NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting 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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