Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Is It Just Me, Or, Is It Just Me?

I spent several hours yesterday at County Commissioner meetings. They held two back-to-back meetings on different topics. The first meeting dealt with local forest issues, and an overview of the local marijuana market. The second meeting was a joint meeting of the County Commissioners and representatives from most of the cities within Benton County to discuss water issues.

Now, as a candidate for County Commissioner, I felt I couldn't miss these. After all, forest issues (stupid timber lawsuit or no stupid timber lawsuit) are important locally. And the still new and forming pot marketplace and its associated issues have impacts locally, statewide, and, per some of the things that came up yesterday, nationwide. Both those issues touch on the environment, the economy, public safety, etc.

As for water issues, well, that's also a subject that has big local impacts. If we have water problems, we have big problems. I thought it was also significant because it was a gathering of the various municipalities involved, which is the kind of discussion/collaboration I am all for. So, as I said, as a candidate for the job of County Commissioner, I felt like I couldn't miss those meetings.

Obviously I was the only candidate who felt that way, because, once again, I was the only County Commissioner candidate who was there. In fact, I was essentially the only member of the public who was there. And it wasn't the first time. Whenever I've gone to a County Commissioner meeting, it is rare to see members of the public there - and I've never seen another County Commissioner candidate there. Never.

Now, part of the problem is likely that the meetings are always at an inconvenient time. Yesterday these meetings started at 9:00 AM, and went straight through until after noon. Or, as that's also known, the middle of the work day. (I had to take time off from work to be there myself.) That makes it tough for members of the public to just come on down, and that factor severely, if not totally, eliminates the public oversight that a governing body like that needs to be informed and credible. Without public oversight, face to face contact with voters, and regular feedback, I just don't know how much credibility the County Commissioners have. It's easy to get out of touch, and/or rely too much on staff recommendations. And that might be how we've arrived at a place where our all-Democrat County Commissioners often vote like they're Republicans.

As for all those Democrats who are currently running for County Commissioner...Wow. It's pretty disappointing how little time even they seem to invest in watching what the County Commissioners are doing. Maybe they feel like since they're all Democrats, they're all on the same page already? I don't know what's up with that. All I do know is that, when you've got meetings like they had yesterday, on topics like those, it sure seems like campaign malpractice to not show up at all. (Though, the truth is, that's pretty much par for the course so far as I can - literally - see. As mentioned, I've never seen any other candidate at any of the County Commissioner meetings I've attended. In conversation with one of the Democratic candidates, they blithely referred to the one time they attended a County Commissioner meeting, as though it was something you just have to observe once to "get it.")

This lack of attendance mirrors the lack of a presence from the Democratic candidates that I've seen at other large, notable and important public events or meetings. I'm often the only candidate in attendance. Which, again, is pretty remarkable given how many people are supposedly "campaigning." But don't be fooled, folks. Don't get hung up on my name, or lack of party affiliation. I am Max Mania, and I am the only serious candidate for Benton County Commissioner. I am the only one who appears to be putting in the time the job requires, and that the voters deserve.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Kids These Days

I'm just getting in from the truly spectacular March for Our Lives event (it was way, way more than just a march) downtown. I got there to help set up just after 7 AM, and spent the next six hours marveling at the positive energy and huge crowd that turned out. (I'd guesstimate there were around 3,500 people there.) Even with some small glitches and delays in setting it up - ones that were beyond anyone's control - it was a notably inspiring event. I hope the news coverage of it does it justice.

Beyond that, I also hope that the elected representatives supposedly serving the kids who arranged this do them justice, and enact some sensible gun control measures. Heads up, congressional candidates: There's a whole generation coming up who aren't going to be fooled by or satisfied with your usual "thought and prayers" routine. Get voting right, or get voted out. Business as usual won't cut it anymore. Don't say you haven't been warned.

In closing, let me give a special shout out to Grace who was the driving force and vision behind the Corvallis march. Without meaning to slight anyone in particular, let me just say that this 16 year old young woman is a great deal more focused and organized than a lot of the full-on adults I deal with. Good job, Grace! You should be proud of yourself - and be aware of how many community members are proud of you.

And, needless to say, a big THANK YOU to everyone who helped make this happen, and to all the people who showed up for the event. And hey - it didn't rain!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Sunshine Week, The Conclusion: Cashing In...And Checking Out?

Some talking points for discussion:

Climate change is real, and threatens the viability of the very planet we live on.

Republicans are in almost total denial about climate change, leaving the Democrats as the default political party that is supposed to embrace reality, and be concerned about finding solutions.

Both Oregon and Washington have state governments that are dominated by/run by Democrats.

Both Oregon and Washington have absolutely failed to pass recent pieces of legislation aimed (in different ways) at addressing climate change. Even with control of the levers of (state) government, the Democrats failed to address the existential threat facing the entire planet.

And yet, the Democrats are the party many people who are deeply concerned about climate change look to for leadership and progress on this monumentally important issue.

Can't we do better than this?

Why? Why have both these states totally failed to respond in a meaningful way legislatively to climate change? What goes on behind the scenes to scuttle even seemingly no-brainer pieces of legislation? Almost everyone agrees on some of the practical, logical steps to take - so what makes the Democrats incapable of stepping up? The same old, same old status quo is literally going to destroy our planet, yet the status remains quo. Nothing meaningful changes.

Rather than focus on "why," let's ponder, one last time, the "what" involved here. Could it be that "what" is driving the stability of the status quo is, as always, money?

Not long ago, state representative Dan Rayfield, well, let me just quote from his own press release: "Representative Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis) announced that he will introduce two bills in the upcoming legislative session aimed at campaign finance reform and increasing government transparency." One of these bills would provide up to $250 in matching funds to match, and thereby supposedly magnify, "small dollar donations."

This idea is supposed to be some sort of great equalizer in the great donation game, whereby "small dollar" donors would be on more of a level playing field with big, corporate donations. (Left unsaid, but tacitly acknowledged is that, yes, it all does come down to raising money to stay in office - literally at all costs.) In the same press release, Rayfield is quoted as saying: "The public deserves to know what potential conflicts of interest each legislator has."
"Conflict of interest" is probably a pretty good synonym for "status quo." Because if a legislator has a "conflict of interest," it essentially means they are somehow making money off of the "status quo," right?

So Dan Rayfield's idea is to magically transmute your (maximum) of $250 into (a maximum) of $500, and sell that to you as a boon to representative government and campaign finance reform.

But how would your (maximum) of $500 stack up against the $2,500 that Rayfield got from Eli Lilly (from Indianapolis, IN) on April Fool's Day in 2016? Or the $1,000 he got from Comcast (Philadelphia, PA) a couple of weeks later?

To me, $250 or $500 is a big chunk of money, but it doesn't hold a candle to the extra zero thrown around by the Oregon Soft Drink PAC when they gave Rayfield $5,000 on October 3rd, 2016. Or, once again, Comcast two days after that with another $1,000 on October 5th, 2016.

How does $500 from, say, an environmentally-minded voter compare to the $2,000 Rayfield hauled in from the Oregon Automobile Dealers Association PAC on October 13th, 2016? Keeping with that theme, how does that hypothetical $500 from a tree-hugging voter stack up against the $2,500 Rayfield got from the Oregon Loggers PAC on October 19th, 2016? Seems kind of puny by comparison, doesn't it?

Of course, it was business as usual for Eli Lilly, who gave Rayfield another $2,500 on December 30th, 2016. That's one way to have a Happy New Year, eh? Maybe that's what good ol' Comcast thought, so they upped their game to $2,000 on December 8th, 2017.

And those are only a few of many, many, many examples - and it doesn't even bring us up to this year, but I think you get the idea. These "reforms" still leave a playing field that is severely deformed, and still very much tilted in favor of corporate interests. Which is to say, the status quo. The same status quo which is, apparently, comfortable with watching us destroy our own planet. In fact, I would argue that these "reforms" actually increase the leverage of big money and corporations in the political process. It's exactly like an auction. If before, say they'd been comfortable paying $500 or $1,000, and now someone else in competition is "bidding" a little higher, guess what? They won't be scared away, they'll just raise their bid accordingly.

Can't we do better than this?

Now, again, this is not to say that Dan Rayfield is doing anything illegal. And maybe he's the best elected representative in the history of the universe, and ignores the political and financial weight behind those big corporate donations (including numerous additional ones from Amazon, Pfizer, AT&T, Bristol-Myers Squibb, the Toy Industry Association, Inc., 1-800 Contacts, Inc. PhRMA, etc., etc.) and only does what is 100% in the best interest of each and every one of his constituents. Maybe. (I'm using him as an example because he came up via the earlier explorations of money and the OLCV, and I started looking at his website and financial disclosures.)

But it doesn't take much imagination to see how, at the very, very least, it creates a perception problem - as in, it could easily be perceived that politicians are in the pocket (or the wallet) of rich, powerful interests operating at the expense of the public good. I mean, think about it: Do you, personally, feel like you can financially compete with Eli Lilly? Or Comcast? Or any of dozens of rich, powerful corporations with money to burn?

It's all pretty sickening, and extremely undemocratic. But it explains a lot about the lack of efficacy of, say, the Democratic Party when it comes to addressing huge issues, like, let's say climate change, in states they effectively control. The idea of "first, do no harm" gets replaced with "first, make no waves." Except, of course, for the ever-higher waves lapping at our coastlines due to, you know, climate change.

If you want a real campaign finance reform bill, how about something like this: Limit any and all donations from corporations, and/or their agents, and/or their employees to just $250 a year, per politician. Pair that with Rayfield's idea to amplify donations from citizens of up to $250, and you might have something. Make a case that will get Citizens United back before the Supreme Court. Take a stand, and tilt the playing field in favor of the people, rather than big money.

But that wasn't what was proposed, was it? And until something like that is proposed, and enacted, a lot of us will still be asking: Can't we do better than this?

And that brings a close to Sunshine Week. Thanks to all the people who have been reading these.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Sunshine Week, Part Three: Money Makes the World Go 'Round...But Should It?

For me, a lot of all this comes down to a pretty basic question: Do we (as a people, as voters) want money to be the determinative factor in politics? Do we want a system where public service is given lip service, but cold hard cash is the lifeblood that makes things move? Are people really ready to embrace a system where idealists are seen as suckers, and only those willing to exchange favors (and other valuables) are able to get things done?

And if so, what, exactly, is likely to get done?

Let me state again: None of what follows is (so far as I know) illegal. But does it leave you feeling good about the system, legal or not?

Going back to the previous post...Why is it that Candidate Y, who is running for Benton County Commissioner, and was seeking the endorsement of the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, wound up being interviewed in Dan Rayfield's office? What are we to make of the fact that the person interviewing Candidate Y, Harry Demarest, has no official connection to the OLCV at all? Is there significance to the fact that Demarest and Pat Malone are friends? What's the connection between Rayfield, Demarest, Malone and the OLCV?

Could it In various amounts, and at various times, money has flowed back and forth between all those players over the years. Demarest has given Rayfield thousands of dollars over the years. The OLCV has given money to Rayfield. The OLCV has endorsed Rayfield. Demarest has given a fair share of money to Annabelle Jaramillo, the sitting Benton County Commissioner who has, yes, endorsed Pat Malone. Pat Malone has been endorsed by the OLCV. 'Round and 'round we go...

It's a tight, seemingly Invitation Only club, and the ones frozen out currently are any and all candidates not named Pat Malone. All legal, to be sure, and all very, very clubby and exclusive. Once again, I am so glad I'm not running as a Democrat.

Now, again, I know you have to spend some money to run a political campaign, even a smaller one. I have a budget for my campaign this year, and I'm looking at spending around $2,000, total. I intend to donate half of that myself, and then raise the other half. For me, it's more important to spend smart than it is to spend big. I've run for office once in my life, and I was outspent by my opponent by at least ten-to-one, if not more.

I won.

(Oh, and I won as a progressive environmentalist in a community that trends Republican.)

Anyway, as we head into election season, it's not unusual to get your funding in order. Pat Malone certainly has. For one thing, he gave his own campaign a whopping $7,000 last November. That alone would explain all the expensive lawn signs, buttons, brochures, photos, stickers, etc. that the Malone campaign has been distributing since last year. It's more than obvious that Pat is planning to spend big on his campaign.

But, more interestingly, Pat has been raising money through his campaign committee for years. As in, even in off years, non-election years. And big, big chunks of that money have been coming from out of state. I don't know who Norman Zoref (self-employed) of Long Beach, California is, but he's been very generous to Pat Malone, giving him $500 in February of 2014, $1,000 in April of 2015, and another $500 in November of 2017. Raoul Enriquez (not employed) of Seattle, Washington is also pretty generous, giving Pat $300 in March of 2015, another $300 in April of 2016, and then upping his game to $400 in July of 2017. (He's also had other generous out of state donors as well, many in the same $300 to $500 range.)

Please note how most of those donations came in during non-election years. And please understand these are only the larger, out of state donations - I haven't gone into the thousands of dollars pouring in from local sources, in non-election years. Why would someone want to raise so much money in off years when they're nowhere near running for office? Could it be that fresh flowing cash is required to get into that exclusive, clubby club mentioned above?

Let's kind of flip that question over, shall we, and look at all this cash catching activity another way. Does all this money chasing and swapping leave you feeling like ideals and the power of good ideas and a commitment to public service are driving the process? Benton County isn't that big; should it really take spending tens of thousands of dollars to run for County Commissioner?

Allow me to repeat myself: I ran for office before, and got wildly outspent, and won. Why? Because I had better ideas and more energy than my opponent. I don't like to waste money. And a great deal of campaign spending is a total waste of money. But, with the disconnection it engenders, it also proves to be a great waste and withering of democracy. Buy ads! More lawn signs! More and bigger signs! More bigger more! Don't even bother trying to raise people's hopes or expectations - just bludgeon them down with lawn signs, buttons, brochures, etc. If you can't inspire, you might still be able to make a majority of voters comply. At least that's the thinking.

As a strategy, I find that pretty lacking - on every level. If you keep a campaign lean and, in the best way, cheap, it forces you to be active, to work, to listen. You earn votes, rather than trying to buy them. That's the model I embrace. Less fund raising, and more consciousness raising. Less spending, and a lot more spending of time with voters, hearing what they have to say.

I've already spent probably a couple hundred hours actively seeking out and listening to people. And I haven't spent even a hundred cents to do so. Sure, I will eventually spend some money, and I will do some fundraising. But even that can be done in a creative, progressive way that embodies public service.

I'll have more on that later. For now, I just urge you to think about the ramifications of having a political system that is so dependent on chasing cash. This isn't really about Pat Malone, or anyone else named here. It's about the system. Does it make you feel proud, or a little ill? Do we just accept it as the price of, well, doing business, I guess...or do we aspire to something more responsive, accountable and meaningful?

In the end, do we stand together, united as citizens, or do we all just submit to living in the shadow of Citizens United?

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Sunshine Week, Part Two: How Much Do I Have to Pay For Your Worthless Endorsement?

Let's start at the end, shall we? The Oregon League of Conservation Voters has officially endorsed Pat Malone in the primary election for Benton County Commissioner. And for further context before we begin, here's the OLCV's Mission Statement: "To pass laws that protect Oregon's environmental legacy, elect pro-environment candidates to office, and hold all of our elected officials accountable."

So, let's get right to the whole "holding accountable" thing, including some accountability for the OLCV. I will walk you through the whole questionable process of gaining OLCV's "endorsement."

First of all, the filing period for this position closed at 5 PM on March 6th. That was the deadline for any and all party-affiliated candidates to sign up, declare their intentions, and get in the race. And, lo and behold, there was actually a last minute candidate, Christine Kramer, who signed up (as a Democrat) just minutes before the filing period closed. Again, that filing period closed at 5 PM, on March 6th.

The OLCV had their official endorsement out by 7 PM on March 8th - if not earlier. In other words, there is no way that they could have actually assessed all the candidates in the primary race before issuing their endorsement. Just looking at the times and dates makes that clear. And to be clear, I have talked with other candidates, and know for a fact that they didn't talk to all of the candidates.

And if you don't talk to all the candidates, and deliberate over their relative merits, then what good is your endorsement? It becomes meaningless, a sham - or maybe even an outright scam.

I've named Christine Kramer simply because by explaining the whole time of filing versus the time of the endorsement thing it would be clear to anybody who I was talking about, even if I didn't name her.

Now let's talk about the experience of another candidate for Benton County Commissioner - let's call them Candidate X. After filing, Candidate X heard from the OLCV, and was asked to fill out a questionnaire, and given a deadline for getting it back to them. Then, before the deadline was up, they contacted Candidate X again, told them to forget that deadline, and that they'd be in touch.

And that was the last that Candidate X heard from the OLCV, until hearing (from a third party, not the OLCV) that they had endorsed Pat Malone.

So, again, if you don't consider all the candidates...AND actively jerk candidates around, what is your endorsement worth? What is it really telling us?

Moving on, let's now consider the experience of Candidate Y, who seems to have gotten further along in the process than Candidate X did, but to no good end.

Candidate Y also was contacted by the OLCV, and sent a questionnaire to fill out, which included a deadline. The stated deadline was already in the past when the OLCV sent the questionnaire. When Candidate Y pointed this out to the OLCV, they offered a new deadline. Candidate Y met that deadline, and was even called in for an interview.

The interview took place in Dan Rayfield's office. The interview, for the endorsement of the OLCV, was conducted by Harold (Harry) Demarest - who is not actually associated or affiliated with the OLCV, but who is known as a money man in local Democratic circles. (The Rayfield connection makes sense being that Demarest has given Rayfield thousands of dollars in campaign contributions over the years.)

Candidate Y described Demarest as being alternately badgering and bullying as they went over the questionnaire. But the questionnaire was just a pretext, it seems. It all came down to the final questions, ones that weren't on the questionnaire: "How much money are you going to raise? How much money are you going to raise for us?" The "us" apparently referred to the Benton County Democratic Party. Candidate Y, not expecting this question in an interview from an environmental group that was supposed to be about their endorsement, was apparently somewhat thrown. (I'm going to assume the only correct answers to those questions would be, "A lot!" or possibly "How much do you want me to raise?")

In any case, Candidate Y is obviously not Pat Malone, because Candidate Y did not get the OLCV's endorsement - and, again, didn't hear back from them, either. No feedback, no nothing. My assumption is that Candidate Y was just the window dressing of going through the process, in case anyone asked, while I also assume that Pat Malone didn't actually have to answer a single question, or be interviewed. Because, clearly, from everything I can see about the "process" of this endorsement, the fix was very much in. (Hint: Follow the money...Stay tuned!)

So, when you see Pat's slick website, or his sure-to-be-coming expensive mailers, or his inevitable costly newspaper ads, all touting his "endorsement" by the OLCV, take it for what it's worth. Which is to say, nothing. It's just part of the corruption, dysfunction and garbage that is involved in partisan politics. At the risk of sounding like a broken record...When you see all this sleazy behavior, is it any wonder I chose to run unaffiliated with a political party?

Full disclosure: Let me make it clear, this is NOT a case of sour grapes on my part. I am not in the primary election, therefore, there is no way I would even be eligible for a primary endorsement. But that doesn't mean I can't still be outraged and disgusted by the obvious sleazy skullduggery and lying that is involved in this. NO ONE is well served by this sort of backroom fixing of elections - not the public, not the process, and certainly not the environment. The only thing that this arrangement serves is to line the pockets of connected people involved, and to perpetuate a dysfunctional business as usual. So be sure to stay tuned for my next installment in this series, which will look at all the money, money, money flowing around our local elections. The next part will feature lots more exciting live links, as well as lots of interesting/questionable out of state guests/donors.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Sunshine Week, Part One: Pay to Play

It's the start of Sunshine Week, the week in which we are supposed to acknowledge and celebrate the idea that government works best, and is most accountable, when its actions are done in the full light of day. Shine a light, so the notion goes, and the darkness and corruption recedes.

So here goes. I am going to be sharing a few facts here, and asking a few questions. I will try to keep this as brief and clear as possible.

First questions: In general, should elections be up for sale? In other words, should it be possible to essentially buy an elected office? Does the influence of money, and the nurturing of greed, enhance our democracy, or corrode it?

Now, as you know, I am running for Benton County Commissioner as an independent, unaffiliated candidate. But most candidates, either locally or nationally, run as a member of either the Democratic or Republican Party. For the last couple of decades, the Democrats have had a lock on all three seats for our County Commissioners. In other words, whatever Democrat has made it through the primary, would be the next County Commissioner.

So, in a crowded Democratic primary, such as the one we have now, with SIX candidates, you can imagine the pressure to come out on top might be intense. Some candidates might even be tempted to do whatever it takes to ensure victory.

Second set of questions: Is it ethical for officials in a local political party to also have for profit "political consulting" businesses that they pitch to candidates? In other words, when it comes to the business of selecting the best candidate for the local party to support, is it honest, ethical or aboveboard to have people in positions to make those decisions personally standing to profit from them? Does that not raise the specter of whichever candidate is willing to pay the most for "consulting" getting the official, institutional support they need?

The current Chair of the Benton County Democrats, Rick Osborn, has such a consulting business. The current First Vice Chair, Lauana Beaty, does too. Beaty is also, conveniently enough, seemingly the sole member of the Benton County Democrats Fund Raising Committee. (See links to the Benton Democrats website here: Just click on committees for drop down membership information.)

On January 17, 2018, Pat Malone paid Lauana Beaty $800 for "social media & photography." (See link to the Oregon Secretary of State's office record here: ) In my mind, that is a huge red flag, raising all sorts of ethical alarms about her mixing her roles as a Democratic Party leader and a for profit business owner.

It is especially alarming given that, once that transaction had taken place, many behind the scenes actions started occurring - all of which either benefited Pat Malone, and/or worked to the detriment of the other Democratic primary candidates. (My next piece in the Sunshine Week series here will be about how you buy important endorsements.) And now, just next week, Beaty and Osborn are "hosting" a supposedly non-partisan debate - one that will feature only Democrats - and, while the public is invited, Beaty and Osborn will be screening all questions asked. Beaty may like to go by the name "Sunny Blue," but it sure seems like she is trying to block sunshine, not let more in.

Finally, to go back to the start of this whole process for a sort of bonus ethical question...Who were the local Democrats on the Candidate Development Committee? Well, that would be Pat Malone and Rick Osborn. (See link here: Again, just click on the committee name for drop down membership information.) On the national level, Democrats called foul when Dick Cheney led a search for Vice Presidential candidates and found, gosh, Dick Cheney. So the question becomes will local Democrats also smell something foul in this process?

Is it any wonder that I'm running as an unaffiliated candidate? I know you have to spend at least a little money to run for office, but I refuse to pay to play. I'm willing to pay legitimate costs, but not anything that costs me my integrity.

Full disclosure: I am writing this after having exchanged a number of pleasant and informative phone calls and e-mails with other candidates running for Benton County Commissioner. From my perspective, looking ahead to the general election, I believe that Pat Malone would be one of the easier candidates for me to best at the ballot box. But I would rather we wind up with a general election in which the public simply gets to choose between the best candidates. That is what would be best for the public good, and the public trust. In terms of candidates who are ethical, honest, and viable, I believe there are just three of us: Myself, Vince Adams, and Nancy Wyse. If anyone reading this wants to consider this a split endorsement for the primary, I am comfortable with that.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Motivation and Accountability

There were a number of factors that lead me to signing up to run for Benton County Commissioner. Some were the classic motivators, like people who outright asked me to run. But most of what got me to sign on were things I observed myself, as part of just watching our county government operate.

What sort of things? Well, things like our deep blue county going in with a bunch of deep red counties to sue the state of Oregon - to sue the state of Oregon over a policy that our own County Commissioners actually endorsed when it was put in place. Things like a budget process that seems to have its priorities all twisted up - giving a half a million dollars to a museum that does not need the money, while simultaneously stiffing groups that needed funds for children's health and education, animal control, etc. I went to meeting after meeting of the County Commissioners, and was always the only member of the public there - there seems to be little to no public oversight of what our County Commissioners do.

Where there is no oversight, there cannot be much accountabiliy. And indeed, I haven't been able to detect a great deal of public oversight on the county level here.

I was reminded of all this in reading a column by Thomas Edsall in the New York Times last week. It's titled, What Motivates Voters More Than Loyalty? Loathing.

Here are the opening lines of the column:

Hostility to the opposition party and its candidates has now reached a level where loathing motivates voters more than loyalty.

The building strength of partisan antipathy - "negative partisanship" - has radically altered politics. Anger has become the primary tool for motivating voters. Ticket splitting is dying out. But perhaps the most important consequence of the current power of political anger is that there has been a marked decline in the accountability of public officials to the electorate.

Now, let's apply this idea to our own local political scene. In Benton County, roughly a third of voters are registered as Republicans. In other words, in any given contested election, if local Republicans get only Republican votes, they are unlikely to win. Almost as many voters here are registered as unaffiliated as Republican, and the largest pool of voters are registered as Democrats.

In other words, in a straight up, D vs. R election, the Republicans can't win. The flip side of that, at least for the last couple of decades, has been that the anointed Democrat can't lose. And, taking that one step further, if you can't lose, you don't really have to worry about being accountable, do you? Especially not when there is also an ever-growing negative partisanship in the populace.

So, how do we get to a place where our Democratic elected officials are suing their own state over a policy they agree with, and are cutting funds for children's wellbeing from the budget? Because there's precious little accountability here, and, thanks to negative partisanship, voters can tell themselves things like, "Well, I might not like what they did - but at least they aren't Republicans!"

Of course, this distorted perspective helps people gloss over the fact that their Democratic representatives are behaving more like Republicans. (Maybe that even counts as a twisted sort of bipartisanship in some people's view?) I see it as a form of bait-and-switch, myself. Voters are getting the short end of the stick, our policies are suffering because of it, and the whole system gets bogged down with dysfunction.

If nothing else, I hope to bring a little clarity back to the governing process. I am a progressive; I will govern like a progressive. I believe the health and education of our children is more important than, say, a museum; that is how I will vote. I am a progressive because I believe in making progress.

Very much related to this, I also intend to bring some accountability to our local county government. As I say, I am running as a progressive, and will govern as a progressive. If I do not govern that way, I urge you to call me out on it. If calling me out does not work, and get the results you expect, I urge you to recall me, or run against me yourself. You will know what you are getting if you vote for me. There will be no bait-and-switch.  

Finally, in terms of negative partisanship...Well, like a man once said, there it is. It's hard to deny its existence or influence. It's a toxin in our political system, and that's a big part of why I am running as an unaffiliated, nonpartisan candidate. I intend to speak to your hopes, and inspire you, regardless of your political affiliation. Just as I am running to represent you, I am wanting you to vote for me, the person - not just some familiar, comforting letter that comes after my name on a lawn sign. In short, I'm counting on the power of good ideas to carry me to victory in November.