Straight Talk on Washington State’s Gubernatorial Primary

Normal posting has been delayed due to my rigorous schedule providing candidate fundraising coaching for Progressive Majority here in Washington.
I’ve had the chance to travel to suburban cities across King and Pierce Counties so far, and spent the day in scenic Sequim today. Tomorrow I’m off to Portland, OR, Vancouver, WA, and on and on.
I’ve always enjoyed assignments such as these because it gives me the chance to spend time on the ground all over the state, and work one-on-one with grassroots candidates outside of urban, Democratic Seattle. On Friday, I met with Tami Green, a promising candidate for State House recently endorsed by Democracy For America (aka Dr. Dean’s organization).
She is running a terrific grassroots campaign that is sophisticated enough to combine a organized field effort with a well researched and funded voter contact plan. That may sound like Campaign 101, but you’d be surprised at how many campaigns think “grassroots” has to mean “unorganized and wasteful.” This one doesn’t.
Tami ran for office once before in 2000, and lost by only a few votes, in a truly negative, nasty campaign, featuring some very rude, personal, non-issue oriented attack peices from incumbent Republican Mike Carroll. Most people would not step up to the plate again after such a race, but Tami was inspired by Howard Dean’s campaign to run again, despite the challenges a political campaign places on someone these days.
This is yet another anecdotal story that tends to confirm something I’d been wondering about for a while – the effect of Dean’s campaign in ways not measurable at the ballot box or at the media’s latest “poll.” True, his campaign, besieged by the DLC, a hostile media, and a few mistakes may not have been successful.
However, the impact he had on grassroots Democrats, restoring “Democratic Pride” is having an effect on the political system most pundits and prognositcators have yet to figure out. He made it ok to stand up for one’s values once again, and has shown others that the solution is not in some cult of personality, but in themselves – and people are heeding the call.
Another candidate I’ve enjoyed working with is Kevin Van De Wege, a firefighter and president of the International Association of Firefighters in Sequim, WA (the sunniest part of the state!). Kevin is running against a longtime incumbent who has not been seriously challenged in a long time, a common occurance in Washington. Usually the cycle goes like this: feeble incumbent raises lobbyist cash, politicos on the other side don’t even try to find a candidate, some self-selected gadfly files his papers, and does little to get elected, and feeble incumbent gets re-elected without a serious challenge.
That isn’t happening here. Kevin is a very articulate and energetic candidate who has spent his time knocking on voters’ doors across the 24th Legislative District.
Sounds easy, until you realize how big this district is – it includes the Olympic National Park and three huge counties! Kevin has also enlisted the support of hundreds of people in the district, and relies primarily on individual donors for his campaign’s war chest. So it’s worth the long drive out to Port Angeles to visit him at Clallam County Democratic Headquarters.
Traveling out there also made me appreciate one of Kevin’s issues he’s running on – the improvement of highways on the Olympic Peninsula. After getting off the Edmond/Kingston Ferry, I was driving along State Highway 104 to get to US 101 (yes the same 101 we Southern Californians use!) to arrive on time for our meeting. However, a 5 car pileup near Discovery Bay shut down the entire highway for almost two hours!
As we were in a rural area, without lots of turnoffs, there was no way for me to take an alternate way into town – I was stuck in the middle of rural Jefferson County without any way to get out. Now, couple this with Kevin’s perspective as a firefighter and paramedic and you realize that poor quality highways aren’t just an inconvenience – they’re a public safety menace too.
For that reason alone I’m sending in some money to Kevin’s campaign – how often do you have someone talking about an issue that actual voters discuss and care about? He’s the kind of guy you want voting on a budget somewhere and his hard working campaign and clearly articulated views that are in sync with his district make him a star to watch. The fact that he looks like Neil McDonough can’t hurt with some of the voters either.
Working with people like Tami, Kevin, and the many other candidates I’m meeting out here is always fun for me because it gives me a chance to bring the kind of coaching and training normally reserved for someone running for the US Senate or US House to the candidates who can really make use of such help, but wouldn’t normally be able to afford it. It’s also nice to be working in areas that aren’t 100% “D” or “R” – these races are where real politics are practiced. Cushy re-elects may pay the bills, but they also dull the senses.
Plus it’s also refreshing in the era of partisan foolishness to meet people who are running for an office like state House in Washington state, because to do so you really have to want to do something for others with a position like this. It does not pay very well (I think city councilmen in Lynnwood, CA make more in perks!)l, it does not have a lot of glory or media attention, and you’re working year-round despite the fact it’s technically “part time.”
Depsite these and other hassles, there are some good folks out there running for the right reasons. I’m happy to give them a hand, and I urge others to do so as well. It’s time to stop whining about the quality of our elected leaders and take proactive steps to elect some good people for a change.
Cynicism and nastiness need to give way to common sense, and folks like Tami and Kevin aren’t waiting for someone to come along and do it for them – they’re taking the lead in their communities right now. Now it’s our turn.
UPDATE: Read this article that appeared in the Atlanta Journal Constitution today that mentions Kevin by name – and my training! Right on Kevin!
Coming Up: Watching my past predictions come true regarding Washington State’s primary foibles, their impact on the Sims vs. Gregoire gubernatorial race, and California’s latest attempts to cure a disease that doesn’t exist with a potion more poisonous than the ailment it claims to cure.
© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at

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