By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index
From potholes to tax rates, political candidates and issues are rarely abstract.
You might think of politicians as being isolated in their plush offices distant from the impacts of their policies and decisions, but the reality is that corridors of power, from state capitols to The White House, depends on the votes of those of us who live in neighborhoods and legislative or congressional districts.
And, again, whether we believe it or not, political offices are held by people, not that different from most of us, from our own local neighborhoods and districts.
This became even more obvious with the recent resignation of Senator Jeannie Darneille (D-Tacoma).
After more than two decades of service in the Washington State Legislature, Sen. Jeannie Darneille announced her retirement. Her resignation will be effective this fall and is not yet determined.
Darneille leaves the Legislature to serve in a newly created position of Assistant Secretary — Women’s Prison Division for the Department of Corrections.
Her future work will focus on the development of gender responsive programs that will better address the unique needs of women who are incarcerated at the Washington Corrections Center for Women (Purdy) and the Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women (Belfair).
This is a logical next step, and a good fit for her.
In her work in the Legislature, Darneille has a well-earned reputation as a determined fighter for social justice issues.
As chair of the Senate Human Services, Reentry & Rehabilitation Committee, she sponsored and/or facilitated the passage of landmark bills to expand our social safety net, improve the child welfare system, reform the juvenile justice and criminal legal systems, reduce racial disproportionality in those systems, and expand services and opportunities for people who are returning to their communities after experiencing incarceration.
She has also participated in numerous task forces and commissions, has worked to improve the accessibility and quality of behavioral health services, expand opportunities for accessible and affordable housing for all, increase education funding for all learners; expand health care for children, families, and people with disabilities; develop a safe environment for children and adults to learn, grow, and thrive; safeguard civil liberties; and promote economic opportunities for all people of Washington.
Before joining the Legislature, Darneille had a 30-year career in higher education administration and management of nonprofit organizations offering social services.
She served as Executive Director of the Pierce County AIDS Foundation when she first ran for office in 2000.
Her work extended across poverty reduction programs, early learning, homelessness, immigrant and refugee assistance, and women’s programs,
To put it mildly, her resignation has thrown the Democratic Party into more than its usual disarray.
Her four-year Senate term that began in January 2021 will be filled by a temporary appointee, who will serve through the November 2022 election.
Since Darneille was elected as a democrat, the replacement appointee will be chosen by the Pierce County Council from a list of three names submitted by the 27th District’s Democratic Precinct Committee Officers.
Who, or what, is a Precinct Committee Officer?
A Precinct Committee Officer (PCO) is an unpaid elected or appointed party representative. Both parties have them; for Republicans, look here – https://wsrp.org/pco/, for Democrats, look here https://www.wa-democrats.org/local/pco/.
PCOs elect local (or , on occasion, state) Party leadership, help fill vacancies in elected office, register local voters and participate in local policy development.
There are about sixty Democratic, and about twenty-six Republican PCOs in the 27th Legislative District.
PCOs are elected, but if only one person files for office in any given precinct, he or she is deemed elected.
Volunteering to be a PCO is a great way to become involved with local issues and to see how (or if) the established parties respond to them.
Many precincts do not have current PCOs, check the website to see if there is an opportunity for you to make your presence and priorities known.
If you want to get involved with politics without a designated party affiliation, we highly recommend the League of Women Voters of Washington – https://lwvwa.org/.
As mentioned above, the 27th District’s Democratic Precinct Committee Officers will put forth a roster of three potential candidates to fill out the rest of Jeannie Darneille’s term.
They will put that list together on October 16.
If you know of any suitable candidates or would like to nominate someone, contact a local party official or your local PCO before that date.
All politics is local
This transition and picking of a replacement is a microcosm of how our political system works.
Those characteristics of an ideal candidate – near-endless self-promotion and networking are rarely, if ever, the best qualifications for getting things done as an elected official.
This contrast with campaigning skills and the requisite skills for effectiveness while in office is a difficult enough challenge.
Both parties fall into the temptation of making a statement about their candidate or any given issue instead of focusing on either electability or effectiveness while in office.
In general, Republicans are better at getting into office, but not always as good at accomplishing their stated, or promised, goals. And they are far better at sticking to their issues or candidates no matter what happens.
They also, for whatever reason, are far more likely to hoist banners on their homes or stickers on their cars than democrats.
Democrats tend to love infighting, questioning their own candidates and making lofty ideological statements wrapped around multiple burning current issues – often far more than Republicans concern themselves with.
Republicans focus on one or two issues (like abortion and taxes) while Democrats tend to scatter in their focus on everything from the environment to identity issues.