Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

On the campaign trail with Roger Goodman

Yesterday afternoon, as part of my personal commitment to help Democratic downballot candidates cross the finish line first this November, I took a break from blogging and headed out on the campaign trail with Representative Roger Goodman, who is running for reelection in NPI's home 45th Legislative District.

Like many other Democratic candidates around the state, Roger spends almost every day out in the field doorbelling and talking to voters.

And because he spends a lot of time campaigning out in rural neighborhoods (where horses and dogs outnumber people) he needs trusty campaign volunteers who can give him a lift from house to house.

I signed up for the job because Roger Goodman is a dependable champion for equality, fairness, opportunity, and prosperity.

In other words, the values that the families out here on the Eastside share.

He's a supporter of the Homeowner's Bill of Rights (one of NPI's top legislative priorities), he prime sponsored legislation that expanded early childhood education (HB 3168) and his proposal to hold drunk drivers accountable was signed into law last spring (HB 3254 requires persons convicted of driving under the influence to breathe into an ignition interlock device before they can start their vehicle).

First elected to the Legislature in 2006, Roger has quickly built a reputation as a hard worker and a dedicated public servant. During his freshman term he served as Vice Chair of the House Judiciary Committee and will likely become the Chair if reelected. (The wonderful Pat Lantz, who served as Chair for many years, retired from the Legislature a few months ago).

Yesterday turned out to be one of the most refreshing afternoons I've had in a long time. Watching Roger meet with voters and listen to their concerns reminds me what people powered politics is all about.

It's easy for an activist (and especially easy for a blogger) to get trapped inside a media bubble, tethered to a desk, crunching the crosstabs in the latest poll or jumping to respond to a pathetic editorial in the Seattle Times.

But horse race coverage, polls, editorials, and the like are ultimately sideshows and distractions. What really matters is the mortgage. Job security. College affordability. Finding enough credit to keep the small business going and growing. The things that regular folks are dealing with.

A real grassroots campaign treats voter contact as a big deal.

Knocking on doors is about making the effort to connect with constituents. True representation means two-way communication.

It's something that Roger is really good at.

When he goes to the door, he takes the time to have a meaningful conversation if a voter wants to share what's on his or her mind at length.

Frequently, voters are surprised and impressed to see Roger out in their neighborhood. And that's understandable, because nowadays most "modern" political campaigns are waged solely through direct mail blitzes, broadcast ad wars, robocalls, and the media. Voters don't get to see candidates in person.

Most of the voters that Roger meets are eager to share their concerns. Taxes are widely seen as unfair and unbalanced, although people clearly believe in government and want it to be effective: "Things have to get paid for somehow".

(Fiscal management wouldn't be such a big problem if Olympia would have the courage to enact progressive tax reform, but alas, that just hasn't happened).

On education, the WASL is almost universally disliked as a counterproductive assessment that wastes time and stresses out kids. Voters also want the rising cost of tuition and healthcare to be addressed.

Sprawl and development are other top concerns. Many rural landowners are worried about exurban blight - the spread of bland subdivisions filled with McMansions that take the place of a big meadow, wild ridge, or a grove of trees.

It's difficult for me to truly capture and share these conversations in a post.

Almost nobody rattles off a list or uses the kind of general language I just did at the door. When voters talk about what's on their minds, it's almost always in the form of a story; a short, yet rich and deeply personal narrative about what is affecting them and their families.

As I write this post, the 2008 election cycle is drawing to a close, but opportunities still abound to escape that media bubble and make a difference.

Don't fool yourself into thinking you're not needed: This is an "all hands on deck" moment. Don't consider volunteering on a campaign to be beneath you. It's fun, rewarding, and frequently eye-opening.

Best of all, there are many different ways to have an impact. You can walk your precinct, join a phonebank, distribute information to voters who need it, assist people who need a ride to the polls, or spend the better part of a day helping a candidate knock on doors (as I did).

If you know all of your neighbors and friends are already voting for Barack Obama and Chris Gregoire, then talk to them about downballot candidates like Peter Goldmark, John Ladenburg, and Jim McIntire. Tell them about the consequences of Initiative 985, the More Traffic Measure, and the benefits of Sound Transit's Proposition 1 (Yes on Mass Transit Now).

Don't let these final few days pass by without getting involved.


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