There is no shortage of subjects that candidates for local offices can debate in their campaigns this fall.
Don’t expect President Donald J. Trump to be one of them.
What he says and tweets are a daily flashpoint for political discourse. And his tenure in the Oval Office has been a red flag for Democrats — and red herring for Republicans — in special congressional elections around the country.
But there are no federal or statewide offices on the ballot in Washington this year. Aside from a high-profile battle for a state Senate seat in King County, most voters — including those in Snohomish County — will be choosing men and women to serve on school boards, fire commissions, and city and county councils.
They’ll be concerned more with what those folks propose to do for their child’s education and the community’s safety than what that guy in the White House is doing right now.
It’s the point made famous by the late House Speaker Tip O’Neill: All politics are local.
“Local races are actually about issues people care about and things they see every day,” said Seattle pollster Stuart Elway. “It would be hard to draw a direct line from Donald Trump to the Snohomish County Council but it is in the air.”
A Democratic candidate who attempts to make Trump the issue rather than the views of their opponent is unlikely to be successful, especially in a race for a nonpartisan office.
“That’s such a hard sell to say you’re going to fight Trump from the city council,” said D.J. Wilson, a Democrat and former Edmonds City Council member. “Most voters in local elections have some understanding of the role of local government and most of that is about potholes and parks.”
If there is an exception this fall, it will be in a fierce battle between Democrat Manka Dhingra and Republican Jinyoung Englund for the state Senate seat in the 45th Legislative District on the Eastside. Republicans hold the seat and a one-vote majority in the Senate. Democrat Hillary Clinton beat Trump by a wide margin in the district in the 2016 election. Democrats are confident those voters will eschew the GOP brand again and are doing all they can to associate the Republican candidate with Trump.
It may be a year for voters to push candidates to broaden their electoral horizon because policies put forth by the president would affect many, if not all, of their communities.
Consider transportation. Under Trump proposals, Sound Transit could lose out on a couple billion dollars of federal financial aid to help bring light rail service into Snohomish County. Seems like those running for city councils in the transit agency service area, and the Snohomish County Council, owe voters a few words on whether they’ll fight to secure the federal funds and if they have a back-up plan to ensure service reaches Everett.
Or marijuana. The Trump Administration is talking about cracking down on growing and selling of marijuana in states such as Washington where voters made it a legal industry. It might be nice to know how candidates will react if the federal government takes action against owners of these local businesses.
What are candidates’ thoughts on Trump’s ideas for repealing Obamacare, relaxing federal environmental protection regulations, fighting opioid abuse and even pulling out of the North American Free Trade Agreement? These policy changes would have a domino effect on health care services, public safety and economic development.
And it wouldn’t even be a big stretch.
So yes, all politics are local this election, including those of Donald Trump’s.