A Bainbridge Bellwether?


Like many Post Alley readers, I let out a tentative sigh of relief as election results rolled in last week. Voters in Ohio voted to amend their state constitution to guarantee the right to abortion. A Democratic governor was reelected in Kentucky. In Virginia, despite the efforts of its Republican governor, voters gave Democrats control of the state legislature.

But it was the election results closer to home that did more to confirm my belief that rational voters can prevail. While it sounds like I might be referring to the Seattle results, I’m not. It was on Bainbridge Island, where I live, that voters demonstrated to me a commitment to sane and balanced election decisions.

Four sitting Bainbridge City Council members were up for reelection. Three were unchallenged. Kirsten Hytopoulos was the lone incumbent to face an opponent. While it’s good for democracy generally to have contested races,Hytopoulos has a solid record marked by strategic thinking and a collaborative work ethic. Her opponent, Dick Haugan, presented himself as a businessman who would be the “best custodian of our public funds,” according to his voter pamphlet statement. He also emphasized assuring that the ”true voice of the people is properly heard and valued.”

In his case, this apparently refers to his penchant for creating polls. I have received his emails linked to polls about affordable housing and other issues on Bainbridge. He must have found my email and many others he contacted on the list of those signed up for the City Manager newsletter. I’m sure that Post Alley readers know this is not how polling should be done. He did not have a representative sample, and he appears to have had no discernible expertise about how to phrase and frame questions. 

On election day, Bainbridge voters rejected his bogus claims. Hytopoulos won slightly over 66 percent of the votes cast compared to 33 percent for Haugan.

By an even wider margin (75.68 percent to 24.32 percent), Bainbridge voters also rejected a challenger to an incumbent for a four-year term on the Bainbridge Island School District. The incumbent, Evan Saint Clair, emphasized in this voter pamphlet statement that he believes the district “must continue pursuing equity, diversity and each child’s sense of belonging.”

His challenger, Thomas R. Greene, ran on a platform that emphasized parents’ rights and echoed the kind of language used by right wing conservatives who elsewhere in the country have been taking over school boards and imposing agendas that ban books and trample on the rights of trans and LGTBQ students. Often it’s the kind of language that sounds inoffensive. After all, who doesn’t believe in parents rights? Sadly, however, it’s becoming coded language for imposing extreme conservative positions on schools.

The results in these two small time Bainbridge races won’t register on the national electoral landscape, and Bainbridge is known to be reliably blue and progressive. Still, I found it heartening that local citizens paid attention and saw through bogus claims. It may be a leap to extrapolate any bellwether from such a small vote, but still, I see it as a hopeful sign amid some of the grim 2024 polls.

Linda Kramer Jenning
Linda Kramer Jenning
Linda Kramer Jenning is an independent journalist who moved to Bainbridge Island after several decades reporting from Washington, D.C. She taught journalism at Georgetown University and is former Washington editor of Glamour.



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