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Olympia will be far less interesting without Ken Jacobsen. The Nose mourns his retirement

Post by Peter Callaghan / The News Tribune on May 17, 2010 at 3:45 pm with No Comments »
May 17, 2010 4:03 pm

A few years back I was asked by Washington Law & Politics Magazine to name some of the smartest people I’d covered. I listed Dick Thompson, Jack Metcalf and Ken Jacobsen.

Few doubted that Thompson was brilliant in a pragmatic, getting-things-done kind of way. I’d once dubbed him the Yoda of Olympia. But I took a fair amount of grief for Metcalf and Jacobsen because both were the subject of some ridicule.

I mean the late Jack Metcalf wanted to eliminate the Federal Reserve and once demanded to be paid in coins because he doubted the authenticity of Federal Reserve Notes. And Jacobsen will forever be known as the guy who wanted to let dogs go into bars.

They were very different people. Metcalf was a libertarian/conservative while Jacobsen is pragmatic-liberal. And Metcalf had no discernible sense of humor. But both had in common that they thought about stuff that most of us just accepted. Neither much cared what people thought of them or their ideas. Both rarely considered the political consequences (making it helpful that both represented safe districts).

Anyway, Jacobsen announced today that he will not seek another term in the state Senate. That will end 28 years in Olympia for the 64-year-old Jacobsen and end 28 years of things like:

– random phone calls that only sometimes begin with “This is Ken” and rarely end with a goodbye, just a click.

– obscure analyses of baseball stats that only a SABREmatrician could fathom.

– comparisons of current events to historical facts or to classical literature (like the time he quoted Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” to prove that it is dangerous to press too hard for concessions in the closing days of a session:

“Do not interfere with an army that is returning home because a man whose heart is set on returning home will fight to the death against any attempt to bar his way, and is therefore too dangerous an opponent to be tackled.

– taking on issues that are politically risky like questioning his own party’s low-tuition mantra because it subsidizes education for the wealthy more often than the poor or middle class (which is one reason he was stripped of his Higher Education Committee chairmanship, the other being that he ran against Lisa Brown for majority leader … and lost).

– pushing for the dogs in bars bill not to contribute to the delinquency of canines but because it’s just a dog and its just a bar and why should the state be deciding the issue?

– advocating for gender equality in athletics at state universities and public schools because it’s the right thing to do (and because he had two daughters).

– listing in his official biography that he is an avid butterfly and hummingbird gardener (when most of us have trouble with tomatoes and zucchini ).

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