The Renton City Council election is a non-partisan race but candidates Joe Todd and James Alberson come with endorsements which are anything but. Drawing a stark division between the two, Joe Todd is the sole candidate endorsed by the Democratic Party’s Legislative Districts. Alberson’s endorsers are largely previous and incumbent council members with a track record of conservative policy and enthusiasm for anti-mask, pro-Trump, vaccine and election fraud skepticism.
Most notably, James is endorsed by Former Councilmember Marcie Palmer, and current Council President Randy Corman. Marcie Palmer’s twitter demonstrates elaborate and dangerous theories around Covid-19, liking tweets that compare masking to child abuse and that suggesting that the classification of the Delta strain is a political fabrication from the Biden administration. Randy Corman operates a blog that draws seemingly unregulated public commentary from a similar crowd. City Council candidate, Ben Johnson, has recently come under scrutiny when residents discovered his comments under the username “RentonBen”. His comments express a bizarre humor ranging from violent vigilantism, sensitivity to the n-word, and implying aborted fetuses might be in Pizza Hut’s red sauce.
Alberson also sits on the board of the Renton Chamber of Commerce. Similar to Marcie Palmer, the Renton Chamber of Commerce liked a tweet questioning the legitimacy of Biden’s election and others. When confronted, they unliked the tweet, but never responded to emails, calls, or social media posts clarifying whether they believe Biden stole the election and were sympathetic to the rioters at the January 6th insurrection.
Neither James Alberson, the Renton Chamber, nor Ben Johnson have responded or made statements denouncing the activity or disclosing their political alignment. The Chamber of Commerce and Ben Johnson have made a point to delete or even disable public engagement on their social media.
It should be noted that Alberson has not been endorsed by the Republican party this cycle and, as previously noted, his endorsements are often from locals who are either unashamed or deflective about their reactionary political alignment. This seems to be a political strategy in and of itself. With only about 25% of eligible voters participating in the primary elections, candidates like Johnson and Alberson are not interested in explicitly outlining their political stances like their opponents. Instead, they appear to be occupying a space of plausible deniability for any particular issue and counting on the small, yet politically active, conservative circles to move them forward.
Withholding explicit policies or vision has enabled these parties to accuse their opponents, and the public, of attacking them personally. In absence of any forthcoming or consistent political ideologies, they may frame critiques assaults on their character rather than their political views. IE- “I’m being cyber-bullied” instead of acknowledging the impact of statements, like referring to LGBTQIA+ individuals as “sissy-f***” or denying the outcome of the elections.
Say what you would like about the politics of Joe Todd and Carmen Rivera, the opposing candidates to Alberson and Johnson. But, at least you know what their political beliefs are, and they’re honest about how they represent them. A healthy democracy is one in which we can identify our politics and campaign for the better approach to win voters over to. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that candidates Johnson and Alberson have endorsements from supporters spreading conspiracies similar to the “stop the steal” conspiracies which energized the Jan 6th insurrection. The candidates seem not share a common definition of democracy, with values like transparency or communication at the forefront of their campaign. While this should not come as a surprise, it should continue to be challenged.