Thursday, August 31, 2006

WA-43 Democratic Primary

When it comes to races in the primary, few are more important than the race for the 43rd District seat (which spans the University District, Capitol Hill, Fremont, and Wallingford) in the Washington State House of Representatives. With the esteemed Ed Murray moving on to the State Senate, there is a void which six Democratic candidates seek to fill, and the winner will assuredly carry the seat in the general election this November. Having reviewed the websites, positions, and experience of all the candidates, allow me to briefly summarize my feelings on each.

Keep in mind that these are six of the best possible candidates for the State House of Representatives and I only dream that we could have such progressive candidates in each district. They share views on most issues, so it becomes important to find out which issues they will tirelessly advocate and what experience they have to demonstrate that.

Lynne Dodson

Lynne Dodson's campaign signs declare "Send a Teacher to Olympia!" and this captures the unique experience she brings to the race. Dodson has taught at the community college level, starting in 1993, and proposes some bold changes to our education system, such as eliminating inequalities in pay amongst educational staff (though I'd like more information on the specifics of this point - inequalities at a given level of instruction? Across geographic regions? Might it not make sense to offer incentives to teach in low income areas? Perhaps that's the reverse of the current problem, but let's be honest about our end goals see the comments; thank you to Lynne Dodson!), a publicly funded early learning education system, and increased state funding for all levels of education - including higher education. In addition, Dodson's website lays out specific proposals on numerous issues, from LGBT rights to gun control, to the environment. Even in this pack of well-qualified candidates, Lynne stands out.

Dick Kelley

In his profile by the Seattle P-I, Kelley makes it clear that his main priority will be campaign finance reform, arguing that no issue "...matters as much as curbing special-interest influence." In doing so, however, he commits the standard error of so many well-meaning politicians, for neither in the article, nor on his website, does he ever define what he means by "special interest groups." Is any organization that lobbies legislators a special interest group? Aren't many such organizations simply formed by citizens banding together to advance their collective interests (the Sierra Club, the ACLU, the PIRGs, etc)? To remove this power of citizens to form organizations to lobby their legislators enhances the power of politicians vis-a-vis their constituents, something with which I am exceedingly uncomfortable. Campaign finance reform is important, but Kelley's plan simply isn't well thought-out enough for my comfort. To his credit, however, Kelley has put his money where his mouth is, limiting campaign contributions to no more than $100 from any person or organization. Additionally, Kelley has worked in government since the mid-1980's, giving him experience with the system.

Jamie Pedersen

Jamie Pedersen is an attorney with a good deal of experience fighting for civil rights. Recently, he served as one of the lead attorneys for Lambda Legal in the court battle for marriage equality, winning twice in the state court system, only to be overturned by a narrow 5-4 majority of the Washington State Supreme Court in a suspect ruling. Jamie has proven himself a tireless advocate of civil rights for all, including LGBTQ individuals. With the departure of Rep. Ed Murray, this is precisely what the 43rd needs. For Pedersen's committed leadership on this issue, he has earned the endorsement of Equal Rights Washington. Though the other candidates suport marriage equality, they do not have the experience of bringing together so many communities in support of it.

Stephanie Pure

As her profile in the Seattle P-I points out, Pure is the youngest candidate for the 43rd. She has served as a legislative aide to Peter Steinbrueck on the Seattle City Council and has been an activist in the Seattle community. In those capacities, Pure has led a successful effort to defeat the Teen Dance Ordinance, protected a city crossing guard program, and helped to expand funding for Seattle's public libraries. In Olympia, Pure promises to focus on improving our educational system through smaller classes and higher teacher salaries, support marrigage equality efforts, and find solutions to provide insurance to more Washingtonians. What strikes me about Pure is her lack of experience in any single field. While I laud her work as an activist, I'm not sure her experience yet qualifies her for the 43rd seat in the same way the other candidates are qualified.

Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman has positioned himself as the candidate with the greatest focus on the environment. His background certainly gives him credibility on this issue: as an attorney, he fought to hold Exxon Mobil accountable for the Prince William Sound oil spill; as an employee at the Department of the Interior, he aided in efforts to block the Repbulican Congress's attempts to undermine environmental protections. As a legislator in Olympia, Sherman promises to enact measures protecting Puget Sound and limiting CO2 emissions in Washington State. In an era where the federal government buries its head further in the sand on global warming and environmental dangers, Washington State will have to lead its own efforts to protect the environment. Sherman is a great candidate to do that.

Jim Steet

Jim Street recently received the endorsement of the Seattle P-I Editorial Board for his wealth of experience as a former City Council member and Superior Court judge. He is the Director of "Reinvesting in Youth," an effort to reform the juvenile justice system. As the representative of the 43rd District, Street plans to focus on issues of transportation, giving public transit, bicycles, pedestrians the priority in transportation matters. Closely related to this, Street wants Olympia to take a stronger stance in support of the environment. Street is yet another exceptionally strong candidate for this position and would undoubtedly represent 43rd District in a strong and sincere manner.


As already stated, all six of these candidates are high caliber and even against most progressives in other districts, any of the six would have my complete support. That said, they are running against one another in the 43rd. Below is my ranking of the candidates, based on their priorities for Olympia and track record of success on those issues:

1.) Jamie Pedersen
2.) Jim Street
3.) Lynne Dodson
4.) Bill Sherman
5.) Stephanie Pure
6.) Dick Kelley

Remember, the primary is September 19th!


Lynne Dodson said...

What a thoughtful analysis - thank you!

In inequalities in pay and benefits, I was referring more specifically to inequalities within educational sectors, compared to our peer states, and under the control of the state legislature (rather than negotiated at the local level.)

For example, one of the most egregious examples of pay inequity is in our community colleges where part time faculty earn, statewide, about 56% of what their full time counterparts earn for teaching the same class. I've long worked for equal pay for equal work!

System-wide, teachers (K-12 through college) earn less than their peers in the other western states, making the recruitment and retention of good teachers very difficult!

For early childhood educators, the situation is acute. Yet, without more public programs most parents cannot afford to pay what would be necessary to ensure decent salaries for these professionals.

In our public institutions, para-professionals, classified staff in our schools and colleges, substitute teachers, and graduate students all rely, to differing degrees on decisions made at the state level that affect their salaries and benefits. My goals are salaries and benefits that are fair and competitive.

Thanks again for your post!

Alex Kim said...

Wow... that's pretty damn impressive. Ms. Dodson, if you're reading this, I go to church with Joan Burton. She wears your button "religiously" every week.

Karl, does Lynne Dodson get bonus points for responding?

Karl Smith said...

Many thanks, Ms. Dodson, for filling in those gaps. I know it's impossible to include everything on a campaign website, so I absolutely appreciate you clarifying those points and have so noted in the main post. My respect for you grows and grows. Best of luck in the primary!

Alex, you certainly have a point that anyone who actively seeks out public opinions deserves additional praise. Let's meet and talk about this sometime.

Ross said...

I'm very impressed that Mrs. Dodson took the time to respond. I wish more politicians had that kind of touch. Nice clarification too.

Lynne Dodson said...

Thanks! I've enjoyed your blog a lot - and the feedback is very helpful.

Wouldn't mind moving up in your ratings though :)

Lynne Dodson said...

..oh, and you mean the outstanding Joan Burton, renowned hiker and author? She's fantastic!