Around 65 people or so showed up; maybe 30 who were not related to campaigns or the organization putting this forum on.
It was well run and from all appearances, scrupulously fair. The Campaign for Liberty appears to have become or started out as a front for the followers of Ron Paul.
Candidates Ann Rivers, Jon Russell, Richard Carson, Brandon Vick and for the first time I've ever seen him in public, Dennis Kampe, the lone democrat running in the 18th, were there.
The only thing I had any real heartburn with was they would ask some really complicated questions requiring thoughtful answers, but then they'd give them 30 seconds on occasion to answer.
Candidates for any elective office must realize both their capabilities... and limitations. My almost 6 years on legislative staff in Olympia taught me nothing if it didn't teach me that no one coming up to that city can snap their fingers an effect change just because they were elected.
Legislation is a collaborative effort. It's not as if any candidate will roll into Caucus on Day One of their first session, snap their fingers and then magically, see that candidates agenda implemented.
Candidates who claim that they, personally, will be able to "fix," or "change" or DO anything other then make a serious, concerted effort are delusion or they're attempting to scam the voter into believing they have super powers.
When, for example, Brandon Vick claims that he will "fix" or "privatize L&I on Day One when you send me to Olympia," this causes me to wonder if he has even a remote clue as to what goes on in Olympia; or more importantly, if he knows HOW it goes on in Olympia.
I'm a supporter of Ann Rivers. I didn't see much of anything to change my mind... and I doubt that many (any?) minds were changed by what they heard or saw at the BGHS Commons.
Dennis Kampe toed the democrat line, mistakenly believing that the government is somehow directly responsible for employing people to the point that he wants to saddle us with this bridge project "to put 17,000 people to work" (which only exaggerated the actual number by a paltry 15,000 or so) as if they all came from Clark County when, in fact, very few from this county would be employed; and as if our local economy wouldn't have a $100,000,000 yearly hole blown in it for tolls.
Kampe appears to believe that government does have a direct responsibility to put people to work while taxpayers pick up the bill. He claims to be big on "looking" at privatization, but refuses to support privatizing either the state's liquor monopoly or the states penal system.
So, while making the claim that "privatization" had to be "looked at," he failed to offer up any example of what he would privatize, and said "no" to the two options presented. In short, he does not support privatization... he just SAYS that he does because he's running in the 18th District.
He also supports a state income tax. Did Kampe SAY he supported that tax? Of course not. But while all of the other candidates opposed such a tax outright, Kampe refused to say... code speak for support.
Brandon Vick also supported replacing the bridge, wrongly telling us that the bridge was "unsafe," a conclusion disproven by head bridge bureaucrat Don Wagner, Region 6 DOT Administrator, who is quoted as telling us
Wagner said he has no doubts the existing crossings are safe , so much so that he drives and cycles across the spans without hesitation.
"If we don't have an earthquake of any magnitude, those two bridges are going to stay there until something hits them," he said.Wagner is getting paid to replace these perfectly serviceable and functional bridges with a price tag of $4 to $8 billion, and even he says they're safe.
That it is, as Vick put it, the only bridge with a light on it for the entire length of it provides no excuse to replace it given the horrific cost and the damage our local economy will suffer if this massive waste is built.
No candidate supporting the replacement of this bridge will be acceptable to me or thousands of others who will have to pay the tolls, estimated at $1300 per year, that will be unavoidably required to get this built. Blowing a $100,000,000 per year hole in our local economy isn't the way to make this county prosperous or to keep our economy humming.
And there is precisely ZERO chance this thing will be built without tolls. That fact is what makes the election of Tim "The Liar" Leavitt so galling to me, since he ran on a platform of fake opposition to bridge tolls.
I believe that the ONLY acceptable alternative would be a 3rd and 4th bridge, with the 3rd being built to the West/North of the current I-5 Bridge to relieve pressure on that span for a great deal LESS money than that projected to replace the I-5 Bridge.
That the I-5 Bridge "has a light" on it is no reason to spend billions on replacing it.
Jon Russell was much more subdued then in past appearances. He apparently read the memo about lying too much.
He did have some bizarre ideas: for example, implementing a sales tax to pay for everything, guaranteeing even more cross-border purchases and even less revenue and in-state economic development as citizens in Spokane, the Tri-Cities, and SW Washington vote with their wallets and increase their shopping trips to Oregon and Idaho... precisely like they will for cigarettes... an idea that also seems to be supported by Brandon Vick.
Amassing an increased tax burden on retail purchases, particularly in these horrific economic times, seems to me to be exactly the wrong thing, at the wrong place and at the wrong time.
That doesn't make the idea a "bad" idea. What it makes it is a "not well thought out" idea. Russell also was positively giddy about his efforts to refuse any stimulus funding for Washougal. He made that point at least twice.
Russell relies a great deal on the verbiage of running on his record. He never addresses the most telling parts of his record, which is why I've started Jon Russell Watch.
Richard Carson is running as an independent. He makes it a point to exclaim that no independent has been elected since 1889... our year of statehood. Well, there's a reason for that.
Carson also never misses the opportunity to remind us that he is related to "Kit" Carson. Unfortunately for Carson, that's really not a reason to vote for him, and he lacks little reason otherwise.
I've addressed Carson's run before: He's a former Republican who looked the field over, decided he couldn't compete, either monetarily or politically, and made the decision to run as an independent, using that along with the "short form" pledge to avoid the nasty aspect of politics known as "fundraising."
He tells everyone that he won't "take special interest money." The problem here is that when you've declared that you won't raise over $5000, that's an easy pledge to take. When you deliberately set the bar so low that a blind man could jump over it in their sleep, that's certainly not a difficult goal to attain.
The problem here, again, is like his Kit Carson connection, it doesn't stand as any reason to vote for the man.
There are precisely 98 members of the State House of Representatives. None of them are now independents. And when session starts in Mid-January, 2011, none of them will be independents then, either.
It was a fascinating thing to watch. Slowly but surely, the differences between them are becoming apparent. And with 60 days or so left before ballot drop, it's not a moment too soon.
Cross posted at Clark County Politics.