Pragmatism defines Issaquah, Eastside voters
October 30, 2012
By Warren Kagarise
Local voters could choose a Democrat for the White House, a Republican for the Governor’s Mansion and split legislative seats between the parties.
Experts said voters in Issaquah and the Eastside prefer a brand of politics anchored in pragmatism, rather than party. The effort to appeal to moderate voters is intense as candidates scrounge for votes in the last days before Election Day.
“Democrats and Republicans both get elected there. I think of it as a pragmatic, rather than ideological, sort of politics, which is what Washington state used to be known for,” independent Seattle pollster Stuart Elway said. “I think the state as a whole has gotten more partisan, as the country has, and the party lines seem to have gotten harder.”
In such a polarized political climate, undecided voters in the center carry outsized ability to influence elections. So, local residents can expect even more attention from state and local candidates — in fliers, mailers and TV advertisements — as the clock ticks down to Nov. 6, Election Day.
“These are the type of voters who aren’t as dogmatically partisan,” said Todd Donovan, a Western Washington University political science professor. “They are the kind of centrist swing voters who regularly consider and support a Democrat in the same election where they’re voting for a Republican.”
The intense outreach efforts in the area by the candidates for governor, Democrat Jay Inslee and Republican Rob McKenna, reflect the battleground status.
Chris Vance, a former state representative, King County councilman and state GOP chairman during the 2004 gubernatorial race, said the key to appeal to moderate Eastside voters is to focus on kitchen table issues.
What to know
Watch the Issaquah Candidate Forum daily at 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Issaquah ICTV Channel 21 through Election Day, Nov. 6. Or, watch the forum at www.ci.issaquah.wa.us.
On the Web
Read questions and candidates’ responses from The Issaquah Press’ campaign coverage at http://bit.ly/TcCezP.
“Suburban voters want services. They want good schools, good roads, good parks — and that takes government money,” he said. “Too many Republicans who spend their time listening to talk radio feel like all spending is the same. Well, it’s not.”
Candidates fight for attention
Residents from Newcastle to North Bend said attention is split for the most part between the campaigns for president and governor.
“In a presidential year, down-ballot candidates, like legislators, have a very hard time getting anybody’s attention,” Vance said.
Nathan Perea, a onetime Issaquah City Council candidate and McKenna supporter, said local voters crave concrete proposals and solutions.
“What I see from talking to a lot of voters pretty directly is that they’re really tired of the partisan gridlock,” he said. “More than ever, they’re really seeking substance and knowledge and ability over the traditional rhetoric. People are looking for authenticity and substance out of their candidates.”
Jack Webber, a Snoqualmie teacher and former North Bend city councilman, said despite the independent streak among Eastside voters, most already decided on key races.
“I think, basically, everybody is pretty well settled. I’m not hearing a whole lot of independence, but then I really didn’t hear that from the get-go,” he said. “There seemed to be kind of a mindset on the divisions. There are a lot of people in the middle, and they lean one way or the other, and their lean is pretty well decided. I haven’t heard a lot of switching.”
Find election results online
Expect a long night on Election Day as results dribble out in competitive contests for president and governor.
In the meantime, join The Issaquah Press at www.issaquahpress.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/issaquahpress and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/issaquahpress for the latest information and results from the Nov. 6 election.
In addition to the races for president and governor, Washington voters must also decide federal, statewide, legislative and local contests, plus a series of ballot measures.
In King County, voters must decide Proposition 1 — a property tax levy to renew regional fingerprinting services for police — and elect a sheriff.
John Jensen, a Newcastle resident and husband of Deputy Mayor Lisa Jensen, predicted close races in the contests for governor and attorney general. The race for attorney general is a contest between King County councilmen Reagan Dunn, a Republican, and Democrat Bob Ferguson.
“I think the races are going to be close. I honestly think we are going to be well-served no matter what happens,” John Jensen said. “I think we’re lucky this year.”
Late deciders could tip balance
Tori Jesse, a Sammamish resident, said reaching a decision amid a campaign season awash in attack ads is a challenge.
“I need more than your name and a few bullet points about how bad your opponent is,” she said.
Webber said the deluge of fliers in voters’ mailboxes acts as a deterrent.
“When I talk to people, it’s kind of like, ‘Well, I see all of the signs, but I’m not sure where the candidates stand,’ even though they’ve had tons of fliers,” he said. “People are turned off by the negative fliers right now.”
The race for the 5th Legislative District state Senate seat attracted statewide attention in recent weeks due to bitter exchanges from both sides. The contest pits Issaquah Democrat Mark Mullet against Snoqualmie Republican Brad Toft.
“This is not normal. This is not happening anywhere else in the state,” Vance said. “This race is ugly and weird and really unfortunate.”
Still, despite months of mailers and advertisements directed at the electorate, many voters only started to pay attention after ballots arrived in the mail. King County Elections mailed more than 1.16 million ballots to voters Oct. 17. Residents also received local and state voters’ pamphlets alongside ballots.
Elway said the late deciders and voter participation could tip the balance in important races.
“Now is the phase where the ballots are here, the voting pamphlet is here,” he said. “They’re working their way through the ballot, but it’s not like they’ve been paying much attention to these down-ballot races prior to this.”
Reporters Christina Corrales-Toy and Caleb Heeringa contributed to this report.