Demos dig in on island

"Ryan Schierling/Staff PhotoField director Lin Kamer-Walker hangs campaign posters at the new Democratic party headquarters upstairs at the Winslow Mall. The headquarters is the first on the island since 1992.Points for the cleverest campaign button would probably go to the woman flashing Read My Lips: No New Texans.And thus commenced a season of serious sloganeering, as local Democrats rallied to promote a new campaign headquarters upstairs at Winslow Mall Thursday evening.It's going to be more of a fight than a dialog, promised Jim Sharpe, chair of Kitsap County Democrats, to the cheers of about four dozen party faithful.Loyalists were treated to a cheese-and-veggie plate and a bit of speechifyin' from an array of party officials, including state Democratic chair Paul Berendt.Local officials and wannabes on hand included state Rep. Phil Rockefeller and legislative hopeful David Harrison, both island residents; state Sen. Betti Sheldon of Bremerton; and Kitsap County Commissioner Chris Endresen of Poulsbo. Trudi Inslee, hailed as Bainbridge's first lady, and local aid Fran Moyer represented Inslee's husband Jay, 1st District Congressman.Each took perfunctory turns at the microphone, reciting a party mantra of family-wage jobs, better health care coverage, and full funding for local public schools.We're going to work to help those who are left behind and vulnerable - that's our charter as Democrats, Rockefeller said.The one-term incumbent also sought to assuage the concerns of backers apparently upset by reports that he is considering a run for the commissioner of public lands post, soon to be vacated by Jennifer Belcher.Rockefeller said that since news of the possible move broke this week, many constituents had called to offer their thoughts.Some of you said, 'you've got to be kidding - don't do it,' he said. Others of you said it would be a great fit.While not ruling out a run to replace Belcher, Rockefeller suggested that he will probably stay closer to home.Unless something really strange happens, I think you'll find that I'm working hard for re-election, he said.Harrison, who has taken leave from his University of Washington teaching duties for a doorbelling campaign, said he has already raised $35,000 in his bid to unseat Beverly Woods of Poulsbo. Woods was appointed earlier this year to complete the term of longtime representative Karen Schmidt.Both Democrats and the local GOP have traditionally relied on individual candidates to operate out of their homes or otherwise fend for themselves. The last formal campaign office on Bainbridge was actually a Ross Perot outpost on Winslow Way in 1992.This year, though, Kitsap Democratic candidates agreed to chip in money from their own campaigns to support a Bainbridge office, supplementing the local party headquarters in Bremerton.The move reflects the significance the island has assumed in regional politics.Bainbridge Island wins our races, said former island resident Nancy Biery, now field director for Washington State Democrats.Bainbridge absolutely wins us every single election - in the 1st (congressional) District, the 23rd (legislative) District, in Kitsap County, she said. Without Bainbridge voters, Democrats don't win.Sharpe also credited the resurgence of the local party organization, which he said was largely moribund when he got involved in 1994.And with both a congressman and a state legislator in residence, and from the precinct results of recent elections, Bainbridge Island is also now seen as something of a party bastion. Estimates Thursday varied slightly, with islanders who consistently vote the Democratic ticket placed at 65-72 percent.Sharpe noted that islanders hugely rejected Initiative 695, with 72 percent opposed. Those results flew in the face of state and countywide results, as the GOP-backed initiative saw 56 percent approval before it was thrown out by a King County Superior Court judge.Even moderate Republican Karen Schmidt, who stepped down earlier this year, was routinely beaten on Bainbridge despite longtime residence here.Local Republicans have no plans to open an office on the island, although Friends of the Republican Party will hold an informal gathering at 7:30 p.m. May 25 at the Harbour House Pub, Bainbridge spokesperson Trish McCandless said.We just decided we'd have a central place (on Highway 3 near Bremerton), because we have to serve South Kitsap, too, she said.Of course, there aren't many Republicans here, either, Biery noted Thursday.The Bainbridge Island Democratic office will be staffed five days a week through the fall campaigns. Local contacts are Lin Kamer-Walker and Connie Waddington; phone is 842-0954."

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