Forget the “Blue Wave:” We Did It

A reflection on the 2018 election

by Morgan Steele, Campaign Manager for the Riveters Collective Pledge to Vote campaign

As you watch the recount for the 42nd State Senate seat, don’t attribute the historic closeness of this election to the “blue wave.” It was us: the everyday people of Whatcom and Skagit Counties who stood up, got organized, and fought for change. We didn’t oust Sen. Doug Ericksen like we intended, but we won in many other ways.

 

As the Campaign Manager for the Riveters Collective, I saw it firsthand. The Riveters Collective is a women-led grassroots group with over 4,000 members. Most of us are moms with full time jobs that we balance in addition to the 40+ hours a week we put into building a culture of civic engagement in our community. We were mobilized to action when our local politics ran headlong into the Trump Administration as Ericksen took a second job working for Trump’s EPA.

This fall, the Riveters launched an innovative voter contact program that involved the painstaking work of building relationships with over 15,000 infrequent voters and aiding them throughout the entire electoral process. Most of the voters we talked to were completely unaware there was an election happening, much less an election about the issues most affecting their lives.

For example, one young man we spoke to didn’t know about the election and said he was disinclined to vote. After a conversation with our canvassers, he agreed to take the time to cast his ballot. When our reminder-to-vote postcard showed up in his mailbox a week before the election, he remembered our conversation and voted right away. We met him again at our election night party, where he showed up in person to thank us. Without us, he said, he would never have known how much of a difference one vote could make.

Evan, who voted because we canvassed him.

Our hard work paid off: Our data show that voters we reached were almost 2 times more likely to vote than those we didn’t. We saw dozens of volunteers step out from behind their computers and engage in the nitty-gritty of the electoral process for the first time. To us, this proves that the historic level of voter turnout in the 42nd LD wasn’t due to some intangible “blue wave,” but due to the hard work of everyday people stepping up to lead.

This trend was reflected in the diversity of first-time candidates stepping up to run for office. Riveters Collective held a candidate recruitment event in May to encourage more women and people of color to run. Of the dozen attendees, half decided to compete in 2018 elections. Notably, one of them flipped a historically Republican seat in the State House: Representative-Elect Sharon Shewmake, the economist, mom, and professor who is also our new state representative in the 42nd Legislative District.

Our community’s effort wasn’t just reflected in who we sent to Olympia (a notably more diverse cohort including Debra Lekanoff, the first Native American woman elected to our state legislature), but also in what principles we supported. Our values are clear: we want progressive leadership on the issues affecting our lives. A whopping 66.8% of Bellingham voters chose to tax ourselves in order to bring more affordable housing to our city. Whatcom County voted overwhelmingly in favor of common sense gun control, as 60.2% voted for I-1639. We supported accountable policing with 58.89% voting for I-940. Bellingham voted overwhelmingly in favor of the climate change action at about 54% supporting I-1631.

Ericksen is trying to spin the fact that he hung onto his seat by the skin of his teeth as some kind of victory of people power over big money in elections. He’s right, but not for the reason he thinks: it wasn’t “big money” that brought Justin Boneau within 80 votes of snatching Rep. Luanne Van Werven’s seat in Olympia. Boneau raised less than a third of the donations Van Werven received. It was voters’ thirst for genuine candidates who look and live like us and who will champion the most pressing issues.

When you look back at these elections, don’t see 2018 as “a wave year.” See it as the year everyday folks decided enough was enough. See it as the year Riveters Collective and other local progressives joined forces to build lasting grassroots power. See it as the year we used that power to elect progressive champions at all levels of government.

Then, when you look forward to the upcoming city and countywide elections in 2019, know that we’re just getting started.

Thank you

After countless doors knocked, donations tallied, texts sent, and vote after vote sought, pledged and returned, and so many races yet to be called, there’s only one thing left for the board of directors to say to you, the Riveters Collective.

Thank you.

Thank you for your time, your efforts, your voices, and your bravery.

Thank you to every person who ran for office—who braved campaigning and forums, who earnestly listened to a cacophony of differing opinions, and made the choice to offer your leadership to our community. No matter the outcome of your race, thank you for your willingness to serve.

Thank you to all who served on our endorsement committee and gave hours of your time vetting candidates, not to determine who was the most enigmatic choice, but to determine the candidates you believed most capable of accomplishing the goals of the Riveters’ platform.

Thank you to everyone who showed up to a candidate forum and asked tough questions. Thank you to everyone who wrote a letter to the editor, attended a rally or a protest, joined a new group, donated to a campaign or cause you believed in, or simply engaged in the type of political conversation you would have shied away from 3 years ago.

Thank you to everyone who sat still and listened. Who paused to examine their own privilege, had uncomfortable conversations, and read and learned and discussed new views on intersections and identity.

Thank you to everyone who knocked on doors and made calls and sent mail (both e- and snail) to their fellow voters and our elected representatives. Thank you for holding our government officials accountable. Thank you for helping to crush turnout records. And thank you for inspiring so many others to join in our work.

Two years ago, in the wake of an election that shattered so many of us, the seeds of a movement were planted in our ever-fertile Northwest corner of Washington. Riveters was born out of moxie and collaboration, when a group of ordinary people—women, parents, perfectly average individuals—stopped waiting for those in power to fix things. Although so many of our members would still consider themselves unremarkable, together we’ve accomplished the exceptional, simply through our commitment to doing the work at hand—work that too many of us have neglected for too long.

It’s work we’ve not done perfectly, with plenty of missteps and painful lessons learned. There have been times when we’ve been blind to our privilege and had our edges painfully stretched. We’ve experienced a taste of the personal attacks that too often are directed at any woman in the public sphere. We’ve learned, we’ve grown, and we’ve persisted.

In these election results there are wins and not-wins, and lots of continued nail-biting and challenges to act upon. But what we’re building is not an event or a single election, it’s a habit. It’s an acceptance of our responsibility to one another and the world we live in. We’re reclaiming our space in civic life.

At our election celebration, board member Marissa McGrath quoted Henry Rollins and said “The only thing worse than complacency is complacency.” With all that you’ve made happen these last weeks, months and years, we know that as a community and group, we’ll never be complacent again. So today we celebrate our wins and grieve our losses, and then we get back to the practice of civics. There’s a platform to revise, a candidate bench to build, and so much more to do to nurture our community and democracy. However, one thing is abundantly clear: however much work there is to do, we ARE doing it.

Thank you for all that you do.
The Riveters Club Board of Directors

Three Vs for Victory!

We know how to win on November 6th.

Volunteer

  • Knock doors for candidates and campaigns
  • Sign up for phonebanking or textbanking
  • Babysit for candidates or other volunteers
  • Work on a campaign

GiVe

  • Give $ to candidates and campaigns
  • Give $ to grassroots PACs (donate to Riveters PAC here)
  • Attend fundraisers
  • Co-host a fundraising houseparty with your friends
  • Donate your professional services to a campaign (photography, web skills, graphic design, etc.)

Vote

  • Vote the entire ballot in every election
  • Make sure all of your friends and family are registered to vote
  • Register voters in the community
  • Remind your friends and family to vote
  • Have a voting party at your house

We win when we all do our part. We ARE doing it!

Use these social media graphics to remind your friends to get involved. Right click to save images.

Social media profile pic

 

Facebook cover photo

 

Social media profile pic

 

Graphics by Olivia Hahnel.

2018 Endorsement Process

Riveters Collective 2018 Endorsement Process and Information

  • Riveters Collective has Washington Nonprofit Corporation status, which allows electoral activity, including endorsements.
  • RC Member Jae Heidenreich volunteered to be the Endorsements Committee Chair.
  • RC recruited endorsement committee members by an open call to members through Facebook and email.
    • RC excluded anyone from the committee who had already begun working on a campaign, is a candidate for a local office, or has a formal leadership role in a major political party. For this reason, RC board members Lisa McShane and Stephen Jackson were excluded from the Endorsement Committee, and abstained from involvement in the process.  Michael Peñuelas began working on Tim Ballew’s campaign halfway through the endorsement process and excluded himself from participating in the 42nd district senate race endorsement work. Elizabeth Hartsoch and Eowyn Savela supported the committee’s work, but did not serve on the committee. Elizabeth actively worked on the campaigns of Tim Ballew and Carol Frazey, and excluded herself from assisting the committee’s work on the 42nd district senate race and the county council race.
    • Eleven people responded to the call, met the criteria, completed the application and were appointed to the endorsement committee.  Three of the eleven committee members, also serve on the RC board: Lisa Van Doren, Michael Peñuelas, and Towhee Wean. The other committee members were: Jae Heidenreich, Arlene Feld, Julie Batten (who had to resign from the committee early for personal reasons), Debbi Anderson-Frey, Galen Herz, Amy Rydel, Mehar Singh, and Maggie Davis-Bower.
  • Endorsement committee members formed sub-groups to work on the six different positions.
  • Recognizing that the RC leadership team and endorsement committee are not sufficiently representative of the larger community–and more importantly the more marginalized and vulnerable members of the community–and recognizing that many local progressive groups are prohibited from making candidate endorsements, RC solicited feedback from groups representing diverse interests.  We received and incorporated input from Recreation Northwest, Susan Marks, Whatcom Peace & Justice Center, the Lummi Nation, Racial Justice Coalition, Gender Diversity, Bellingham Tenants Union, and NAMI Whatcom.
  • The Endorsement Committee built questionnaires based on responses from community groups and RC’s platform.
  • The RC board invited the following candidates to participate in our endorsement process:
    • All progressive candidates who filed to run for 40th district representative, 42nd district representative, 42nd district senator, and Whatcom County prosecutor.
    • All candidates who filed to run for Whatcom County council (except Eric Bostrom, due to his hateful and discriminatory public statements and actions).
  • Final questionnaires were shared on the RC website and in the facebook group.
  • Declared candidates were sent RC endorsement questionnaires on May 10th and others were sent at the end of filing week.  Questionnaires were due May 25th.
  • The endorsement committee developed a rubric to rate how well each candidate’s questionnaire responses aligned with the RC platform.
  • The endorsement committee developed candidate interview questions and rubrics.
  • Eleven candidates submitted materials to the endorsement committee by the May 25th deadline.
  • The endorsement committee interviewed candidates June 4-7.  The interviews were recorded on video and will be made available to the public, along with the questionnaire responses.
  • Each endorsement committee member scored candidate written and interview responses.
  • Following extensive conversation, the endorsement committee recommended endorsements  to the RC Board on June 10th.
  • The RC Board used the recommendation of the endorsement committee to vote on the final endorsements.

 

Voters Guides and Endorsements – 2017

 

Ballot hasn’t arrived?  Need a replacement? Call the Whatcom County Auditor 

Riveters Collective Endorsements

Candidate responses to the RC endorsement questionnaires

Lummi Indian Business Council Endorsements

Cascadia Weekly (see pages 7 and 8) 

Whatcom Democrats Endorsements

Progressive Voters Guide

The Stranger 

Whatcom Republicans

 

And if you like pictures:

LIBC Endorsements 2017

 

Wrench art by Kjersten Hayes