I want to thank the hundreds of local people who donated, doorbelled, made phone calls, wrote postcards, and chauffeured me and other canvassers to rural voters in the district over the past six months. When people asked how things were going, I’d always reply, “I have a plan, and I’m working my plan.” As far as the execution of the campaign is concerned, we did everything we wanted and needed to do, except, of course, the final outcome. With your help we were able to deliver our message of a clean energy transition for Whatcom County.
We had no polling to guide us (except the Primary Election, which is a good reason to have a Primary). We knew that in 2018, in highly partisan races for Legislature, the precincts of the 5th District split the vote 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans. So we knew we had the voters, and votes, and had to turn out those voters and tip the balance just enough in our favor to win. Unfortunately, it turned out to be more like 41%.
As I canvassed, I found that Democrats in the rural areas, those engaged in farming in particular, were almost apologetic but were voting for Ben because land-use regulations and the way the County enforced them were just too much to take. This is not a new sentiment, and it is probably particular to County elections, because it is the main issue that impacts rural landowners in relation to their county government.
The other issue that crossed party lines is the fate of the Cherry Point industrial area. In the three years since the proposed coal export terminal finally died, the County Council has been working on amending the rules that govern the area to ensure they have done all they could to protect the health and safety of our local citizens, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But in these same three years, the “opposition” has built a movement based on claiming we want to “shut the refineries down.” It doesn’t matter if that is true, it’s an easy way to rile people up. I don’t believe that corporate money won this race for Ben, although they did send out 4 mailers in the last weeks full of misinformation about me. We lost it over the last few years as the County Council was unable to wrap up their amendments quickly and the issue festered.
Of course, hindsight is 20-20, and the loss of the 5th District seat may be an acceptable price to pay for fighting climate change and protecting the health and safety of our families and communities. But the most important lesson that keeps hitting me on the head is that we must talk to people who oppose our ideas, and really listen. We must explore alternative solutions that might be more acceptable to a wider community. That’s easier said than done. We keep saying it, but it takes extra time that is easy to not take. And even if we do, they may turn around and lie about you anyway. But the consequences are losing elections and having hard-fought progressive policies overturned.
We elected Satpal and continue to have a majority on the County Council. Now let’s set a shining example of how to govern well! Thanks, again, for all your support.
P.S. You might be wondering what this election tells us about the next. My prediction, based on experience running for legislature in a presidential year as well as many elections since, is that voters locally will pick a party to support at the top of the ticket, the president, and vote that party all the way down the ticket. Local candidates for Legislature, and local issues, will be hard pressed to break through the media wall of Presidential election news, and many voters won’t even know the local candidates’ names.