Years ago Jack de Yonge, my boss on the P-I editorial page, had a theory about elections. While most pundits pick the tallest candidate to win, Jack saw things differently. His rule: “The candidate with the best hair wins.”
The de Yonge theory could prove something of a factor in next year’s competition for Washington state governor. Looking at the field of announced candidates, there is one likely front-runner on the Republican side: Dave Reichert, the former King County sheriff who went on serve seven terms in the U. S. House before retiring in 2019.
During his years in office and on the campaign trail, Congressman Reichert was easily identified by his shock of perfectly coiffed silver hair. He looked as if he’d been drafted from Central Casting to play the part. Although he likely inherited his lawman’s rugged looks (grandson of a Detroit Lakes, Minn. town marshal) and physique (football scholarship at Portland’s Concordia Lutheran), he had a secret weapon when it came to maintaining that distinctive appearance.
Reichert’s extra push came with help from his hair stylist. Dave has long been a client of Roberto, a quiet genius known for working his scissors to enhance the looks of high-ranking officeholders, bureaucrats, business leaders, and influencers.
For someone famed at power hair, Roberto (full name Roberto Rodriguez) came from humble beginnings. He graduated from high school in Granger, a small town in Yakima County. When he’d asked his school counselor for help finding a scholarship, the only thing available was at a beauty school. Once trained, Roberto was drafted, sent to Vietnam, where, when his skills became known, he trimmed the hair of soldiers lined up 50 deep. Once out of the service, Roberto trained with Gene Juarez. Shortly afterwards a client, Attorney Judith Runstad, persuaded him to open a downtown salon at 1111 Third Avenue.
Roberto was on his way. He was soon tending to Seattle celebs: councilmembers like Sue Donaldson and Martha Choe, Supreme Court Justice Bobbe Bridge, Seattle Times Publisher Frank Blethen, former Attorney General Rob McKenna, Sen. Maria Cantwell, Gov. Gary Locke, and former first lady Mona Lee Locke. And not incidentally, Eighth District Congressman Dave Reichert. While serving at City Hall, I, too, was a grateful client. Seated in Roberto’s chair at the salon, I couldn’t help spotting headshots of his regulars (Blethen and Reichert) stuck to one corner of the mirror.
Asked this week about Reichert’s hair, Roberto wasn’t reticent. He said, “Dave’s hair is exceptional. It must rank as the best of anyone running.” Roberto had spoken with the candidate whom, he said, “has been hoping for the Hispanic vote.”
Roberto explained that, when the pandemic struck, he closed his downtown salon. However, it was Runstad who, supportive again, called and told Roberto he needed to go to client’s homes and cut hair. Since then, he has been making house calls. During our conversation, Roberto volunteered that he’s a Democrat (something I never knew since he offers bipartisan services). But he added, “Dave’s always been a moderate and I like him. I may even have to send a donation.”