Interest in a consequential and compelling presidential election is understandable. But as the results roll in this week — or come to a standstill at times — we are reminded of a quote from Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman.
“The president of the United States doesn’t really affect your daily life that much,” Wyman once told The Columbian Editorial Board. “But the people who do — the port commissioners and the city council members and the school board directors — are literally making decisions that affect your daily life, from the quality of your roads, the books your kids read in school, to how fast a first responder gets to you.”
The importance of such issues could be seen in Washington this week, where voters overwhelmingly approved Referendum 90, affirming a legislative mandate that school districts provide comprehensive, age-appropriate sex education.
It also could be seen at a more local level, where the roughly 7,000 voters in Washougal decided to directly elect their mayor. Currently, city council members choose one of their own to serve as mayor.
As they say, all politics is local — a phrase most often attributed to former House Speaker Tip O’Neill. That mantra has been bastardized in recent years, with outside money increasingly being used to influence local elections, but the meaning remains clear: A candidate must appeal to local voters and stake out a position on local issues in order to be elected.
It is not reasonable to expect Donald Trump or Joe Biden to have an opinion on sex education in Washington schools or how Washougal chooses its mayor, yet those are topics that impact the lives of Clark County residents.
The same can be said for local media. At a time when national cable outlets dominate the media landscape, there is no substitute for the insight provided by a newspaper that is locally owned and staffed by people who live in Clark County. Yes, The Columbian has reported on the national election; more importantly it has provided details of local interest that cannot be gleaned from other news sources.
And so we take note of legislative races, where eight of the nine incumbents from three local districts easily won reelection. Vicki Kraft, a Republican representative from the 17th District, is facing Democrat Tanisha Harris in a race that remains too close to call. Regardless of who wins that contest, Southwest Washington will have an experienced legislative delegation to help shepherd the state through social and economic challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic.
Notably, a write-in effort from Tom Mielke, a former Republican county commissioner, failed to draw attention in the 18th District. Mielke was interested in unseating Republican incumbent Sen. Ann Rivers as much as he was in governing, and voters clearly and properly told him that this is not a time for political shenanigans. Mielke also fell far short in an effort to be elected to the County Charter Review Commission.
There also is a close race for Clark County Council, Position 3, between Karen Bowerman and Jesse James. The incumbent was eliminated in the primary, and the remaining candidates represent starkly different sides of the political spectrum; the makeup of the council will be strongly influenced by the victor in that contest.
For residents of Clark County, those races are just as important as the one for president of the United States. The winners will make decisions that directly affect the quality of life in our communities.