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Just as much of America went into pandemic-induced lockdown in March, Peter Hardin Jackson, son of the late U.S. Sen. Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson, died at 53 after a multiyear battle with cancer.
But thanks to his widow, Laurie Werner, his Twitter feed lives on — in the same sort of understated, poignantly witty manner that epitomized Peter Jackson.
Many politicians' sons follow their fathers into electoral politics. Not Jackson. He was too humble and sarcastic, his curiosities too broad, to pursue such a narrow path. But friends found him brilliant, and about the most enjoyable company one could keep.
Jackson spent his early career giving screenwriting a go in Los Angeles before returning to Washington state and working on environmental issues, as well as serving as a speechwriter for two governors, Gary Locke and Christine Gregoire.
He hit his stride once he shifted full time to the journalistic realm, first at the Pacific Northwest news website Crosscut and then as editorial page editor for the Everett Daily Herald, the paper of record in his family's longtime hometown.
While Jackson had battled cancer since 2016, enduring countless rounds of radiation and chemo, Laurie said his descent into death "was really fast," adding, "We decided on March 11 to stop all treatment and he died 10 days later. So we didn't have the chance to thoughtfully think through whether he wanted me to take over his [Twitter] feed or retire it."
Not that she hadn't tried to discuss this with him.
"I kept bugging him before he was super sick. I was like, 'I should have your passwords; mine are all in this place,'" she said. "But he's not organized that way. But lucky for me, he just had everything logged in on his computer [when he died], so I just went in and changed passwords for Instagram and Twitter. I just wanted to make sure I didn't just lose access to them."
Shortly after President Trump was elected, Jackson started retweeting his more outlandish tweets, accompanied by the comment, "You are a lunatic." In the months leading up to his death, he offered more robust Trump commentary, but for the most part, "You are a lunatic" was the extent of it.
After Jackson's death, Laurie noticed that some of his friends and followers started tweeting "You are a lunatic" as homage to her late husband. "I was like, 'I could keep doing that,'" she says.
But she felt a little strange about it, so she asked a few of Jackson's friends what they thought of her idea. "They were like, 'You should do it.'"
So she has, never deviating from the one-sentence "You are a lunatic" retweet template.
Her husband's capacity for political quips was considerable and, she said, "We were not the same that way. Unlike the people who've taken over Herman Cain's account, I don't want to take over his platform,” she said, referring to the former presidential candidate's still active Twitter feed. “But I feel like Peter would want me to keep doing this."
Laurie has found her takeover of her late husband's Twitter account to be therapeutic. ("I enjoy just browsing" through it, she says.) And while she's stuck to his one-sentence Trump retweet format so far, she admits that "it's tempting to do more."
To wit, when the longtime Seattle political columnist Joel Connelly tweeted about Cain tweeting from the dead, Laurie "almost went on Peter's account and said, 'So what's your point?'"
Seely is a special correspondent
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.