Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Candidates Had Fair Weekend West of Cascades

It has to be hard competing for attention against the likes of Glen Beck, Sarah Palin, and Alveda King. The Restoring Honor Rally in Washington DC dominated twitter yesterday and was the big story on national news. But it was a different story west of the Cascades as local candidates pressed palms and worked hard to get their messages out at the Kitsap County and Evergreen State Fairs. They seemed more energized and focused than ever.

I found the Kitsap County Republican Women staffing the Party booth in Bremerton on Friday afternoon and Pete DeBoer (R) for Washington 23rd was eagerly working the crowd. Pete was feeling optimistic after two important events last week; his first public debate with Representative Sherry Appleton (D) and an editorial board interview with the Kitsap Sun. Things were moving fast for Pete and you could tell he relished greeting new faces at the fair.

Traveling over to Monroe on Saturday, the weather was prime for the town’s parade where I quickly shook hands with Senate candidate Dino Rossi (R) along the parade route. He had just given a keynote at the State GOP meeting in Seattle but no less for wear, he was still zig-zagging the asphalt at full speed making his message personal with curbside observers. The man was on fire and the story was all about jobs in this blue collar – agricultural based community. James Watkins (R), candidate for Congressional District 1, followed Rossi and at one point I observed him answering a Mexican-American family’s question about jobs. Clearly, if this community is any measure about what America is looking for right now, the number one issue remains jobs and there is a strong sense from voters that government isn’t going in the right direction.

I caught up with Watkins later on at the Snohomish County Republican Party booth and asked him about his campaign’s progress. He feels things are moving “great” with an expected post-primary increase of volunteers and donations. He thinks his hardest challenge at the moment will be reaching out to newer or inexperienced voters and those that don’t hold politics as part of their daily life. On the upside, he mentioned the possibility of an upcoming head to head debate with incumbent Jay Inslee (D), something he has been eager to do from the onset of his candidacy. He feels on track holding Inslee to just over 55% in the primary and is now hard at work shifting swing and independent voters in his direction. Watkins expects to get some criticism from the right as he carefully balances his message to court moderates, but emphasizes the diversity of the district. Watkins remains confident his campaign’s outreach to Tea Party conservatives will keep him out of trouble there.

As an independent-minded columnist, I strive to be fair in my approach so I made sure to touch base with the Democrat Party booths at both Fairs. I asked them how they were feeling about going in to November. The Kitsap contingent gave me the tired old story of blaming Bush, “If you want the same old thing and the Party of no, then… [blah, blah, blah];” nothing new here and voters should just trust them that $13 trillion in debt will turn out OK even as joblessness remains high. On the other hand, I was pleasantly surprised at meeting a firebrand write-in candidate at the Snohomish Fair that is sure to give incumbent Norma Smith (R) for 10th Legislative District more than hard time.

I’m not sure if write in candidates are anything more than noise in the system, but Laura Lewis (D) isn’t going to let incumbent Smith, who ran uncontested on the primary ballot, have the seat for free. “You don’t have to be a conservative to be fiscally conservative,” she said, and believes “there are a bunch of people in office that aren’t working for us.” I can’t say I disagree with that particular message, and the died-in-the-wool Vice Chair of the SDCC went on to lambast the lack of collaboration in Olympia. When she exclaimed, “I want people to be fair and work together!” I immediately envisioned my own grandma pulling a belt strap out of the closet. Uh oh. When we talked about the potential for less government, she said, “I don’t agree that government services can always be done better in the private sector.” About liquor retail for instance, “Why should the State give up the profits? The State can run it like a business and keep both the taxes and the profits.” What do you think Norma? I’m not sure Laura Lewis will make much of a dent this year, but I don’t think she is going to go away quietly.

All in all, it was a Fair weekend in the west, and candidates are knuckling down to get their messages out for what many analysts believe will be a tipping point in American governance. Which way are you leaning?

November is coming.

Photos: top left Pete DeBoer at the Kitsap Republican Party booth at the county fairgrounds, Bremerton, WA; center right Dino Rossi working crowd at Monroe Fair Days parade; center left James Watkins at Fair Days parade; lower left Laura Lewis at Democrat booth, Evergreen State Fair.

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