October 17, 2008

After listening to the two presidential candidates spend way too much time during the third debate on what negative campaigning is and who was doing more of it, it became clear that what we need is more focus on issues and less on the delivery. After all, almost any statement can be taken the wrong way if one is determined to take offense.

This morning my opponent and I had a debate at the Greater Spokane AgriBusines Council Meeting. The most interesting questions were the last two, when we each had the opportunity to ask the other a question. I asked Shelly to tell us about her family business experience, understanding that she and her husband had owned a business which had closed. I was curious to hear the answer since I have heard so many rumors in her hometown over what happened when the business failed. There was some risk in giving her a platform to talk about positive lessons learned from business failure, but curiosity got the better of me.

I was surprised by her answer – she insisted that first of all it was her husband’s business and not hers, and second that it was still operating. She insisted she had no business experience. On the Enterprise Washington survey she stated that she and her husband bought the business and she has claimed ownership in other venues as well. The business is definitely closed (building shuttered and taken over by the landlord), and the business license account closed in March 2006. This makes no sense, what’s going on? She went on to ramble about how you don’t actually have to be in business to know about it.

Her question to me was an interesting choice – she stated that knowing that I testified against the Y2Y bill in the 2008 legislature, how would I protect agriculture from the Y2Y coalition in the 2009 legislature. I first gave the safe, short answer - that this is a bad bill for northeast Washington and needs to be stopped for the sake of our communities, agriculture and business. I went on to actually answer the question of “how.”

Last year as I prepared my testimony, knowing that we needed to convince the Democrats on the committee to vote against the bill, I worked on exploiting a weakness I saw in the justification of the bill’s sponsor, claiming this call for a wildlife corridor had local collaborative support. I called local environmental groups and the three tribes in the 7th District and verified that indeed they had not even been contacted, much less involved in any collaborative efforts. One regional environmental leader told me he had tried to get the bill killed before the session, but was unsuccessful. Unfortunately, he was also unwilling to go public with his opposition. The environmental groups are tighter than the Mafia when it comes to keeping silence, and we need to break through that code of silence and get our local environmental groups on board with us to block this bill. Without a broader base of opposition, this bill will keep coming back and coming back like a bad weed that didn’t get the roots pulled out the first time.

I’m sure that answer will show up in a short note somewhere claiming I want to “collaborate with the enemy.” That’s the kind of isolationist thinking that would keep my opponent from being an effective legislator. I call it taking care of business.