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Published: Thursday, August 18, 2011, 12:01 a.m.

Democratic, Republican county chairmen to meet for a friendly beer

The two chairmen of the Snohomish County Republican and Democratic parties plan to sit down for a barroom summit.

  • Bill Cooper

    Bill Cooper

  • Bill Phillips

    Bill Phillips

Two guys named Bill meeting for a beer.
Nothing unusual about that. Nothing unusual, that is, unless you're talking about two guys who happen to serve as chairmen for Snohomish County's Republican and Democratic parties.
Bill Cooper, the Republican chairman, approached Bill Phillips, the Democratic chairman, recently about scheduling a friendly chat. Phillips agreed. So they marked their calendars for a barroom summit in Bothell's Canyon Park neighborhood next Wednesday.*
While their fellow party faithful in the nation's capital might stare each other down or scream at full volume, these local leaders hope a sudsy sitdown will lead to intelligent discourse.
Cooper said he's unaware of any predecessors attempting such talks.
"If we walk away friends and we accomplish nothing, so what," he said. "We had to try."
Phillips said, "It's hard to be really angry at someone when you're sharing a beer with them."
"America was built on civil disagreement," he said. "We can certainly accept that reasonable people disagree without being disagreeable."
He and his GOP counterpart want to find areas where the political parties -- and the electorate as a whole -- have mutual interests.
Of course it's election season, so there's plenty for the two of them to squabble over, should they choose.
Democratic Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon is running this fall for his third term in office against Republican state Rep. Mike Hope, who's putting up a determined fight. Democratic County Councilwoman Stephanie Wright and Republican challenger Kathy Vaughn are dueling for the County Council seat representing the Lynnwood and Edmonds areas. Next year promises to be interesting, with match-ups for governor, congressional seats and U.S. president.
"Bill and Bill are not going to sit there and go over old ground about what we don't agree on," Cooper pledged.
Phillips, 45, lives in Marysville and has been the county Democratic Party chairman for three years. He works as a political consultant.
"I can throw verbal bombs with the best of them, but really governing requires more than that," he said.
Cooper, 59, retired as Bainbridge Island's police chief and now works as a senior manager in corporate security. He took over the county GOP's leadership role this year.
"I will not be getting ugly in these races, ever," he said.
The county GOP chairman acknowledged that his party hasn't been successful in many local elections.
"I want to know why," he said.
The hops-based diplomacy brings to mind the July 2009 face-to-face President Barack Obama brokered between a black Harvard scholar and a white Cambridge, Mass., police officer who arrested him. Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Sgt. James Crowley met in the White House Rose Garden over mugs of beer to defuse a national uproar over race.
The local affair is actually quite different. It's more of a friendly meet-up to get acquainted. And it's wasn't spurred by any particular incident.
While the county's Democratic and Republican chiefs might be up for sharing a table and imbibing, they might not be inclined to split a pitcher. Cooper said his beer of choice is Blue Moon Brewing's Belgian white ale. Phillips goes more for ambers, including ones from local breweries such as Mukilteo's Diamond Knot and Redmond's Mac & Jack's.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465;
* This article has been edited since it was first posted online to correctly state the day of the beer summit.

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