[BY S. SALMI]
Ken Balsley argues that the dictum, “all politics is local,” has been turned on its head. The outcome of the 2017 elections was determined by what he describes as the “Trump effect.”
As evidence, Balsley partly points to incumbent Port Commissioner Bill McGregor barely winning re-election and incumbent Olympia City Councilmember Jannine Roe losing her seat.
This theory makes sense to me. As previously discussed, incumbents typically win re-election in Thurston County unless they are wounded — or hit by an electoral wave that dramatically changes turnout. McGregor’s brush with political death is particularly striking because of the enormous sums of independent money spent on behalf of his campaign.
I haven’t had a chance to drill down into voting data, but I suspect that in a “normal” year Bill Fishburn would have been solidly defeated. By the same token, if Balsley had run for Lacey city council in 2016 he might not have lost — or at least by such a large margin.
Recall that in 2016 local conservatives did pretty well. Although part of the problem was that the Democrats didn’t have the strongest of candidates, the conservative vote appeared to be elevated relative to liberal/progressives — perhaps at least partly due to national dynamics.
In a series of posts Emmett O’Connell has offered useful details on how the candidates did at the precinct level. I’m still percolating on what his maps show, but my initial takeaway is that this year moderate voters seemed to feel unusually comfortable embracing the more liberal or progressive candidate. Why?
Let’s go back to Balsley, who wrote: “I should have seen it coming. I doorbelled more than 1200 homes in Lacey. Not many people asked questions, but those that did had one question they almost always asked — ‘Are you a Republican or Democrat’ and ‘Did you vote for Trump?'”
If this dynamic held across Thurston County, it would make sense that McGregor and his conservative ally Gigi McClure would see their vote totals depressed. But how would one explain Olympia races where two card-carrying Democrats were running against each other?
Perhaps what we’re seeing is elevated populist sensibility among more moderate Democrats and independents in response to the machinations of the other Washington.
One other factor could be that liberal and progressive candidates ran exceptionally strong campaigns, such as by better coordinating among each other.
Of course, if we had instead experienced a conservative wave election the opposite might have been said.
ALL OUR SOURCES:
- Balsley, Ken; 2017. “Politics isn’t local anymore.” Ken’s Corner & The Real News. Posted Nov. 10; accessed Nov. 18.