Two principles should guide voters on election day:
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Two principles should guide voters on election day:
The first is an Iron Law—you vote for the individual, but you elect the caucus. Within that is a second rigid requirement—what’s this guy done for us lately?
American politics operates in an era where polarities are stronger than the parties that promote them, which is a way of saying that parties no longer control and restrain strongly held views in the pursuit of consensus and the compromise of lawmaking. Strongly held views control the parties, one party in particular, and they’ve become almost parliamentary in their pursuit of doctrine.
Maybe you like a candidate, but they’ll be working for the caucus. Only if they care a great deal will they be able to reach around outside that duty to solve problems that actually exist in the world.
The work facing the Legislature over the next two years is profound, with lawmakers under court order to close an almost $4 billion gap in public education. That’s without even counting the legislative work that must be done in response to climate change and replacing the state’s badly degraded bridges, roads, harbors, railways and rail crossings.
It’s going to require teamwork and an honest dedication to the task. Gridlock just won’t do it.
The trick in this election will be to get the people who will inherit the earth to care about the earth they will inherit. Voting is the absolute minimum expression of that, a privilege people have shed blood to defend. Vote.
1st Congressional District
Suzan DelBene, Democrat
Suzan DelBene personifies our twin principles—she’s part of a caucus that tries to get things done in Washington, D.C. Lord knows, the Democrats are not perfect, but they at least show an interest in public policy and governance, and the state’s Congressional Democrats in particular show dedication and coordination in bringing state goals to the attention of the federal government. DelBene also understands her district and focused her energies on farming, job development and economic fairness, women’s health and immigration reform. That last issue is keenly important to farmers with seasonal crops that require migratory labor.
At a time where moving bills through the House of Representatives was nearly impossible, she got quite a bit done. She’s smart and capable, and she has more left to do.
2nd Congressional District
Rick Larsen, Democrat
Rick Larsen is the archetype of the moderate, pragmatic Democrat, and all the imperfections that implies. Larsen works for the goals that are important to his district—jobs, transportation and infrastructure projects. He’s advanced progressive goals nationally, fighting for health care, voting rights, student loan reform, and greater controls on the financial sector following the meltdown of 2007. Though we could wish for a more liberal firebrand and stalwart in what is surely the bluest district in the bluest state on the bluest coast, what’s the alternative? A tea party jihadist who’s pledged to undo all we’ve mentioned?
We can work on moving Congress forward, but it won’t help by moving the district backward.
Public Utility District 1
Commissioner District 1
This is the only race that will be on every Whatcom County ballot, and we’re of a divided opinion on it. Jeff McClure has been an excellent commissioner and has brought both the rigor and vigor of an entrepreneur to the agency. With its capacity to serve water, power and other utilities, the quiet little PUD will play a vital role in some of the most important issues that will unfold in the county over the next six years. We can’t help but agree with Bob Burr, however, that a price ought to be paid for the commission’s decision to supply water to Gateway Pacific Terminal, through the transfer of a contract with the previous property owner. Expedient and rote, the decision was made and likely cannot be clawed back; but it frittered away one of the most important assets Whatcom County has in considering the merits of the coal pier, at the very least a prize that might bargain important concessions from the project applicant. No urgency required their preemptive action.
Jeff McClure’s the better choice for the larger role the PUD will play in coming years; but if your issue is thwarting coal, vote for Bob Burr.
Jeff Morris and Kris Lytton, Democrats
These two are easy. Jeff, who serves on the enormously important House committees on technology, transportation and the environment, didn’t even draw a challenger. Kris’ opponent has barely shown up. But like DelBene, Kris personifies our twin principles. She’s guided by a steadfast mission, to improve public education for the benefit of our children, and she’s been a tiger mom getting that done. It’s the most important thing the Legislature will work on next year, and she is needed. But she also understands her district and serves on committees focused on agriculture, natural resources and the environment.
District 42 Position 2
Joy Monjure, Democrat
His caucus is pretty toxic, but we want to say a few things in praise of Republican Vincent Buys: He takes his job and his district very seriously—he never misses a vote in Olympia—he is polite and not condescending to the broad diversity of opinion in his district, and—where he’s been able—he’s even reached across the aisle to get stuff done for the people he serves. He cares. Buys is a nearly pitch-perfect representative of the redrawn 42nd Legislative District, certainly deserving of the office he holds.
But then there’s that caucus, and with the work the Legislature faces Cascadia Weekly really cannot recommend empowering more gridlock by returning that caucus to Olympia in numbers.
Joy Monjure understands the agricultural roots and economy of the 42nd District. Her background in public works is well-suited to the task of protecting and enhancing water resources for sustainable agriculture. She knows the state needs to plan and protect against the ravages of global climate change. And she recognizes that the district cannot thrive without a quality education for its children. She’s pledged to help solve the problems the state faces.
District 42 Position 1
Satpal Sidhu, Democrat
Republican Luanne VanWerven is just light years beyond the arrogant neanderthal whose seat she seeks to replace in Olympia, who never did a damned thing for his district. Luanne seems to understand that we pay people a salary to actually get things done in Olympia. She’s a good fit for her district and, like Buys, we sense that where she could, where possible, she’d reach across and try to achieve some broadly shared goals with colleagues south in the 40th District.
But then, there’s that caucus again, and Van Werven is already on record saying she will fight any possibility that the state’s badly broken revenue structures might be repaired.
The state has a structural deficit, and is heavily reliant on sales taxes that poorly capture the economic growth that has actually occurred in Washington. Public revenue captured as a percentage of the state’s economic output has been collapsing for decades, and certain aspects of the state’s revenue structure that are grossly unfair would, if improved, also yield additional revenue. Our state is richer; our schools are not. But Luanne is on record that she’ll do absolutely nothing to assist that, and instead doubles down on the tiresome “no new taxes” mantra that has caused Washington to crater in key metrics compared to other states. We literally cannot afford more of that.
Satpal Sidhu is a likable guy with an easy laugh and infectious charm. As dean at Bellingham Technical College, he helped connect students to the job market at the local refineries and manufacturing centers. He understands the local economy and the importance of education as an engine within it. He understands, quite well, our first Iron Law and has pledged to do everything he can to break down the barriers of polarity and dispute, and work on common ground with legislators from all parts of the state and across party lines. It’s what a business person does.
Seth Fleetwood, Democrat
Our readers chose Seth Fleetwood as their favorite public figure in our Best of Bellingham survey. It’s easy to understand why, and a shame more of Bellingham can’t vote for Seth in the November election.
By its duties and construction, the state Senate is a powerful place where a lot of good—or a lot of mischief—can get enacted. Its committee chairs are critical to the enactment of legislation; if they don’t bring an item to the floor, it does not get voted on, period.
A lot of attention in this election has focused on Doug Ericksen’s appetite for free meals courtesy of lobbyists. Doug topped the list of the state’s lawmakers who were chowing down on junkets and trinkets—readers voted it the Best Scandal of 2014—but it’s trivia that masks a deeper, more subtle problem with Ericksen.
In the lower House he quickly gained a reputation as a back-bench bomb thrower, actively sniping and undercutting the work of other 40th and 42nd District folks trying to bring benefits home to their districts. To his credit, Ericksen learned pretty early on to work for the benefit of Cherry Point industries and he did credible cooperative work with his colleagues to help secure those high-paying jobs. His strength there, in fact, led him to the powerful energy, telecommunications and transportation committees he now chairs. Ericksen also understood, in those days, he represented a dynamic swing district where moderate voters counted toward his success.
Things changed in the midterm elections of George W. Bush’s second term, as Republicans very nearly became extinct in the Washington Legislature. One of the few remaining, Ericksen found himself catapulted into central party leadership roles. Iron Law #1, the individual became the caucus.
Things changed again in the redistricting of 2010, where moderates and progressives were moved out of the 42nd District. Ericksen no longer had to listen to them, no longer had to respect them. Iron Law #2, he no longer had to do anything for them.
In between those events, Ericksen moved up to the senate, where the sorts of bombs you can throw become formidable indeed.
As committee chair, Doug began to do something insufferable—and it doesn’t matter whose tribe you belong to, it’s disrespectful—he started wadding up the committee’s work and walking his own bills he ginned up at midnight out to the floor. Shorn of moderation and respect for the ideas of others, these lobbyist bills were just dead on arrival. Many never even made it out of committee. A transportation bill, one that might have created thousands of good-paying highway jobs in Whatcom County, was among these. Another, one that might’ve protected county residents from oil train explosions, was similarly derailed by Ericksen’s midnight engineering, dead before it reached the floor.
Ericken is the monster of our two Iron Laws—a guy who no longer works for the people, but for the party and the lobbyists that feed it.
Terrible for the future of the 42nd District, you might be able to count on the fingers of one hand the number of individuals who could credibly challenge Doug for the state Senate and tear his grip from what looks like a lifetime appointment.
Seth Fleetwood is one, maybe the only one.
Some fun points: Both candidates were born here. Both went to Lowell Elementary School. Both went to Fairhaven Middle School. Both graduated from Sehome High School. Histories diverge there, but both have big local pedigrees.
Seth’s record of reaching across partisan divides, listening to many points of view, is profound—it’s a primal survival skill on Whatcom County Council, where he brought restraint and moderation, and where he learned a lot about rural county issues. When he switched over to Bellingham City Council, he did not let go of conservative sensibilities he’d built up in his terms with the county.
“I think we’ve all had enough of government that represents special interests, not the people,” Fleetwood notes. “During my time in office I sought to represent the interests of the entire community.
“I am running to end gridlock in Olympia and to restore a productive, working majority in the state Senate. I believe the fundamental job of good government is to make substantial progress in resolving problems of public concern.”
Seth will get the 42nd District united again with the 40th, working on job security, the environment, education and the cooperative necessity of lawmaking.
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