Knock, Converse, Write! Here’s Why

Dear Group,

Important elections with the potential to nudge the course of history are often won by small vote margins. In 1994 only four thousand votes out of more than two hundred thousand ushered in the Republican/Libertarian order that brought us McMorris Rodgers and an entire eastern Washington political infrastructure that has tried to tell us how to think for more than two decades.

Every vote counts. In November, 2017, control of the State of Virginia’s House of Delegates remained in Republican hands for lack of a single vote (and a coin toss). This event was not unique.

If you haven’t thought out for whom you’re going to vote in November, now is the time do your research. Go to and click “Voters’ Guide” to see your ballot. Click on the names to see a short bio and a photograph. Visit their websites, contact their campaigns, meet the candidates. Write down the names and your thoughts.

Why now? Why not the night before the ballot is due? Simple. A little investigation now multiplies your voting power. There are just 58 days to the November 6 deadline. Anyone who waits until the election to do their research gets a chance at only one vote per contest. In contrast, if you do a little investigation now you can multiply your vote many times by talking with friends and acquaintances, going door-knocking for a candidate you like, or writing a letter or letters to the editor of one or several local papers. Your contacts with your fellow humans could make the critical difference come November.

Why a letter to the editor? Making yourself write a letter is a good way to compose your thoughts. Those thoughts become talking points, so even if you never get a letter published your diligence has value. If it does get published you have contributed to the drip, drip, drip that forms the opinions of other people. If you get one published mark the date on your calendar so you know when you have a chance of a second one. Otherwise, rest assured your submission not only helped you to clarify your thoughts but contributed to the proportional wave of letter submissions.

This appeal to letter writers is in response to several of my readers suggesting the email I sent last Thursday on the Spokane County Treasurer’s raceprovided good material for a letter to the editor. In the email I contrasted David Green’s expertise with that of the belligerent unqualified career politician opposing him. I have on my computer Baumgartner’s campaign emails from which I quoted. I would be happy to forward them to anyone considering writing a letter. Just click Reply and ask me for them.

For more letter writing material visit the archives of my daily emails I try to maintain at Feel free to use the material there without attribution. I make no personal claim to any of it. I strive for accuracy and try to offer links to back up what I write, but I write so others may use it. I neither have nor do I wish for any copyright.

Here’s a handy guide provided by one of my readers to CD5 newspapers and their opinion pages:

Letters to the editor

Pend Oreille County

Newport Miner/Miner Online (Newport) 509-447-2433 (300 word limit)

Spokane County

 The Spokesman Review 509-459-5000 (200 word limit)

The Pacific Northwest Inlander
1227 W. Summit Parkway
Spokane, WA 99201
Phone: (509) 325-0634
Fax: (509) 626-5875
The Pacific Northwest

Cheney Free Press(Cheney) 509-235-6184 (350 word limit)

Deer Park Tribune(Deer Park) 509-276-5043 (? Word limit)

Stevens County

 Statesman Examiner(Colville) 509-684-4567 (350 word limit)

Independent (Chewalah) 509-935-8422 (limit?)

Ferry County

 Ferry County View (Republic) 509-775-2425 – (limit?)

Lincoln County

 Davenport Times  (Davenport) 509-725-0101 (100-200 Word file if possible)

Odessa Record(Odessa) 5099822632 (no limit)

 Wilbur Register (Wilbur) 509-647-55551 (will consider snail mail letters)

Walla Walla County

 Walla Walla Union Bulletin (Walla Walla) 509-525-3300 (200 limit?)

Whitman County

 Whitman Gazette (Colfax) 509-397-4333 (no limit)

Daily Evergreen (WSU ) 509-335-3194, 509-335-4573

Columbia County

 Dayton Chronicle (Dayton) 509-382-2221 (500 or less word limit)

Times(Waitsburg) 509-337-6631 (400 word limit)

Garfield County

 Pomeroy East Washingtonian  (Pomeroy) 509-843-1313 (1 pg. double spaced) P.O. Box 70,

Pomeroy, WA 99347

Asotin County

Lewiston Morning Tribune(Lewiston) 208-743-6397, 208-743-9600 (limit 250)

Keep to the high ground,

LB/CMR in The Atlantic…and More

Dear Group,

With sixty-one days to go until the General Election on November 6, I offer links to two of my favorite articles from this week.

The first appeared in The Atlantic on Labor Day. It is entitled “The Republican Leadership Member Most Likely to Lose.” It features our very own CD5 Rep and leads off with a great photograph McMorris Rodgers and Paul Ryan. The article is well worth the time to read before rolling up your sleeves, screwing up your courage, signing up, and going out with a group to knock on doors. (Scroll down and click the “Canvassing Links” in Calendar below). There is more than enough evidence this election will be won based on face-to-face, door-by-door conversations.

The second article “It’s not about Kavanaugh’s judicial philosophy” appeared on the opinion page of the Spokesman last Tuesday, September 4. The author is Max Boot, a conservative commentator and thinker worth reading.

I disagree with Boot’s conclusion that “…Trump has every right to appoint a justice who will reflect the preferences of his base.” Mitch McConnell and the Republican Party abdicated any “right” to this appointment when they stiffed Merrick Garland and trashed the filibuster for Supreme Court appointments to approve Neil Gorsuch. That said, Boot’s article is worth reading for it’s takedown of the Republican/Libertarian disingenuous talking points about “originalism” and “judicial activism.” It is past time to lay those ideas to rest. Boot does so incisively.

The prize for Mitch McConnell and the Republican/Libertarians is achieving a laissez-faire capitalist majority on the Supreme Court. With Kavanaugh the Court will lean heavily business and capitalist friendly for decades. 

This illicit Libertarian political takeover of the Court raises the importance of the midterm and 2020 elections. Until 2020 the only protection we can offer the democratic process is to change the Congress, a body now composed of a majority of Trump sycophants anxious to please him as long as he is useful in supporting their ideology. These sycophants, our  CD5 sycophant included, need to go.

We have an historic opportunity this November in eastern Washington to register our disapproval of Trump’s autocratic tendencies and the Republicans who support him. Don’t wake up on November 7 wishing you had done just a little more… Join the door-knockers this weekend.

Back on Monday. See you on the sidewalks.

Keep to the high ground,


An Election for County Treasurer…or a “Knife Fight?”

Dear Group,

“County treasurers in Washington state don’t make policy decisions, but instead follow state law with respect to how public funds are handled, managed, and invested.”

County treasurer is a job best held by someone qualified to do the work, not a career politician. The Democratic candidate for Spokane County Treasurer (an open position this year) is David Green, a certified public accountant with a degree in law and years of experience in finance and management. It would be hard to imagine a more qualified candidate for the job. I encourage you to visit his website, not street-fighting credentials.

Opposing David Green for the position of Spokane County Treasurer is the soon-to-be former State Senator from 6th Legislative District, Michael Baumgartner. I have written of this man’s inappropriate candidacy in a longer article entitled “Expertise or Ideology?

Lacking expertise, Mr. B is running on name recognition re-inforced by a bloom of recycled yard signs (from an attempt to unseat Senator Maria Cantwell), blue themed yard signs that avoid stating his party affiliation or the position for which he is running. He is relying on the electoral inattention of the voters. These signs cry out, “When you see this name ask no questions, just fill in the oval!”

Mr. B’s post-Primary email (8/8/18 at 1:17PM) to his supporters provided the title of this post [the bold is mine]:


Thank you! I’m pleased to have earned 54% of the vote last night, but it’s very clear that this is going to be a very tough election cycle.

The primary is over. The general election is going to be a door-to-door knife fight. Your help is more critical than ever! 

I do not know Mike Baumgartner personally, but having received his legislative and candidate emails for years I despise his attitude. His description of the campaign for Spokane County Treasurer as a “door-to-door knife fight” is far off key for a job that demands expertise, calm, and bi-partisan sensibilities, not gang credentials. 

I encourage you to share this widely, meet David Green, plant a David Green yard sign (I have one), go canvass for him. Let’s send his inappropriately belligerent opponent to the partisan political dust bin where he belongs.

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. For Mr. Baumgartner it seems that everything is a fight, Republicans vs. Democrats, eastern Washington versus western Washington. Life is never about collaboration. I thought this was particularly on display in a fundraising email from him on July 21, 2017:   

...we triangulated a strategy to fund the state’s K-12 McCleary case through a “levy swap equalization” that will reduce overall property taxes on nearly 75% of households (largely in areas represented by Republicans) and increase property taxes largely in the Seattle area (represented by Democrats).

For Mr. B funding public education is a matter of sticking it to the homeowners who live in Legislative Districts represented by those evil Democrats. 

The United States of…Apathy?

A map of the 2016 elections. All the counties depicted in black are places where, if all the eligible voters (note that is not the same as “registered” voters) who didn’t vote had voted as a bloc their vote count would have exceeded that gathered by Trump or Clinton, i.e. those non-voters could have elected “Nobody.”  Source: Philip Kearney, an amateur cartographer based in Austin Texas. Click here for the full page version.

Dear Group,

Yesterday I wrote about the four “debates” scheduled between Lisa Brown and McMorris Rodgers. (“Debates” is in quotes because as yet we don’t know what the format will be. Who makes up the questions? Who asks them? What are the rules? Are these really “debates?”) Understand this: a whole lot of the people who pay attention to these “debates” are voters who have already made up their minds.  They are already engaged and unlikely to change direction except in the event of a major faux pas. Yes, what happens there is important in an election that may turn on a small margin (Remember George Nethercutt unseated Tom Foley by roughly 4000 votes out of 220,000 in 1994), but the debates are just a part of a large picture. 

Take a look at the map above. Click the links in the caption for more detail. In 2016 eligible voters who did not vote, had they voted as a bloc, would have beaten both Clinton and Trump. We’ll call their candidate (since they didn’t vote) “Nobody.” 

Take a close look at eastern WA. Did you assume that central square of red was Spokane County? I did. Look again. It’s Lincoln County, not Spokane. Lincoln County has a grand total of around 7000 registered voters (and another 3,300 eligible but not registered). The other three are Pend Oreille, Garfield, and Columbia. All together those four counties currently total 20,440 registered voters (and another 9000 eligible but not registered). The registered voters in those four counties represent only 4.6% of the total registered electorate in CD5 (about 435,000). Broadly, in U.S. Congressional District 5 in 2016 “Nobody” likely could have beaten either Clinton or Trump. Granted that’s a big hypothetical, but still…the point is that a whole lot of eligible voters aren’t paying attention, much less watching “debates.”

Every vote counts. Voters who will make the difference come election day on November 6 are all those Democrats who usually vote just in the Presidential election years, not in the midterms, along with those Democrats who have come to feel their vote in CD5 just hasn’t counted recently…the dispirited Democrats. Those folks now have reason to hope.

There are good Democratic candidates in nearly every race this fall. That is a change from recent years when, oftentimes no Democrat even filed. Each of them contributes to the electoral buzz.

My conclusion from all this? The debates will be interesting and worth watching, worth talking about for the excitement they produce, but the real difference will be made door-to-door, face-to-face, person-to-person. convincing the dispirited and disconnected this is the time their vote can really make a difference. Adopt a candidate, get to know them, join their campaign. Make it happen. 

Keep to the high ground,


The Debates

Dear Group,

There was political calculation in scheduling a series of four “debates” between Lisa Brown and McMorris Rodgers, a calculation not transparent to us. Before we go any further, mark the dates on your calendar, September 19, October 17, and 18 in Spokane and October 24 in Walla Walla.

McMorris Rodgers has declined a gold-plated, time-flexible invitation from a traditional debate host coalition of Gonzaga Law School, the League of Women Voters, and KXLY.  According to the Spokesman article: “The groups sponsored a nationally televised debate between George Nethercutt and Rep. Tom Foley in 1994, a few weeks before Nethercutt’s historic upset, and again in 2004 when Nethercutt ran against Sen. Patty Murray for her seat.” The excuse offered, according to the Spokesman, was “the congresswoman couldn’t neglect her duties in Washington, D.C., to campaign.” McMorris Rodgers will be camped out in eastern Washington for four and a half weeks between now and the general election. There is plenty of time already scheduled away from “her duties in Washington, D.C.” Is she concerned this fall is starting to look like 1994? 

Perhaps McMorris Rodgers’ election handlers have concluded the format of the Gonzaga/LWV debate, “relying upon panelists to pepper the candidates with questions,” might put her at a disadvantage. A program inviting her to go off script is perilous. Perhaps accepting bad publicity from ducking the invitation from Gonzaga Law and the League of Women Voters seems less risky.  

Look at the debate hosts McMorris Rodgers did accept: Spokesman Review/KHQ on September 19th (during a full week “in district”), Greater Spokane, Inc., October 17th in Spokane, Rotary Club at noon October 18th in Spokane, and the Walla Walla Chamber of Commerce October 24 (during the three and a half weeks “in district” time leading up to the election). 

Where’s the variety? How about a debate on a college campus or under the auspices of the Coalition of Color, two other invitations from Lisa Brown’s campaign? If those are too scary, why not the invitation from League of Women Voters, traditional debate hosts?

Perhaps some letters to editors are in order.

Keep to the high ground,


I’ve copied and pasted below part of the Spokesman article from last August 31. Once again I note the difference between the title for the online version of the article, “Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Lisa Brown have agreed to four debates that don’t include Gonzaga/League of Women Voters event” and the paper version, “CANDIDATES FOR CONGRESS AGREE ON DEBATES McMorris Rodgers, Brown to meet four times this fall.” There is a difference in shading between the author, Kip Hill, and the editor. 

One debate that won’t take place is a contest that has been hosted in the past by the law school, the League of Women Voters and KXLY. Stephen Sepinuck, a Gonzaga professor who helped organize previous debates in the district with those partners, said it was unfortunate the congresswoman declined their request. Brown accepted the invitation.

KXLY is instead finalizing details to broadcast the Greater Spokane event on Oct. 17, said Melissa Luck, news director for the local ABC affiliate.

The groups sponsored a nationally televised debate between George Nethercutt and Rep. Tom Foley in 1994, a few weeks before Nethercutt’s historic upset, and again in 2004 when Nethercutt ran against Sen. Patty Murray for her seat.

“I’m sure they get a lot of requests. I have no doubt about that,” Sepinuck said. “I don’t think every request is equal.”

The Gonzaga debate would not have followed the “town hall” format, Sepinuck said, instead relying upon panelists to pepper the candidates with questions. The format would have included time for follow-up questions and would have been geared more toward governing philosophy questions than strictly on policy, he said.

“This is the third time these organizations have come together, and this is the first time our request has been denied,” Sepinuck said.

Pamela Behring, the president of the local chapter of the League of Women Voters, said they were also disappointed by the decision. The league has asked the congresswoman to appear at their own, independent events during past general elections, but those invitations haven’t been accepted.

“We did ask immediately after the election results were in, and we did open it up to her preferences,” Behring said.

Labor Day, Just the End of Summer?

Dear Group,

Today we celebrate Labor Day, the end of summer, the beginning of school, the return from “the lake.” Is that all it is?

Labor Day, according to wikipedia, “honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws and well-being of the country.” Labor Day has been a federal holiday since 1894. 

Labor Day was established in the waning years of the “Gilded Age,” a time of explosive industrial growth, urbanization, immigration, and a massive increase in income inequality. Labor movements united workers to fight for safe and equitable working conditions and a living wage, as a counterbalance to the growing power of men and corporations controlling vast and increasing wealth. Do any of these issues sound familiar?

The drip, drip, drip of anecdotes and ideas out of the right wing “think tanks” over the last forty years have consistently characterized the labor movement as corrupt, consisting of nefarious labor-politicos bargaining for wages and conditions that would reward undeserving workers while skimming off money for themselves. For example, vividly emblazoned on my memory is my dad railing against the railroad unionists demanding “firemen” on diesel locomotives long after their original job, shoveling coal, was a relic of the past.

Over those decades corporate interests have assembled a mind frame of distrust of unions while constructing a wonderfully Orwellian campaign for “Right to Work” laws the sole purpose of which is to undermine the power of unions vis-à-vis corporations. 

Right-to-work laws do not aim to provide general guarantee of employment to people seeking work, but rather are a government ban on contractual agreements between employers and union employees requiring workers to pay for the costs of union representation. [from wikipedia. If you are not already clear about “Right to Work” I encourage you to read the article.]

Finally voters are starting to pay attention. In August a two thirds majority of voters in the Primary Election election in Missouri, of all places, rejected a “right-to-work” law.. Fox news even covered it.

It is about power and who is deemed to be righteous and good. If voters are fed enough anecdotes about lazy, undeserving people wanting a bigger piece of the pie through unions and collective bargaining, then they can be sold all sorts of things. Things like Trump’s recent and little noticed cancellation of “across-the-board pay raises for civilian workers across the federal government, citing the “nation’s fiscal situation.” Do he and his Republican/Libertarian sycophants imagine we’ve forgotten the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” a law that gave more than a trillion dollars to corporations and the 1%, the new tax law McMorris Rodgers has tried so very hard to spin as “money in your pocket?” (Note she’s mostly not using this line anymore. Has her vaunted skill at messaging faltered?)

The Trump Republican across-the-board wage raise cancellation is just one more swipe at workers, while Trump tiptoes out the back door his tax cut money in hand. How fitting, somehow, that he should make his announcement right before Labor Day weekend…

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. The Gilded Age article is wikipedia I found fascinating. The term Gilded Age comes from a book by Mark Twain entitled The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today published in 1873 highlighting greed and political corruption in post Civil War America. My mind frame around the “Gilded Age” was molded around high school required reading of Upton Sinclair’s book, The Jungle (1906), about the “harsh conditions and exploited lives of immigrants working in the industrialized cities, specifically the meatpacking industry in the late 19th century. Other influences on my view of this era include my father’s lifetime of work as a depot agent with the Milwaukee Road and Protestant/Catholic tensions I grew up with in mid-20th century Wisconsin. All those memories erupted in my reading of the Gilded Age wikipedia article and associated links.