NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

Congratulations, Gael!

Last night, as the first election results were released, one of our own learned that she will almost certainly be the next freshman state representative from Washington’s 36th Legislative District, which encompasses neighborhoods like Magnolia and Ballard as well as much of Queen Anne.

On behalf of all of NPI’s other board members and all of NPI’s staff and supporters, I want to congratulate our president, Gael Tarleton, for her decisive, well-deserved victory and wish her well as she prepares to undertake her new responsibilities.

As an organization, we do not endorse candidates or get involved in races for elected office. But as individual activists and Democratic Party leaders, we proudly stood with Gael because we know her. We know her work ethic, we know she is committed to progressive politics, and we know she unequivocally believes in the values we have been working to uphold for more than nine years.

We are well aware that there are folks out there who don’t think Gael is a true progressive. A number of organizations supporting Noel Frame made the unfortunate decision to attack Gael late in the cycle, questioning her commitment to progressive politics and calling into question some of the votes and policy positions she has taken as a port commissioner. Unions such as the Teamsters spent several tens of thousands of dollars on ineffective attack ads against Gael.

I use the adjective ineffective because the results plainly demonstrate that the attacks didn’t work. At present, Gael has a decisive lead over Noel, 57% to 42%. That margin may tighten or widen a bit, but the outcome of the race is apparent at this point. In my mind, there’s no mystery as to why Gael is doing so well: She is winning decisively because she worked hard and earned the voters’ trust.

I have long believed that races for elected office come down to trust. I have yet to meet anyone who claims that their vote is determined by some sort of mathematical calculus. And that’s because people don’t choose who to vote for based on endorsements, issue positions, or even self-interest. They fill in the oval for the person they trust and connect with. Authenticity matters in politics.

Authenticity is also very important to me.

I am a passionate progressive; I believe that progressive values are mainstream American values, the values this country was founded upon centuries ago. I believe in progressive policy directions that improve people’s lives. I believe that leadership means guiding people to new positions, not following polls. And I believe that an effective activist must be action-oriented, resourceful, and capable of thinking long-term… as do NPI’s other staff and board members.

We are trying to do something incredibly difficult at NPI: Build a center for progressive thought that revolutionizes grassroots politics through innovative research and imaginative advocacy. From the ground up… literally.

I started this journey alone more than ten years ago when I launched Permanent Defense to oppose Tim Eyman’s initiatives.

But these days, I’m blessed and privileged to have friends like Gael Tarleton, who have provided endless encouragement and support, inspiring me to keep going even when I’ve felt discouraged. I have worked with Gael for years and know her well; contrary to what some of her critics recently said about her in The Stranger, she is unquestionably a person of integrity and a true progressive.

I trust Gael… and so do the people of the 36th.

Gael believes that trust is earned. She had no intention of attempting to coast to a win based on her name recognition. She made the effort to ask as many people as she possibly could – personally – for their vote. Most candidates who run for Legislature do some amount of door knocking and phone calling, but Gael made a point of going to as many doors and calling as many people as she possibly could. She tries to connect with people because she cares.

It is a testament to her work ethic that she has not lost an election.

In 2007, as a Progressive Majority candidate, she defeated incumbent port commissioner Bob Edwards. Edwards’ consultant, Michael Grossman, tried to discredit Gael by sending out attack mailers to homes throughout King County with her picture next to Dick Cheney’s and the caption “Gael Tarleton might not look like the face of Halliburton, but her old company could be more dangerous to our Port.”

The attacks backfired, and Gael won.

Last year, she sought a second term on the Port Commission. At the close of filing, she was opposed by both current 37th District Democrats Chair Michael Wolfe and perennial candidate Richard Pope, but Wolfe wisely withdrew just a few days later, and Gael went on to easily defeat Pope.

After Representative Mary Lou Dickerson announced her decision to retire back in the spring, Gael made the decision to run for the state House. She finished in first place in the August winnowing election, well ahead of all the other candidates, including all of her Democratic rivals. And in this general election runoff, she has once again prevailed with a clear and convincing majority behind her.

Thankfully, the cycle is now ending and the results will be certified in a few weeks. Come January, Gael will be sworn in as a member of Washington’s House of Representatives, and will begin serving at the state level.

I am confident that Gael will serve her constituents well in Olympia. I hope that, in time, the people who have convinced themselves that Gael is not on their side will realize – or at least begin to realize – that they have misjudged her.

And I hope to see Noel Frame run for office again. We need more young progressives like Noel stepping up and volunteering for public service.

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