I remember the first time I voted.
It was 1984, a presidential year. Ronald Reagan was up for re-election, having reminded everybody that it was “morning again in America.” And Walter Mondale had been offered up as a sacrificial lamb by a Democratic party that knew it couldn’t win.
Reagan captured 49 states — all but Mondale’s home of Minnesota — and turned in a victory of historic proportions. As presidential elections go, this was Georgia Tech vs. Cumberland College (you can look that one up).
So, as Reagan was trouncing the Democrats and entrenching a new conservatism, what did I do? I wrote in Roger Alan Jayne for president, of course.
Yes, for my first opportunity to drink from the refreshing fountain of democracy, for my initial chance to exercise my right to make my voice heard … I voted for my father.
It’s not that I had anything against Reagan; I was a big fan. It’s just that he didn’t really need my help in retaining the presidency, and I thought it would be cool if somewhere on some tally sheet some years from now, some historian would notice that Roger Jayne received one vote for president of the United States.
There have been plenty of ballots cast since then, some for Republicans, some not. Some for victors, some not. Some for those who won and later made you wish they hadn’t. Sometimes a candidate can surprise you, for better or worse, once they get into office. Then again, I am the progeny of a man who liked to say, “I voted for Nixon three times, and I’d do it again if I could.”
Such ideological proclamations seem relevant again as we near another election. Ballots are due Tuesday, and while it’s no presidential election — or even a midterm contest with representatives or senators to be selected — there is plenty that is intriguing.
Take the Vancouver races, for example. There’s a contest for mayor. And for three city council positions. And, at the risk of engaging in hyperbole, for the very soul of the city. It’s not often, after all, that voters are faced with clear ideological differences between the candidates.
With Bill Turlay in the mayoral race and Micheline Doan, Jeanne Stewart, and Frank Decker running for council positions, you have candidates who have been dubbed “The Madore 4.” Now, that can be either a compliment or a pejorative, depending upon your opinion of county Commissioner David Madore. And while Turlay, Doan, Stewart, and Decker can generate disparate opinions, one certainty is that they are kindred spirits in their opposition to the Columbia River Crossing proposal.
That’s where it gets interesting. You see, when it comes to the CRC, I happen to agree with Turlay, Doan, Stewart, and Decker. Personally, I don’t believe that light rail is a wise or financially responsible investment, and I don’t think it makes sense for Vancouver. Heck, I don’t think it makes sense for Portland … or Hillsboro … or Beaverton … or Gresham … or Milwaukie, but they’re kind of stuck with it now.
Yet while the CRC and light rail and the prospect of tolls over a new bridge have dominated political discussion on this side of the river for a decade or so, I am leery of those who are single-issue voters. The fact is that Vancouver is growing and will continue to grow, and with that growth comes questions of how to keep the area vibrant and engaging. There’s a lot more that goes into that than the single issue of a new bridge, which might be a back-to-the-drawing-board proposition nearly as soon as the election is over.
Political ads on both sides of the Vancouver races have focused on the bridge and its ancillary issues. Those are important, but they won’t entirely define the city for the future. If the CRC is, in fact, dead … then what will we talk about?
So, who am I voting for? That’s not important; you’re smart enough to make up your own minds. But sometimes I wish my dad was still around so I could write him in on my ballot.