Laura Ruderman, a former state representative from Kirkland, was in Whatcom County Monday, Jan. 23 to campaign for the 1st District U.S. Congressional seat being vacated by Jay Inslee as he campaigns for governor.
Asked how she expects to be able to set herself apart from five other Democratic hopefuls with similar positions on many issues, she replied, “I think I will wind up being the candidate that the most number of people have met face-to-face.”
Ruderman said she stressed personal contact during her years in the legislature, in a Republican-leaning 45th District.
“I was known for returning every phone call personally and answering every letter personally,” Ruderman said.
She acknowledges she probably won’t be able to manage that if she gets to Congress. But she promises to make a point of responding directly to some number of constituent inquires every day.
“You’ve got to take yourself out of the bubble on a regular basis,” Ruderman said.
Her top priority will be jobs and the economy, and she was quick to acknowledge that everyone running for office this year seems to have that same priority.
She said she would take a look at the tax codes to eliminate any incentive to move U.S. jobs overseas, while creating new incentives to keep and create jobs here, if possible. She also wants to focus on the educational system, making sure that the system can produce the skilled workers that are needed by major state economic sectors such as aerospace and computer software.
As of today, Ruderman doesn’t think the state education system is on track to produce the next generation of aerospace workers that will be needed to replace those who will retire in the next few years.
She identified her next priority as the environment.
That set up my next question: What’s your take on Gateway Pacific Terminal? Proponents SSA Marine and their allies tout it as a much-needed economic boost. But environmentalists see coal dust, diesel exhaust, noisy trains, and a sasquatch-sized carbon footprint.
Ruderman said she got focused on the issue just three weeks ago, when the new Washington congressional maps put Gateway Pacific in her district.
“It is a complicated issue,” she said.
As she sees it, building the terminal is a “no brainer” if you focus on the short-term economic benefits. But if you look at global environmental impacts, stopping the project begins to look like a no-brainer. She said she would have little, if any problem with a terminal that handled cargoes other than coal.
Part of her focus will be in determining whether a member of Congress has any role to play in the lengthy regulatory process of evaluating the project’s environmental impacts and granting the permits needed to build it. That process will involve several state and federal agencies, as well as Whatcom County.
She also promised that her emerging position on Gateway Pacific will be based on her assessment of what is best for the state and the nation — not a vote-counting exercise.
Ruderman’s other big issue is education. She has been co-chair of Discovery School, one of the alternative “Choice School” programs offered in the Lake Washington School District where she lives.
As she sees it, federal educational policy should focus on encouraging the kind of innovation that promotes educational choices, without pulling students and money out of the public education system.
Ruderman also favors immigration reforms that will help meet the need for agricultural labor while giving at least some immigrant workers a path to legal residency or citizenship. A guest worker program is also acceptable to her.
She said the immigration situation will have to be addressed through compromise in Congress.
“Everybody needs to stop believing they’re going to get 100 percent of what they want,” Ruderman said. “What is the best way to solve the problem? We need to stop pretending that there isn’t a problem.”
The last time I posted about a 1st District candidate campaigning here — Darcy Burner — some of y’all made comments about King County carpetbaggers. Maybe by now, people are getting the word about the new Congressional District boundaries. Those boundaries mean that most of Whatcom County outside Bellingham will share a 1st District congressman or woman with portions of King, Snohomish and Skagit Counties.
And while the lion’s share of the 1st District’s voters are in King and Snohomish, this is likely to be a district where close elections are the rule. That should mean that Whatcom County won’t be ignored, now or in any other Congressional campaign.
This year’s 1st District race promises to be the wildest Congressional race in this state in many years, with six Democrats vying to replace Inslee. There will also be three Republicans, with Whatcom County’s Greg Anders joining John Koster and business consultant James Watkins. Then there’s Larry Ishmael, who was the Republican standard-bearer against Inslee in 2006 and 2008, but says he’s running as an independent this year.