Several of the candidates vying for Sharon Nelson’s senate seat will be on Vashon next Wednesday evening for a moderated discussion at Ober Park.
The event, billed as a “picnic in the park with candidates,” was organized by the relatively new island group Unifying for Democracy. Voice of Vashon’s Susan McCabe will moderate, and islanders will have a chance to hear from the candidates on a range of issues, such as improving the ferry system, school funding, tax fairness and restoring the Puget Sound ecosystem. Organizers will prepare questions in advance, in consultation with various activist groups and other leaders on Vashon. The audience will also have the opportunity to submit their own questions and meet the candidates.
“We are trying to provide for engagement between voters and those who are running,” said Art Chippendale, one of the organizers. “That is the way democracy works.”
As of last Friday, the list of candidates planning to attend included Shannon Braddock, Joe Nguyen, Lois Schipper, Sofia Aragon, Hillary Shaw and Annabel Quintero. Islander Lisa Devereau will be out of town but will send a proxy.
With the primary drawing closer and voter pamphlets and ballots being mailed out this week, two of the candidates visited the island over the weekend. Schipper headed to the Farmers Market on Saturday, where she said she talked with market-goers and handed out about 60 pamphlets.
Schipper is a public health nurse and longtime resident of White Center, who is running a grassroots-style campaign. She said that her team has canvassed close to 5,000 homes and reached nearly 7,000 voters in the county.
“We’ve really made it a cornerstone of our work because I think it’s the only way we can win. I’ve had a really great reception — I have to say, I’ve done probably half of those homes myself, at least. People have been incredibly welcoming,” she said.
Schipper’s platform focuses on children and families, education, taxes and addressing gun violence. Asked if she was prepared to find solutions to issues facing Vashon as a state senator — namely, the pressures and challenges of regular ferry service — she replied that she had not inserted herself in the middle of that conversation yet but would if elected.
“I agree that ferries leaving half full isn’t good for anybody,” said Schipper, citing ideas for improvements that could be made to existing parking and traffic lanes for traveling on and off-island. “I appreciate that Vashon is the single population totally dependent on the ferry. I think it merits asking, have we considered every solution?”
The following day, Shannon Braddock met with a small number of islanders at J. G. Commons. Braddock has several endorsements, including from King County Democrats, 34th District Democrats and The Seattle Times. Braddock has worked for the county for eight years, including six years as the chief of staff for King County Councilmember Joe McDermott, who represents Vashon. In that role, she visited Vashon frequently, including regularly attending the former Vashon Community Council meetings. She professes to have a “Keep Vashon weird” bumpersticker.
Last Saturday, she addressed challenges Vashon is facing in particular, including Neighborcare’s financial difficulty, saying she believes all funding options should be on the table, such as potential grants and county and state assistance; ferry system problems and inadequate funding for teacher salaries compared to many other nearby districts.
While she did not have a ready solution for the salary concerns, she said she is well aware of the problem and will learn more about the issues involved, should she be elected.
“Clearly we have a lot more work to do in our education funding,” she added.
Braddock also addressed issues islanders have in common with residents of other communities in the 34th District, such as the need for a more fair tax system and escalating housing prices.
Islander George Eustice joined the conversation, saying he felt Vashon often gets overlooked.
She answered with a flash of humor.
“Having Sharon Nelson as a constituent, there will be no forgetting,” she said.
Meanwhile, islander Lisa Devereau, director of Vashon Island Funeral Services, is continuing with her campaign for the seat. Recently, she said, she had attended a backyard-style fundraiser with 50 guests organized by her campaign manager, Betsy Archambault. She also recently attended the Burien Pride Festival and engaged with the public during the West Seattle Street Market Fair. At press time, Devereau was waiting on word from the Chamber of Commerce about appearing in the upcoming Strawberry Festival parade with supporters.
“Vashon needs a voice, and I want to be the voice for the working class,” she said.
Devereau insists that she is still “in it to win it.” And she encouraged people not to be complacent.
“Get out and vote. No matter who you vote for, vote, vote vote. It’s very important.”
— Paul Rowley contributed to this story.