Pubdate: Sun, 11 Jun 2000
Source: Seattle Times (WA)
Copyright: 2000 The Seattle Times Company
Contact:  P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111
Fax: (206) 382-6760
Author: Ralph Thomas and Dionne Searcey
Editor's Note: The Washington State Democrats include marijuana
decriminalization in their new platform


SPOKANE - State Democrats, unbridled by their leaders' traditional
desire to keep them in the mainstream, took a significant step to the
left in their party platform yesterday. They produced a document that
liberals cheered but that some candidates were disowning even before
the convention adjourned.

The platform was adopted with little debate - there was as much
discussion about the less-than-appetizing lunch of peanut butter and

More than 1,000 delegates also got to hear from Democratic
congressional and Senate candidates, Gov. Gary Locke and, on Friday
night, Vice President Al Gore. They also got a pump-them-up speech
from King County Executive Ron Sims, who wove tales of his family with
calls for Democratic ideals.

The platform calls for abolishing the death penalty, preventing
discrimination based on a person's "gender identity" or size and
decriminalizing marijuana. A resolution adopted on a close vote goes
further, calling for complete legalization of marijuana so it could be
sold through cafes, bars and state liquor stores, with the tax money
being "spent in the fulfillment of health and human needs."

In addition, the platform includes sweeping gun-control proposals.
While supporting the right to bear arms, it calls for gun registration
and licensing, mandatory safety training for gun owners, trigger-lock
requirements, background checks and waiting periods on all gun sales.

Another resolution asks that perpetrators and victims of domestic
violence be prohibited from owning a gun for six months after filing
for divorce or separation.

One move that was defeated was a resolution that called for a state
income tax.

`The things they care about'

In years past, party officials worked to stop delegates from putting
anything in the platform that could embarrass Democrats in an election
year. But this time Party Chairman Paul Berendt took a different tack.

"If you really want to get people fired up, it's better to give them
freedom to put in the things they care about," Berendt said.

The platform will be published on the party's Web site
( and delivered to all Democratic candidates. The
resolutions may not be seen again.

Richardson was heckled

The advertised star of the show fell flat. Energy Secretary Bill
Richardson, on a road test of sorts for a possible vice-presidential
spot with Al Gore, gave a short speech that failed to ignite the crowd
of about 1,000 Democrats in the Spokane Convention Center.

It sounded like a Gore stump speech and was interrupted a few times by
shouts from people unhappy with Richardson's position on what to do
with the Hanford nuclear reservation.

"Spokane welcomes Bill Richardson and his 60,000 trucks of waste,"
read one sign held by protesters.

In an interview, Richardson defended the Clinton administration's
Hanford policies, which have been criticized even by Locke, a close
Clinton supporter. Hanford has already been designated as one of two
national nuclear-waste sites.

Richardson said he wanted to duck questions about the possibility of
being Gore's running mate, but added that he thought Locke would be a
good candidate.

State's Eastsiders left out

The new party platform is a significant shift to the left from the one
approved in 1998.

Jim Davis, a Coulee City wheat farmer who is running for the 4th
Congressional District seat in Eastern Washington, said the new
platform does not reflect Democrats in his area where "even the
Democrats are conservative."

He said he was particularly bothered by the gun-control and
marijuana-legalization planks.

"People in my district just feel like they are being put upon by
people who do not understand the issues," Davis said. "I can't run on
that platform and I won't. My obligation is to my district."

Sims downplayed the importance of the platform.

"It has never been a Bible or holy grail," he said. "Nobody is asked
to sign on the dotted line - that you have to believe in all these
things to be a Democrat."

During the platform committee's final meeting on Friday, Jim Price, a
Tri-Cities delegate, pushed an amendment to remove specific references
to Hanford. He said the party should stress cleaning up all
contaminated sites and complained the platform amounted to "Hanford

The committee rejected Price's motions but approved an amendment that
adds three military bases - Bangor Naval Base, Fairchild Air Force
Base and Fort Lewis - to the list of sites that should also be cleaned

Locke, who is seeking re-election as governor, used the convention to
unveil a new campaign biography film. The six-minute, $60,000 piece
was paid for by the state Democratic party, according to Locke
spokesman Ed Penhale.

In a speech, Locke also appeared to take his hardest shots at
Republican challenger John Carlson, a radio talk-show host and
newspaper columnist.

"You can't build a record on talk," Locke said. "Because talk is
cheap, especially when it is only negative provocation that builds
nothing, and is only meant to divide us."

Cheers for Senn, Cantwell

U.S. Senate candidate Deborah Senn appeared to have the backing of a
majority of the delegates. Support for her was expected, given that
the state insurance commissioner has been campaigning for a year
longer than Maria Cantwell and has secured endorsements from most
major Democratic groups and legislators.

But Cantwell, a former congresswoman and high-tech executive, made a
strong showing, too. Applause for her equaled cheers for Senn at a
$60-a-plate dinner Friday night, and many Democrats at the banquet
thought her speech, which touted her blue-collar up-bringing and
slammed incumbent Sen. Slade Gorton's record, was better than Senn's.

Later Friday night, Cantwell offered supporters a hospitality room she
dubbed "Slade's Wall of Shame" and featured games such as Spin the
Wheel of Special Interests and Pin the Buck on Slade.

Senn's speech yesterday was especially fiery, and she got big cheers
when she brought onstage two people whom she had helped battle
insurance companies to get coverage for their illnesses.

Times political reporter David Postman contributed to this report.
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MAP posted-by: Allan Wilkinson