U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell came to Bainbridge Island Monday to stump for her fellow Democrat Derek Kilmer and light a fire under the party faithful.
"We have a solution in Derek Kilmer," Cantwell said to a cheering crowd of Democrats at a packed house at the Filipino-American Hall.
"I am here to talk about Derek and to encourage you to make sure that this election goes the way we want it to go," she said.
Kilmer is running for the a U.S. House 6th District seat in Congress, the position that Rep. Norm Dicks has held since 1976 and is retiring from after this term.
The evening fundraiser drew a who's who of local political figures, including Rep. Drew Hansen, Rep. Sherry Appleton, Sen. Christine Rolfes and Trudi Inslee, the wife of gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee. Also in the crowd: Supreme Court candidate Sheryl Gordon McCloud and Superior Court hopeful Karen Klein, Bainbridge Island Councilman David Ward, Bainbridge Mayor Debbi Lester.
The visit by Cantwell and Kilmer came during Washington Democrats’ 26-stop “Jobs for Washington" tour, which is taking Cantwell, Inslee and other Democrats across the state to spur voter turnout and highlight their work on creating jobs. The tour continues on this week to Seattle and Kirkland on Friday and Bellevue, Tacoma and Edmonds on Saturday.
On Bainbridge earlier this week — aside from briefly wishing Rep. Appleton a happy birthday — the message to the audience was urgent; let's hit the streets to motivate voters and elect Democratic Party candidates to office.
Cantwell noted what her party faces on the other side of the aisle — fear.
"There are a bunch of folks in the other Washington who are focused on the fear factor," Cantwell said.
"They would convince you that our economic problems would be solved, that we would get economic growth, if we just privatized Social Security and had voucher Medicare. They couldn't be more wrong," she said.
Cantwell emphasized that Republicans are trying to distract voters from how their economic policies lead to the financial hardships that America currently faces, and how they have been unwilling to help ever since.
"(We faced) 380 filibusters; that's what we faced," she said. Cantwell cited the Tea Party as a contributing factor to the uphill battle that Democrats face, and that they contribute to their opponents' focus on distractions, not solutions.
"As if defunding Planned Parenthood is the key to unlocking the budget battle," Cantwell said. "The Tea Party is not disappearing, but hopefully we can put a dent in their vision for the country."
With little more than a week before the General Election on Nov. 6, Kilmer reminded everyone about the long journey that he's traveled during this election season, and the 31,000 miles he put on his car during the campaign.
"I'm really a very strong supporter of higher fuel efficiency standards," he joked.
"I'm told it takes 24,000 miles to circumnavigate the globe, which explains why I keep ending up in Gig Harbor each night," Kilmer added.
Switching to a more serious tone, Kilmer told three stories about the Washingtonians he has met.
He spoke of a business owner concerned about unemployment, and in a teary-eyed moment that followed, he told of a woman paying $50,000 per treatment for her leukemia, and added that she needs four.
And he finished by saying that he met a prideful American who is considering not voting after he has become so disheartened with politicians and their bickering.
"If everyone who thinks that this (system) is broken sits on the sidelines, we are never going to fix it," Kilmer said.
Kilmer reminded the crowd why he wants to go to Congress: to get people back to work, help the middle class, and protect programs like Medicare and Social Security that people such as his 102-year-old grandmother depend on.
Offstage, Kilmer again put the issue of jobs front and center.
"There's no silver bullet to economic development," Kilmer said. "It's more like silver buckshot."
"Step one is trying to keep the jobs we have, whether that is jobs at the shipyard or on Main Street," he said. "The second thing is I think there needs to be a much stronger effort to help our small businesses."
Kilmer said he is proud of his record of having 80 percent of his bills obtain bipartisan support, and said he wants to continue to collaborate with those across the aisle.
"We need to get Congress back to work. There has been too much partisan bickering and not enough progress," Kilmer said.
"Any time you have folks defining success as making the other guys look like failures, I think we are in trouble," he said.
"The vast majority of people I talk to don't care if we move more to the left or more to the right," Kilmer added. "They just want us to stop moving backward, and start moving forward."