With no local challengers, 36th District Democrats shift focus

Nationally, there’s certainly a consensus that 2016 has been one of the strangest election cycles in American history.

But local races haven’t been without their share of surprises as well.

In the case of Washington’s 36th District, one of the bluest in the state, the surprise has come in the form of a lack of a race altogether, with Reps. Gael Tarleton and Noel Frame, and Sen. Reuven Carlyle all running unopposed.

It’s a scenario that Jeff Manson, head of the 36th District Democrats, hasn’t seen in his decade of political involvement. Usually, at least one opponent, whether they be a Republican, Libertarian, or a Green Party member, declare their candidacy.

“If you look across the state this year, there are a handful of legislative seats that are completely uncontested, but the fact that three of them are all in the 36th is a little weird,” he said.

Instead, the time and resources that would have gone to ensuring that the incumbents held onto their seats can now be shifted. Manson referred to the group’s efforts as a “two-pronged approach.”

“We’re trying to turn out as many Democrats as possible within the district,” he said. “Our legislators don’t need them, but it helps boost the statewide total.”

But along with that, the organization has also “adopted” Lisa Wellman’s state Senate campaign to unseat Republican incumbent Steve Litzow in the 41st District.

Volunteers will be doorbelling in the district — which covers all of Mercer Island and Bellevue — and organizing carpools on Oct. 9 and 23, and Nov. 6. They’ll also be hosting weekly phonebanks each Tuesday between now and Election Day to reach out to voters as well.

Manson said the manpower that the organization can offer is its biggest plus.

“We’re an all-volunteer organization,” Manson said. “What we can really offer the local political scene is volunteers, so with the three legislators being unopposed, we’re shooting our sites to grow the blue blob across the map, and turn some of the purple-ish district blue.”

The unopposed legislators have also gotten in on the act, with Tarleton and Frame among the hosts of a Seattle fundraiser for Sharlaine LaClair last month, as she attempts to turn a house seat in Whatcom County’s 42nd District blue. Frame has also doorbelled for progressive candidates across the state, including Kristine Reeves in Federal Way’s 30th District, and Shar Lichty in the 6th District of Spokane.

For more information on the 36th District Democrats, visit www.36th.org.

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