The coming election: We need candidates who will answer questions completely and thoroughly


Thomas Jefferson wrote that a well-informed electorate is a necessary precursor to a healthy democracy. One would think that today, with a proliferation of information “channels”, and a plethora of candidates for most offices, who really want to win, we voters would be inundated with information about who these people really are and what they want to do if elected.

But it is not really working out as Jefferson hoped, is it? Port Townsend elected a QAnon believer as Mayor. New York elected a, “Zelig” to Congress. And a President was elected in 2016 who…well, ok, voters should have known who and what he was, notwithstanding the vacuous coverage of CNN, et al., but many didn’t know the true magnitude of his depravity.

The challenges to creating and sustaining an informed electorate are myriad, but generally fall into two categories: 1) media/journalists, and 2) candidates themselves. Of course, voters are responsible to pay at least a modicum of attention and attempt to learn about the candidates. But, without a well-functioning political press (inc. local press), and candidates who are often all too happy to not volunteer information they are concerned may lose them some votes, voters are left with little to help them make an informed choice.

The fractured state of our political press generally (when I came to Olympia there were 28 reporters covering the Capitol, now there are five), and the erosion of our local press (between 2005 and 2020 one quarter of local papers ceased publishing) is a common source of consternation for anyone concerned about the inherent value of journalism in our society. 

Though some national reporters and media outlets are finally willing to use words like “liar” and fact check some politicians most wild assertions, their unwillingness and inability to do so in 2016, helped perpetuate the horse-race coverage and were conspicuously silent to the farce that is often our Presidential campaigns now.

Here in Olympia, the paucity of information we have about those who want to represent us, spend our money and lead the community, is at least partly the fault of an impotent “local” paper. And while The JOLT is very much helping to fill in the gaps, I am still, as a voter, very much underinformed about who are candidates really are, and where they stand. 

The problem is exacerbated for voters, as well as eligible and, therefore, potential voters, when the candidates themselves play hide the ball and give us scant information about who they really are and what they want to do.

In races for the Olympia School Board, we had at least two in the primary, and now have at least one candidate who seems to be using right-wing dog whistles, is relying on a well-known right-wing funder, and refuses to answer questions about his true intentions. Frank Durocher, running in District 2, tells us in the Voter Pamphlet, well, very little actually, but he does say he “is not here for a social agenda”. Ugh? His largest funder is Alesha Perkins, well known for her Fox News appearances where she lambastes "gender fluidity" which is, according to her, "taught in our schools". When asked by voters for some clarity on his true intentions, he would not answer questions about the role of parents in school decision-making, or that of libraries. (In perhaps the greatest karmic result in the Primary, Flojo, another apparent right-wing candidate, who was motivated at least in part by the Board’s appointment of Taluana Reed, was then beat…by her).

There are also, of course, those politicians who simply lack the courage to take a position and refuse to tell voters what they really believe and want to do if elected. 

While often most prevalent on the right side of political thought, it is not only right-wing candidates who are opaque in their job interviews with the public. In the face for Mayor in Olympia, one, and the likely winning candidate, Dontae Payne, has been noteworthy for his unwillingness to say anything substantive, even after serving on the Council for two years.

He was an early supporter of the Regional Fire Authority measure which suffered a huge defeat in April, and apparently has no mea culpa, or even “lessons learned” after the voters overwhelmingly said no thanks at the polls. On the recent survey where Olympians overwhelmingly conveyed unhappiness with the state of the City, and their safety concerns about downtown, Payne’s response: he stated it validated what the Council is working on, questioned the validity of the survey and said the 70% result of people saying City is going in wrong direction is just a “vocal minority”.

We need to ask all candidates questions about who they really are and what they want to do if elected. If they don’t answer, completely and thoroughly, vote for someone else, or at least, don’t vote for them.

          ~ Russ Lehman, Olympia  

The opinions expressed above are those of the writer and not necessarily those of  The JOLT's staff or board of directors.  Got something to say about a topic of interest to Thurston County residents? Send it to us and we’ll most likely publish it. See the Contribute your news button at the top of every page.



8 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • Southsoundguy

    Hopefully we vote to end the democracy charade.

    Wednesday, September 20 Report this

  • wildnature

    I totally agree with this author. Thank you for speaking up.

    Thursday, September 21 Report this

  • Yeti1981

    It is certainly an interesting thing to hear varying takes from folks about candidates they either like or dislike. For example, I have spoken with all of the candidates the writer mentions here, and I took away the exact opposite reaction as the writer. So, the thing about opinions are that they are hard to separate from our preconceived biases. My advice to any voter would be to formulate your own opinions and try to speak with some of your local candidates directly if you can.

    Thursday, September 21 Report this

  • Lehman

    Yeti1981, the candidates I referred to above are those I "like and dislike". I have voted for one of them, twice. Your response mentions the obvious... opinions are often connected to preconceived biases. Perhaps it would be more helpful to the readers if you actually stated where these candidates are, at least on the issues raised above, since you have talked to them and presumably know their positions. Also, perhaps it would help readers also if you identify yourself.

    Of course, I completely agree with you when you state "My advice to any voter would be to formulate your own opinions and try to speak with some of your local candidates directly if you can." Kinda the point of the piece above...these candidates have NOT been open and forthright with voters, specifically asking them their positions, in order that they "formulate their own opinions"!

    Thursday, September 21 Report this

  • RileyJ

    Thank you again Mr Lehman for pointing out the deficiencies of our current voting situation. I could not agree more with your opinion. You provided critical information on the regional ire cash grab. Please continue to provide information.

    Friday, September 22 Report this

  • Yeti1981

    Mr. Lehman, I will provide an example simply from Dontae Payne's website. You stated "Dontae Payne, has been noteworthy for his unwillingness to say anything substantive..." I took a look at his website and on Affordable Housing he says, "We need multiple types, styles, and sizes of housing, with an eye on transit-oriented density." I'm unsure how "substantive" you would like him to be on his website. However, this sentence alone provides that he supports middle housing and urban density. That so happens to be in line with the GMA and also the mission of local homebuilders. Dontae happens to even have an entire section labeled "What I've done" that lists many of the votes he has taken and items he has supported. Frank Duracher takes a little more work to investigate, as do most school board candidates, but I've been able to locate historical videos from the past two years with him speaking at meetings and I've also ran into him in the community. Now, your opinion on the statements he has made are ceratinly your own and I'm not knocking them, but a little bit of investigation and you can see that he has made further comments around the rights of students, leading with kindness, and more. I also found that he was lambasted as a bigot after a long speech he gave about treating each other with kindness, but I'm not into judging folks like that without knowing them. It is a difficult thing to put yourself out there and run for office, and many policy idea specifics develop during that process. In fact, most candidates don't know exactly what will work and have a somewhat vague idea of the overall issues. That's the beautiful thing about democracy, we're all really learning a bit more each day. However, I have yet to meet a local candidate that wasn't willing to have a coffee and talk about the issues. They're typically very reachable. I do understand though that the general public is busy and often not familiar with the various ways of gaining information on specific candidates. I would say reach out to the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, maybe a PAC if your part of an organization, or do some investigating on Google, and even the PDC.

    Friday, September 22 Report this

  • Freddie

    Mr. Lehman bemoans the lack of accurate information from local candidates. He then claims that the city of Port Townsend elected a QAnon believer as mayor. Wrong, as usual, Mr. Lehman. It was Sequim. Par for the course from this author.

    Sunday, September 24 Report this

  • ConservativeHippie

    Interesting JOLT would print such a biased perspective. Perhaps the printing shows the biased lens and requires the reader to discern for themselves.

    Russ was appointed by Jay Inslee to the Public Disclosure Commission, a body charged with reporting and regulating financial donations in politics.

    He attempts to hide his biased hit job on a critique of valid voter information brought to the public; as if he is one of the plebs searching for information crumbs from candidates. No, he is a political insider perfectly aware of the system and structure. Don't be fooled.

    The fact is there are a myriad of ways for voters to search out information on candidates. Most crave the attention of public questions and interaction. Subscription paywalls of half hearted biased journalistic endeavors were never the best method of learning about candidates. It has always been self sought research.

    Let me give you some inside baseball insight. Frank Derocher scares the Democratic elite like Russ because he's an actual stakeholder within the school board institution standing up against a degradation of what used to be a pinnacle of pride for Olympia ... the Oly School District. Russ and his comrades need to degrade a parent volunteer like Derocher.

    At the end Russ shows concern for safety in Olympia, and yet just trashed the School Board candidate in favor of bringing School Resource Officers back to the hallways of Oly School District.

    Which is it Russ? And why can't you find a website and or myriad of public events where the candidates can be reached for questions? Ahhh, a hit piece on one, and public pressure applied to the other. Got it.

    And finally the comments about Perkins, a private citizen participating in politics. Just flip the slander on its head and apply the same derogatory language. These hit pieces are gross.

    Moms and dads participating in School Boards and the debate on school issues is literally what democracy is all about. Apparently like op ed hit pieces from political insiders.

    Monday, September 25 Report this