Reader view: Open letter to the Washington State Democratic Party
Dear Democratic Candidates:
We, the undersigned, encourage you to advocate for the views held by the majority of voters in Washington state.
First of all, we would like to acknowledge that the state party is facing a critical test in the next two years, with impending change in the governor’s mansion and a shuffling of leadership roles at the highest levels of state government. As Democratic elected officials, we are committed to building a big tent and working to reach practical goals that are within the purview of what voters in our communities would actually support.
We’re hoping to articulate the views of grassroots, moderate Democrats. The type of messaging that works in deep blue pockets of Seattle for the Democrats is going to alienate voters in many other parts of the state. We think this is a lost opportunity for the local Democratic Parties because most of our people faithfully voted for Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama. Our state consistently votes for Democrats in state and national elections. So why aren’t some Democratic voters seeing themselves represented in their local Democratic Parties, the county parties and the legislative district parties?
As elected officials, we recognize that the challenges and compromise inherent in governing are distinct from the rhetoric of campaigning. From Renton to Kenmore, we see local Democratic parties endorse challengers to Democratic incumbents. Some of whom may hold fringe views that would not be supported by the communities they wish to govern. Our fear is that as local Democratic parties prop up these candidates to challenge incumbent Democrats, we will end up seeing repeats of the 2019 Seattle City Attorney race, when a Democratic candidate knocked out the moderate incumbent in the primary by advocating for “abolishing the police” and subsequently lost in the general election to a Republican candidate.
Thanks to this epic buffoonery, we now have a Republican city attorney in Seattle who just ended community court. This was a program that had saved the lives of many people in recovery who would otherwise be trapped in the criminal justice system for what many of us now understand is a health issue. This is an example of the backlash that we see from voters when certain candidates treat the primary as an experiment for their unpopular views. Voters rebel and they end up making a Republican electable in a race that no one thought a Republican would ever be competitive in.
The 2019 Seattle City Attorney race is an example of the failure of “defund the police“ rhetoric. Anti-police statements are especially inappropriate in 2023, when property crime is skyrocketing in our state and our communities feel less safe. Washington state already has the lowest police presence per capita in the country and many of our cities are struggling to retain and recruit new law enforcement officers. There are more nuanced ways to address the complex issues of policing and criminal justice reform than bite-sized slogans from social media.
As moderate Democrats, it saddens us that the Republicans have been able to position themselves as the “voice of reason” in the local political dialogue on multiple public safety issues by exploiting these fissures in the local Democratic Parties. Especially when some figures in the local Republican Party themselves hold unpopular views on topics like abortion rights and gun control, which plays a large part in our nation’s public safety crisis. We should not be losing Democratic voters to these Far Right candidates.
Our communities are just as concerned about public safety as they are about affordable housing, and want increased support for drug treatment options and mental health services to help those experiencing homelessness. We strongly believe that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to these societal challenges. What works in one community may not work for another. We call on the Washington State Democratic Party to discourage public disagreements and disparaging comments made from within the party against Democratic officials who may have different perspectives on good public policy. We each know our communities and our constituents best.
These public disagreements obfuscate the issues and may sour our voters on the Democratic Party. We should be known as the party that gets results for our communities. The party that invests in infrastructure, the party that cares for workers, the party that fights for civil rights and protects our freedoms. There are figures in the mainstream media and on social media who want to highlight our party’s internal strife. By feeding these provocateurs material, endorsed Democratic candidates who espouse extreme positions make it difficult for our party to win elections outside of the big cities in Western Washington.
Local government is by far the most non-partisan level of government in our political system. There is very little that the candidates should be disagreeing about when it comes to maintaining livable communities with clean drinking water. We entreat figures on both ends of the political spectrum to stop tearing this country apart to personally enrich themselves by stoking outrage in their bases.
We are better than this. We are proud of our democratic system of government. We know that we can continue to deliver for our voters and fix a lot of the problems that our society is facing post-pandemic.
In conclusion, we entreat key stakeholders in the Washington State Democratic Party to remember that representing the views of the voters is our jobs as public officials. Our representative form of democracy is the envy of the world, and we have to protect it assiduously at all levels of government.
As grassroots Democrats, we look forward to seeing what our candidates do around the state in this municipal election cycle.
— By Jenna Nand, Edmonds City Councilmember
Shirley Sutton, 32nd Legislative District Democrats