County Democrats bullish on elections

Kirk Boxleitner kboxleitner@ptleader.com
Posted 8/21/18

Calls for party unity, optimism about the general election in the fall, the goal of recapturing rural voters and concerns over the fate of the environment were among the themes of the Jefferson …

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County Democrats bullish on elections

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Calls for party unity, optimism about the general election in the fall, the goal of recapturing rural voters and concerns over the fate of the environment were among the themes of the Jefferson County Democrats' 24th annual Fish Feast Aug. 19.

Outgoing Jefferson County Commissioner District 3 Kathleen Kler called for her fellow Democrats to "put aside in-squabbling, but Lauri Chambers, listed as a District 2 representative for the executive board on the Jefferson County Democrats' website, responded by shouting, "Stop attacking people!"

Chambers had previously spoken during the speeches of the Jefferson County Commissioner District 3 candidate Greg Brotherton and Jefferson County Sheriff candidate Joe Nole, objecting to the use of "stolen data," but it was during Kler's remarks Chambers told the crowd, "Our principles have been abandoned."

Kler ultimately completed her remarks, urging Democrats to keep in mind "what's at hand and what's at stake," with the words, "We are who we live with. I am leaving my role, but I will keep my voice."

Tina Podlodowski, who chairs the Washington State Democratic Party, offered some positive statistics for her fellow Democrats, noting U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell received 56 percent of the vote in the recent jungle primary, and 65 percent of the vote in Jefferson County.

Podlodowski noted 70 percent of the state Democrats' new candidates were either women, people of color or people under the age of 35, and while she declared "most of our legislative incumbents are very safe," her numbers painted a far less sunny picture for the Republicans, warning them 26 GOP incumbents either lost to or were trending toward Democrats in the primaries.

"We're not ceding any part of the state," Podlodowski said, who praised Jefferson County voters for having the second-highest turnout in the state in the recent primaries, right behind Mason County, whose turnout, she predicted, Jefferson County would surpass this fall.

State Rep. Noel Frame serves the 36th District, but she spoke of the "obligation to get outside the bubble of Seattle," and asserted the most favored solution for an uneven state economy in Olympia is tax breaks.

"But when I tour the rest of the state, what I hear is people calling for health care, education and affordable child care," Frame said. "The rural agenda is a Democratic agenda."

Frame compared the state's 200 tax exemptions of two decades ago to the 700 she cited as being in place today, which she held up as evidence that "we're not asking the wealthiest among us to pay their fair share."

Cantwell reiterated Podlodowski's praise for Jefferson County's primary vote turnout, and singled out the role of its Precinct Committee Officers in helping to get out the vote, as she recalled how both her parents and her grandparents had been PCOs.

Cantwell pledged to fight Trump administration proposals ranging from drilling off the coast of Washington to tripling the fees for parks.

"We want people to recreate outside, so we should want to expand access to those lands," Cantwell said. "That's why I'm fighting the Interior Secretary, and telling him it's wrong to try and give away public lands."

Cantwell led into the remarks of the Fish Feast's keynote speaker, state Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, by declaring "ocean acidification is real" and "the Salish Sea needs to be cleaned up," after insisting that America cannot move backward in its appreciation for science.

Before Franz even brought up Tahlequah, the orca whale who carried her dead calf for 17 days after giving birth to it, the Commissioner of Public Lands spoke at length about the state of the state's forest lands.

"The largest wildfire fighting team is in the state of Washington right now," Franz said. "Our fire season now runs from April through November."

Franz reported 97 percent of the state is currently experiencing drought, after Washington experienced its hottest May on record, and much of the state has gone more than 60 days without rain.

"There is no part of this state that is without smoke," Franz said. "We've seen 300,000 acres of our forest lands burn, and it's only halfway through this year's fire season."

The good news, according to Franz, is that 96 percent of those individual fires have been kept to less than 10 acres each, thanks to aggressive deployment of air assets.

Still, Franz warned of the other, seemingly self-contradictory consequences of climate change, from "the wettest spring on record" and massive flooding to "dust bowl storms" and drier weather affecting shellfish harvesting, that have all already happened.

Franz reported the Department of Natural Resources is conducting a watershed analysis, with the goal of treating forests in "the worst condition," and aims to open culverts that have been blocking salmon migration.

"The old narrative was that whatever was good for the environment was bad for the economy," and vice versa, Franz said. "But we have experts to attest that a strong economy can only grow within a safe environment. They can only work in concert."

Franz pointed to a DNR program to remove derelict vessels from the state's waterways, and create jobs by deconstructing and recycling their components.

"No matter how much the other Washington tries to divide us,when we work together to solve problems, we all have a stake in each other's success," Franz said.

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