Our legislative district, the 26th, has the distinction of having the most-watched and hotly contested legislative race in the state, between incumbent Democrat Sen. Emily Randall (Bremerton) and Republican challenger Rep. Jesse Young (Gig Harbor).
It is a difficult situation for me because I consider both of these fine people to be my friends, and I have endorsed both candidates in the past.
I was Sen. Randall’s first point of contact before she even returned to the 26th, where she grew up. As chair of the 26th LD Democrats, I saw her as a breath of fresh air blowing across the Salish Sea to our western shores. Here was a candidate — young, photogenic, educated, successful and very intelligent. Most importantly to me, she knew exactly what her goal was and set out with amazing determination. Later, as I watched her campaign, it was easy to see she had a knack for communicating with voters. You could tell that she listened and cared. Nobody was prouder than me when she was elected because I was the first Democrat committee chair to bring home a winner in a long time.
I was helping the Capt. Larry Seaquist campaign before I met Jesse Young. I did my best to ridicule him in the public court of Facebook with cartoons and memes and tried to get under his skin. I feel foolish now admitting I thought I could push Jesse to lose his cool. It didn’t work, but it got Jesse’s attention.
While serving as a Key Pen Parks commissioner, I was impressed by Jesse’s willingness to help with funding to develop Gateway Park, including my pet project, the splash pad. I could see that while we might take different paths to get there, we shared a lot of common goals.
I have the utmost respect for Jesse as a father. He and his wife are raising some amazing kids. I would be happy to have my daughter married off to one of Jesse’s boys, after I’m dead, of course, because I know they were raised right. Even as chair of the opposition, I had to admit Jesse was the better choice in 2018.
I was drawn and quartered and suspended from the Democratic party for two years. I have been denied membership by the state party even after the suspension.
But I am still here and forced to make a decision about November.
A couple of Supreme Court cases now under consideration helped clarify things. First, I resent any blurring of the constitutional separation of church and state, and Jesse’s support for Bremerton’s prayer coach incensed me.
Secondly, while Jesse and I are in 100% agreement that we are personally against abortion, I don’t feel it’s my right to make that decision for someone else. It goes against the notion of individual liberty that his own Republican Party was founded upon.
For me, these two issues represent a dangerous trend in America that threatens our freedoms. I do not want to go backwards on civil rights. While I am a Second Amendment supporting Democrat, I found the display of firearms by Jesse’s supporters at a protest organized by local high school girls to be not only inappropriate but downright scary. This is not the America I want for my daughter, who may be organizing her own protests in a few years.
But what do I want for my daughter? I want someone who I feel is looking after her best interests and her rights as an American. I trust Sen. Randall to do that. I want my daughter to be paid the same amount as the man working next to her. I know Emily is working on that. Most importantly, I want my daughter to grow up to have the freedom to make her own decisions about how she defines her family, including her own medical decisions. There is nobody I would trust more to protect my daughter’s right to choose than my friend Emily Randall.
I see the way my daughter and other girls look at Emily. I want that for my daughter. She sees Emily as an example of how she, too, can be successful if she works hard enough. She sees Emily stick up for those who have long been bullied in our society.
I need her to see Emily succeed.
You can bet that whoever wins, I will be holding their feet to the fire to spend more time listening to our needs on the KP, and to ensure that we get a fair return locally on our tax dollars. It’s what I do.
I encourage everyone — Democrats, Republicans and Independents — with an interest in discussing issues in government and politics and meeting their public officials and candidates to join us at the Home Fire Station at 7 p.m. every third Monday of the month. While the group is called the Key Peninsula Democrats, it is not affiliated with the Democratic Party. In fact, they want me to change the name, which is the reason I don’t.
John “Pat” Kelly lives in Wauna.
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