The intent was that Ms. H. would be required to come back to the court where she had filed the anti-harassment order to review any allegations that I had violated it.

This is a really long story. There are a number of elements you have to know about to understand the context.  My client didn't have a lot of ability to pay.  The opposing side was making the case complicated.  She probably spent $30,000 or $40,000 on the child support case.  The case went on and on.  I ended up doing much of work without getting paid.

After the deposition, I talked with a colleague and he said I was way out of line.  I knew that.  I expected a reprimand from the judge.  But I was shocked when the anti-harassment order was filed.  The deposition was January 13.  On January 18, I got the anti-harassment order.  It prohibited me from contact with Ms. H. except through an attorney.

I went to her attorney and I said, `Phil, what's this all about?'  He said, I can't tell you anything about it because I'm not representing her in this matter.  So I asked him again, can you get through to her at all (and find out who it is I need to talk with?) He said again -- I can't tell you anything, I'm not representing her in this matter.

On February 15, I get notice that Ms. H. is alleging I violated the order  questioning her attorney.  This made no sense because the order required I talk to her attorney and that's what I did.  But I had to defend against it - and it was eventually thrown out.

Then she started complaining to everyone she could that I had broken the law.   She called the Seattle Police saying that I'd mailed her something.  They considered it frivolous. She went to the Seattle City Attorney with the same complaint and they considered it to be a joke.  She went to the Bellevue police.  They wouldn't do anything.  She went back to the judge, but Judge Shapiro didn't see a violation.  Finally, she found a King County Sheriff's deputy who took it seriously.  He showed up at my door and said that I'd violated the order by mailing something to her.  I hadn't mailed anything to her.

The deputy took nothing into evidence but I was arraigned, anyway. I had to go and sit for hours waiting outside the judge's chambers while the case was discussed.

Judge Shapiro modified the order so that it specifically included her attorney as someone I could have contact with. I appealed the anti-harassment order, but Ms. H. went pro-se.  So the Court of Appeals did a modification that I could send pleadings directly to her so I wouldn't be arrested for responding in the case.

I thought it was appropriate that the court that had issued the order should be the body to review any alleged violation of it.

So she couldn't go shopping around to all the different police departments till she found someone who would arrest you?

Richard Pope
Yes. Maybe the relief requested was a little broader than it should have been, but it would have been just a minor burden for the court to review any alleged violation.

Violating an anti-harassment order, is that a criminal matter?

Richard Pope
Yes. When you're arraigned, that's a criminal matter. And everything was dismissed, three different charges, because it was so frivolous.  The judge ordered to have the records expunged.

So you didn't do anything wrong, but you still had to go through weeks of defending against multiple charges. It sounds like an incredibly stressful ordeal

Richard Pope
It was devastating to me and it lasted about 7 months.

I think you have a great deal of courage to put yourself out in the public eye as you do.

In your King County Democrats Candidate Questionnaire, you talk about the tax situation in King County. You mention that we have the most regressive tax system in the country here in Washington.  You propose changes to the Port of Seattle and King Conservation District taxes, which fall unequally.  These are a pretty small part of the taxes paid by King County Residents.  Do you see other county-level policy changes that could be made?
Note: I see on re-reading Pope's questionnaire, that he is proposing something more substantial than what I'd understood.

Richard Pope
There may be other ways to approach this on a county level.

On a more theoretical level, this wouldn't be something you could do on a county level, but do you think an income tax would be something to consider for the state?

Richard Pope
It's difficult, politically, to sell increases in property tax or sales tax.  When we capped property taxes to 1% per year, we really effectively instituted a tax cut, as that's below the rate of inflation.  (Note: I-747 instituted the 1% cap in 2001.  It was declared unconstitutional in WA Superior Court for King County in 2006 and arguments for the appeal were heard in WA Supreme Court this spring.  State Democratic legislators have been introducing bills to reinstate it.)

Income tax is an even harder sell.  Yes, theoretically, you could consider instituting an income tax on the state level.  (laughs) That would really be something for political opponents to say that I support an income tax.  But even among the 9 states like Washington that don't have an income tax, our taxation is more regressive.

I've read that you support the Regional Roads and Transit proposal that's going to show up on the ballot this time around.  I support it too. This does involve tax increases.

Richard Pope
With transportation, we're between a rock and a hard place. We have to fund transportation to keep this area livable and economically strong

Do you support I-960 (Eyman's latest initiative, which would require public votes on many budget items that are now handled routinely).

Richard Pope
It's a terrible idea.

It's pretty clear to me that our US Attorney John McKay was under intense pressure to investigate voter fraud -- even though he did not believe there was adequate evidence to merit an investigation.  It looks really clear-cut to me that he lost his job as a result.  So I was surprised to see an article by you in which you argued that you believe McKay was fired for a more legitimate political reason -- not to extend political control over his legal decisions. Given what has unfolded since you wrote that article, do you think it's possible that McKay's firing was related to his refusal to investigate voter fraud?  

Richard Pope
Yes, there is a possibility. There was also horrible personnel management going on in that committee (that recommended judicial appointments for Washington state). That was the committee that recommended Rick White to replace McKay and a year later there's still no replacement.

The Republican Party seems determined to suppress the vote by any means -- including scaring people about fraud that is almost nonexistent.

Richard Pope
Yes, the Republican Party wants to suppress votes.

Thank you for saying that! (4)


  1. Washington's Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) shows an end-of-August campaign fundraising total of $3,800 for Pope -- compared with Hague's $268,000.
  2. There's an interesting juxtaposition between Pope's statement on the restoration of voting rights in this interview and comments he made on a HorsesAss story in March, 2006 in which he questioned the constitutional reasoning in the recent case, Madison v Gregoire.  I read his HorsesAss commment as indicating that he did not favor the automatic restoration of voting rights for felonies after the completion of the sentence.  So I wrote and asked him if he'd changed his mind.  He replied with the following:
    Hi Noemie,

    There is a difference between what the law should say (or be changed to), and whether the law is constitutional as written.  My posting on Horse's Ass said the law was probably constitutional -- which doesn't address whether the law is fair or ought to be changed.

    Please note that the Washington Constitution is not very protective of voting rights for convicted felons -- and is worded almost identically to Florida.  So it becomes a question of state law allowing for restoration of voting rights.

    Louisiana, where I grew up, only disenfranchises convicted felons when they are imprisoned (and mentally ill when they are confined).  Louisiana Constitution, Article I, Section 10:
     §10. Right to Vote; Disqualification from Seeking or Holding an Elective Office
    Section 10.(A) Right to Vote. Every citizen of the state, upon reaching eighteen years of age, shall have the right to register and vote, except that this right may be suspended while a person is interdicted and judicially declared mentally incompetent or is under an order of imprisonment for conviction of a felony.

    Perhaps my views have changed somewhat while thinking more about this issue.  On the other hand, my focus back in early 2006 when I posted was on the constitutionality of the current state law (which was being challenged in court), and not on what the law should be.

    If you think about what the law should be, it isn't that fair or sensible to deny voting rights solely for failure to pay the fine.  Just as I told you in the interview.

    I certainly have thought about this issue a lot, especially in following the news and discussions since the superior court judge in King County said the law violated equal protection.  While I didn't think that lower court ruling was correct (in the legal sense), it caused me to think about our law, the relevant state constitution provision, and how other states handle these kind of issues.

    Washington does impose post-release supervision on convicted felons, usually one to two years.  I would consider this as part of serving the sentence.  And it would make sense to suspend the voting rights on every convicted felon while they are completing this "probation" or "parole".

    But this possibly permanent revocation of voting rights for financial matters just isn't fair, nor does it make a lot of sense.  So voting rights should be restored once someone completes their DOC supervision period.


    I believe the state supreme court ended up saying that Washington's present law was constitutional?  (If they haven't ruled yet on the appeal of this decision, please pardon my lapse of memory.)

    So the issue would be changing state law, which presently requires payment of all legal financial obligations resulting from a felony conviction in order to get the right to vote restored.

    Washington Constitution Article VI, Section 3 actually allows a pretty thorough disenfranchisement of convicted felons, should the legislature make the laws MORE restrictive than at present:

    All persons convicted of infamous crime unless restored to their civil rights and all persons while they are judicially declared mentally incompetent are excluded from the elective franchise. [AMENDMENT 83, 1988 House Joint Resolution No. 4231, p 1553. Approved November 8, 1988.]

    In theory, the legislature could simply eliminate all statutes restoring "civil rights" to convicted felons, and only a governor's pardon could restore voting rights.  There doesn't appear to be anything in the Washington Constitution requiring any sort of procedure to restore "civil rights" to convicted felons.

    Florida Constitution Article VI, Section 4(a) is almost identical in wording and effect:

    SECTION 4.  Disqualifications.--
    (a)  No person convicted of a felony, or adjudicated in this or any other state to be mentally incompetent, shall be qualified to vote or hold office until restoration of civil rights or removal of disability.

    And in Florida, there is no state law procedure whatsoever to restore "civil rights" to convicted felons whatsoever.  There used to be a state law procedure years ago, but it was eliminated when the Republicans became more politically powerful and got the law repealed.  The only way to get "civil rights" (and therefore voting rights) restored presently in Florida is through a governor's pardon.  The Republican governors just don't give these out at all to speak of.  Often, when a Democrat is governor in Florida, limited pardons will be issued to a large percentage or majority of convicted felons to restore their voting rights.  But even Democratic governors were reluctant to do this in recent years in Florida.

    (Maybe you can see why the erroneous convicted felon list, with tens of thousands of improperly listed people -- especially among African-Americans with fairly common names similar to someone who may have really been a convicted felon somewhere else -- was so important in reducing the Florida electorate -- especially in 2000.  Basically, no felon gets their voting rights back in Florida.)

    So the constitutional issue considered was equal protection.  The law obviously doesn't violate Wash. Const. Art. VI, Sec. 3, since the legislature doesn't ever have to restore voting rights at all to convicted felons (see Florida example).  Nor does it violate any federal constitution right to vote, since those rights can be taken away from convicted felons.  This leaves equal protection -- whether it is okay to restore rights to people with more money (or at least those with more money who choose to pay the fines), while not restoring those to people who are either unable or unwilling to pay the fines.

  3. In checking with the candidate before publication, I invited further information.  He wrote the following:
    "In fairness to -- or more appropriately criticism of -- the American Legion, each post was allowed to set their own membership policies.  Legionnaires are assigned to a general post for their state (i.e. the unassigned folks), unless they join a local post.  There certainly wasn't any national policy requiring local posts to be segregated.  But at the time, local posts were basically allowed the autonomy to accept or deny members for whatever reason they chose.  So -- in areas with strong legal or cultural traditions of segregation and discrimination -- this usually resulted in separate posts, one which was all white, and the other which was all black.  I would assume that the American Legion prohibited discrimination by local posts several decades ago.  Probably, there is still significant demographic disparity between posts in areas with multiple posts today, due to individual members choices, as opposed to discrimination by posts.  Today, Pascagoula has only one Legion post, by the way.  I assume a lot of lingering de facto segregation has been diminished due to declining membership (not nearly so many veterans as there used to be) and closing/consolidation of existing posts."

    This section slightly edited on 10/23. I left out a connecting sentence.

  4. "Americans are twice as likely to be hit by lightning than to have their vote canceled out by a fraudulently cast ballot. Still, there's a well-funded, well-organized campaign underway to make Americans believe that voter fraud is a serious problem.  Allegations of voter fraud, however baseless, are used by partisans to build public support for laws and regulations that make it more difficult for minorities and low-income voters to cast their ballots.
    Voter Fraud?, Michael Slater, National Voter, League of Women Voters, 10/07.

    "One of the reasons that we were competitive in the governor's election is due to our grassroots hard work and the siphoning off of traditional Democrat votes in King and Pierce Counties."
    Rose Strong, member of the Advisory Board of the King County Republican Party. (Sometimes Vote Suppression is as Important as Vote Getting", Washblog, 7/29/07.)

< Depleted Uranium debunkers - the trees and the forest | Critical Media Consolidation Hearing in Seattle: Does the FCC Hope we Don't Show Up? >
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  usual well written and throughly researched articles. As I said in a comment somewhere, if I lived in that district (some 3 hundred miles from here) I'd likely vote for Richard in this race.

Dave Gibney Pullman

by gibney on Sat Oct 20, 2007 at 03:10:07 PM PST

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I posted this in my email to you, but it needs to be repeated here. Richard Pope is possibly the worst candidate that could be elected to this office. He is a total republican and, in my opinion, completely incompetent.

You really should talk to some progressive lawyers if you want to know about Richard Pope. Not only is he a conservative, right-wing republican (almost all of his runs for partisan office have been as a republican, one of the only exceptions is when tried to run against Norm Maleng), he is in my opinion totally unethical and one of the worst attorneys admitted to the State Bar.

He is unqualified, not only to be an attorney, but to hold any elected office.  Among other things, he has a history of missing court dates for his clients, filing frivolous motions, and being sanctioned by courts.  I believe at one point, the Court of Appeals barred him from practicing in front of them because of the sheer egregiousness of his conduct.  There is no doubt in my mind that he will be disbarred at some point.

He has been running for office and losing his entire life, almost always as a republican. In fact, he used to be a republican Precinct Committee Officer. He ran for county assessor as a Republican in 2003, and attorney general as a Republican in 2000 and 1996.  He has run against good progressive judges and elected officials so damn many times over the last 15 years, I've lost count. He is a total right winger. Just check out what he wrote to former RNC Chair Jim Gilmore in January 2001, as published on the website "The Reagan Wing":

I am writing to you about a very disturbing matter in Washington State politics. Regrettably, we managed to have a wolf-in-sheep's clothing, so to speak, appointed as the Co-Chairman of the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign. If this problem is not realized and corrected, it could have major adverse consequences to the interests of the Bush-Cheney administration and the Republican Party in Washington.

This gentleman, Michael D. ("Mike") McKay, although he publicly calls himself a Republican, has actually been a supporter (semi-secretly) of Democrat candidates at many levels, as well as very liberal judicial candidates.

. . .

While McKay claims to be a Republican, and claims that his selection committee will be recommending a "Republican" candidate, the leading candidate being touted by the McKay committee is actually a liberal Democrat, Anne Bremner, who made substantial contributions to liberal Democrats in the most recent general elections held in November 2000.

McKay was also a early backer of Washington's liberal Democrat Attorney [General] Christine Gregoire -- supporting her candidacy at the very same time he was serving as the Washington State Chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign (and supposedly working for a unified Republican effort).

On May 29, 2000, Mr. McKay made a donation of $200.00 to Ms. Gregoire's re-election campaign. At that time, there were no Republican challengers to Ms. Gregoire, although many people in the state Republican party were trying very hard to recruit a viable candidate.

It boggles the imagination as to how someone in charge of the Presidential nominee's campaign in a particular state should -- at the very same time -- be endorsing and contributing to the political campaign of someone running for statewide office of the other political party. Especially someone who is such a partisan and liberal Democrat as Christine Gregoire -- and someone who worked very hard to make sure that the State of Washington was carried by Al Gore and Joe Lieberman.

. . .

McKay has also gone out of his way to support various other liberal judicial candidates in Washington elections.

For example, Richard Sanders is one of the finest and most conservative justices on the Washington State Supreme Court. He strongly believes in limited government, strict construction of the constitution, and holds strong personal and religious views against abortion. Justice Sanders is also very popular among Washington voters -- he soundly defeated a liberal Democratic appointee in the November 1995 special election to gain his seat, and was handily re-elected by 65% of the votes in September 1998.

The bottom line is that it is unacceptable for any liberal or Democrat to support Richard Pope. He is a conservative Republican, and he is (in my opinion and the opinion of many other Washington attorneys) an unethical and incompetent attorney.  Writing in anyone else would be a better choice.

by taylormattd on Sat Oct 20, 2007 at 03:25:08 PM PST

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Hi Noemie-

Awesome interview. I'm beside myself. I was dubious when you first told me. And I'm happy to admit that I was completely offbase.

I totally get what you mean about challenging media narratives. I've had read his posts on other forums (Sound Politics, Horse's Ass). He always seemed rationale to me. I couldn't figure out what all the fuss about him has been. But I guess I thought there must be something to it all. And I'm deeply chagrined, again, by my own opinion (prejudical bias) of Richard Pope. I, someone who prides himself on chosing my own friends, should know better.

Richard Pope hasn't won my support. But your interview with him has opened my mind to the possibility.

Cheers, Jason

PS- Just so everyone knows, I'll support any politician who supports by positions on election integrity. Yes, I'm now more or less a single issue voter.

by zappini on Sun Oct 21, 2007 at 02:06:32 PM PST

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Noemie, thank you for such a well researched post on Richard Pope. Candidates that challenge our neat little boxes of 'you are this, or you are that' are routinely marginalized.

The whole argument that he is a conservative posing as a liberal to get votes is like Zappini says, shallow. One thing gets to me, though:

With Bush it was also the evil you know versus the evil you didn't know.

I would ask Richard, do you regret that vote now?

by Brian on Sun Oct 21, 2007 at 06:07:27 PM PST

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First, what an excellent piece of journalism! Brava!

Second, when Richard requested the endorsement of the King County Democrats, I, too, looked him in the eye and asked him if, as a councilmember, he would say the first thing that came into his head, or, if he would take counsel with his fellow Democrats and listen to his leadership.  He nodded from the back of the room that he would. Being effective politically involves being able to count votes--in this case, five of nine.

I was willing to endorse him, to expedite the removal of the Hague from office. I do think he has had a sincere change of heart. Anybody who thinks and pays attention--as Richard clearly does--must have deep doubts about the Republican Party. If they don't, they're willing to live with a high degree of internal doubt and disconnect from reality.

With Richard's record as a researcher of his opponents' foibles, I think every political columnist owes him a paean of admiration, for doing their jobs for them.

"The arm of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." --Martin Luther King, Jr.

by Sarajane46th on Tue Oct 23, 2007 at 01:57:14 AM PST

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  • independent by zappini, 10/23/2007 09:59:02 AM PST (none / 0)
    • wildcards by wrog, 10/23/2007 03:57:16 PM PST (none / 0)
In my religion, we are not highly motivated to come up with an interpretation of when human life begins, whether it begins with conception.   We believe in a pre-mortal existence and that everybody has the opportunity to be born on this Earth.   So in areas of the country where there is a high percentage of Mormons, there isn't the same fervor to pass anti-abortion legislation as you see in other areas.
So I hate to nitpick (well okay maybe I don't, actually :), but this is more than a little surprising to me.

The official position of the LDS church is profoundly against elective abortion, and the notion that human life begins at conception seems a rather implicit part of this position.  Also, last I checked, Utah -- known for its overwhelming-majority Mormon population -- was one of the states where abortion was outlawed prior to 1969 and cited as one of the 5 or 10 states that would instantly revert to total prohibition the moment Roe v. Wade were overturned.

Are there different branches of Mormonism?  Or has the media been grossly misrepresenting the Mormon position?  Or is this one of these things where (as with Catholicism) most (US) church members don't actually agree with the pronouncements and political maneuverings of the central authority?

by wrog on Tue Oct 23, 2007 at 03:27:16 PM PST

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