Independent Washington voters fed up with the status quo
Independent voters will have a big impact in this year's election cycle, writes guest columnist Erin McCallum. Time to get informed.
Special to The Times
WASHINGTON'S all-important primary election is here. With ballots in Washington state homes, voters are deciding on races for Congress, governor and other statewide offices. With a 46 percent projected voter turnout, this primary election is important for our state's future.
While the presidential and gubernatorial elections capture headlines, the critical races that really impact our lives are those for Washington state Legislature. It is a crowded field of candidates and challenging to navigate.
The top-two primary is Tuesday. Now is the time to become informed.
Based on the responses we heard in three recent, in-depth focus-group discussions we held with independent voters, Washingtonians are fed up with the status quo. The first focus group comprised women in North King and South Snohomish counties. The second focused on communities of color in south King and north Pierce counties and the third focus group consisted of men and women, ages 25-45 in East King County.
Interestingly, they all shared similar views: Our state is headed in the wrong direction, because of poor budget management over many years. They are also tired of the constant string of promises guaranteeing change and progress, but always falling short.
"I manage my family budget based on our income and I expect state government to do the same," shared a working mother in the group.
With 41 percent of Washington voters classifying themselves as independent and the remaining vote block split roughly 32 percent Democrat and 27 percent Republican, this year's elections will be decided by independents. Although voters have a general understanding that government bears the important duty of managing the state's finances and maintaining services like education, transportation and public safety, they also believe the government's process of prioritizing financial resources should be transparent and rooted in sustainability.
This research also revealed that Washingtonians view the two political parties as more inept than ever. These independent voters regard Democrats as having been in power for too long, being too closely associated with organized labor and disconnected from issues related to fiscal management. Meanwhile, Republicans have been in the minority for so long, it is difficult for voters to understand what their plan would be.
This outright public cynicism of state government begs one simple question: What exactly are independent voters looking for in candidates? Primarily, they want to elect individuals who have straightforward and pragmatic economic plans that will grow the state economy through the creation of private-sector jobs, reduced tax rates, and strategic cuts to the state budget in areas other than education. All candidates, whether they have an "R" or "D" beside their name, must have an in-depth understanding of where the public stands on these issues, and then use those ideas as the foundation for their political platforms.
So how can you be sure who those candidates are and where they stand on these important issues? The bipartisan Washington Prosperity Project (www.waprosperity.org) is a website designed to provide Washingtonians with comprehensive election information. The site features useful content, like candidate questionnaires, incumbent voting records and important information related to voting in Washington state.
This we know: every single person in the state of Washington is influenced in some way by state-level politics. It is up to you, as a voter, to determine whether that influence will be positive or negative in the coming years.Erin McCallum is president of Enterprise Washington and the Business Institute of Washington, both of which help companies and employees better understand how elected officials establish public policy, and how to become more involved in the political process. For more information: www.waprosperity.org