To be fair, the familiar, friendly, faces I saw working diligently on behalf of our hosts, the Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners, did a swell job putting on a spread and helping attendees feel welcome. I’ll even credit their President for the best joke of the night. In opening remarks Tim Matthes quipped that “the problem with political jokes is that sometimes they get elected.” It was a subtle and perhaps appropriate introduction but the actual forum consisted almost entirely of predictable talking points with little time for drilling in.
One of my most interesting moments from the evening bubbled up from incumbent Democrat, Representative Kathy Haigh of the 35th District, who was the only Democrat who made it a point to reach out in a positive way to the Tea Party. During remarks from the stage, she said she had a lot in common with Tea Partiers. Considering her top Party brass and allies have spent considerable effort demonizing the movement, I caught up with her later on to clarify. Haigh asked that people should, “Judge me by my actions and not by what people say about the party.” She says she agrees with Tea Partiers on more things than not, and wants to concentrate on the things “we agree on.” That seems both collaborative and fair… and so we talked about her favorite topic - education.
Kathy Haigh clearly has a passion for education and if she could get votes based on enthusiasm alone, she would absolutely have mine. With more than two decades involved in the educational system and 12 years on the legislature, Haigh clearly has the kind of corporate knowledge that could decipher Washington’s educational beast, but there is a problem here. She and her majority party have had a lot of time to do it but haven’t. Representative Haig has some very good ideas, like reinventing the concept that kids can be held back for non-performance, 6 month entry cycles, and team teaching approaches that sadly remain conceptual to most schools today. She agrees that we may need to “blow up the system” to fix it and figure out how to get rid of bad teachers (but hasn’t a clear plan how). Representative Haigh seems quite articulate in the education business and voters should question her carefully before the final vote, but if independents are to judge her by her actions on education, it may be that she has a lot of ideas a little too late. And on other matters, Haigh voted to suspend I-960 and to increase taxes instead of reducing the size of government. This will be a hard campaign for Representative Haigh if she wants independents to judge her by her actions.
In another interesting campaign, one that could almost be tagged the “Beauty and the Beast" campaign for all of its tension, I don’t believe incumbent Christine Rolfes’ (D) experience, cool and measured presence quite outclassed her more cutting competitor, James Olsen (R) with his pointed, direct but constitutional approach to prioritizing the business of government. Frankly, any politician that seems to place a greater value on global citizenship than effective local citizenship is not deserving of my vote so Representative Rolfes loses traction here for a return seat. Yes, we may be born citizens but need to be taught how to be good citizens. We cannot hope to have good global citizens in our community without first teaching them fundamentally to become good local citizens. In consideration of the current unbalanced State budget, Rolfes also fails in her leadership and ability to make tough decisions. She should not need reminding that the State Democrats are in clear majority and have architected the current crisis through increased and unsustainable spending. Passing the buck to the governor to get them out of it instead of getting back in session to do her job is a leadership fail.
Know your candidates and vote. November is coming.
Photo center left; Rep Haigh takes a moment in Silverdale, WA for interview