As a result of the growing dissatisfaction with the major parties, passionate Americans all across the country are stepping up to run for office as an independent. Among these candidates is Parker Harris.
Parker has lived in Washington since 2011 and has worked as a energy efficiency engineer and as a teacher at The Attic Learning Community. We caught up with Parker after he announced his independent candidacy for Washington's 45th State Senate district and asked him about his experience as an independent candidate.
It's Washington's 45th district, straddling the border of liberal Seattle and the conservative countryside. There are a lot of tech workers from Microsoft, many wineries and breweries, and some farms. It's a special election because the senator we had, a Republican named Andy Hill, passed away last year. He was a compromiser, and great at reaching out to listen to people. The district has been getting more liberal lately, and the Democrats have a good chance of winning, which would flip the senate. That's why there's so much attention on this race.
Initially I considered running as a Democrat, but when I showed up to some district Democrat meetings talking about how we had to take Republican concerns seriously, it was clear the party wasn't going to get behind a moderate like me. It was then that I realized for sure that the bitter divide was the underlying problem preventing any meaningful progress on big issues in recent years. For a little while I wasn't going to run at all, but I decided to start an independent campaign with the main goal of joining the senate to be a logical, peace-making voice who could help facilitate legislation that was agreeable to both parties. After going door-to-door to thousands of houses, it's clear that people are desperate for this kind of voice but, astonishingly, I seem to be the only person around interesting in actually campaigning for it.
Well it sure ain't going to be easy, but we might start with listening to each other. If we acknowledge that there will obviously be differences of opinion, but nevertheless sit down to have a meaningful conversation about the big issues, I think we will find that there are many goals both sides actually share. A lot of the things the two parties try to work for aren't mutually exclusive. We should start the conversation by focusing on those.
The obvious is a non-partisan voice. As a senator without a party line to tow, I will be able to put my full attention on objectively meeting the needs of our state. I'm a teacher and an engineer, and I think combining my heart and compassion with my analytical engineering skills will be essential to do a good job as a senator. This is especially true when the specific goals of this campaign are to help the different sides understand each other, and to design effective solutions that meet our state's needs and work for everyone.
Most people I talk to love what I'm trying to do, but many, even some who agree, are skeptical that an independent could win. Usually this changes when I explain our top-two system. I'm proud to be running as an independent. I realize now that if I had run as a Democrat, I'd be compromising the foundation of my campaign. Simply joining one of the sides wouldn't do anything about the conflict.
The main issue I'm running on is the partisan divide. If we make progress on that, it will open the door to progress on a host of other issues. One I feel deeply about is reforming our rotten tax code. Washington relies heavily on a high sales tax. This disproportionately taxes lower-income residents, provides an inconsistent revenue stream for the state, and hurts the already-struggling retail industry.
I design and build sailboats. Right now I'm restoring a 1959 King's Cruiser, a 28ft Scandinavian boat with an all mahogany hull. I wonder if I will ever have any more time to devote to it.