In the final days of the campaign, even the Democrats were saying that maybe Dennis Rasmussen didn't have the personality to be executive. Too shy; too taken with status symbols; too thin-skinned. Partly true, partly perception. But it is not the main reason Rasmussen lost Tuesday.
Rasmussen, who presided over an era of boom and growth (read: spending) in the county, was a victim of the anti-incumbency sentiment that is pervasive this year. Some of it was a result of tactical errors. The executive might have dealt with the tax revolt more constructively, taking his opposition directly to the people instead of to the Court of Appeals. He might have answered charges leveled by the GOP head on, early on. He might have traded in the Lincoln, donned a pair of K-Mart slacks and hit the pavement. Still, there was a more powerful force -- a smoldering anger among voters, spurred by spiraling property tax assessments, a sudden state deficit and the messy budget battle in Washington over which they had virtually no control. Rasmussen, regardless of whatever else figured in, became a lightening rod.
Hayden now has an awesome responsibility -- to lead a county that is increasingly diverse both demographically and ethnically, and to do it with austerity -- in short, continuing to deliver quality services and spending less, all while learning the ropes. Hayden promised voters he could pull it off. His victory Tuesday was his first success. Now comes the real test of the winner's mettle.