Published on August 3rd, 2015 | by Nate Bowling


From the Eastside: Nate Bowling’s last minute Tacoma voters guide to the primaries

Cross-posted at

Tomorrow is primary election day here in Tacoma, so I am sitting down to bang out this post (and my vote by mail ballot).

I believe and teach my students that local elections matter. In my opinion, they matter far more than national elections, but they get nowhere near the attention they deserve. The cure to what ails us as a society (education issues, transportation funding, police oversight, regressive taxation, cronyism, etc.) is more activism and vigilance in local governance issues.

We have a saying in my AP Government class, “bad things happen when good people don’t vote.” And with that as context, I implore you to:

    1. fill out your ballot in order to be heard, and
    2. I offer the following recommendations to you, my internet peeps.

Note: I am a progressive and these suggestions are in alignment with that philosophy. All that said, I welcome your insights and (polite) dissents, in the comments.

Pierce County Special Election Advisory Vote No. 1

The Pierce County Council approved funding for a new Pierce County General Services Building to consolidate the disparate county offices that are located on leased property all over the area. This would create construction jobs and bring dozens if not hundreds of county jobs to the Lincoln District, along Pacific Ave, and near 38th Street (site of the old, long-vacant Puget Sound Hospital). This is an area of town where the only recent businesses to open are eyesores related to the “Medical/Recreational Marijuana Industry.” To me this is no brainer. However, the expected anti-tax, anti-everything crusaders have collected enough signatures to challenge the construction, ergo the advisory vote. Vote yes.

Tacoma City Council

I live on the Eastside and am sadly represented by Joe Lonergan, my least favorite member of the Tacoma City Council and member of the least impressive political dynasty on Planet Earth. I greatly look forward to when he’s term-limited in 2017. Thusly, I’m very jealous of those of you on Hilltop and the North End. If you live in District 1 or District 3, even if you don’t want to vote, please cast a vote on my behalf.

District 3

In District 3, you have a bumper crop of candidates to choose from: there’s a young, black, but supported by much of the establishment candidate (Blocker), a #BlackLivesMatter & $15 NOW! candidate (Brady), a anti-war/pro-labor/working-class candidate (McCarthy), a standard issue non-profit/government employee, urban liberal (Leighton), a small business candidate (Blondin) and still two or three other candidates I am leaving out. I am firmly team Blocker. Keith is active in the community, supervises Americorps volunteers at Peace Community Center and I have known him for nearly a decade. Brady is a great activist but would lose every single vote his entire term: 8-1. I like McCarthy personally and worked with him in the early 00s in antiwar protests, but I am casting my imaginary vote in support of Blocker.  

District 1

In District 1, the incumbent Anders Ibsen is beloved by many liberals in Tacoma, but The News Tribune Editorial  Board pretty much and accurately eviscerated him in this endorsement of Hines:

Ibsen was elected in 2011 and is now finishing his first term… but he’s antagonized almost everyone else on the council. When a challenger, John Hines, filed for the seat, seven of the council’s nine members immediately endorsed him — a dramatic repudiation of Ibsen. Ibsen’s effectiveness is clearly impaired by his difficulty maintaining healthy working relationships with his colleagues.”

Hines, Ibsen’s challenger, a Lincoln Alum and fellow AP Government teacher has my full, unconditional support. I am a donor to Hines’ campaign and will be doorbelling for him if he advances to the General Election. Hines is humble, smart, and gets local governance issues like transit and zoning. I believe we need more teachers in policymaking positions. Trust me here: vote for John.

Tacoma School Board Director

Position 2

This is the toughest one for me. I have met Will Jenkins several times and love hearing him think out loud. I also love his community involvement: he’s a member of the NAACP’s Education Committee and a military vet. He’s the kind of person we need on the school board. He’s passionate and sees nuance in ed policy issues that other people miss.

Sadly, he’s running against a fellow Greener and one of my favorite members of the school board Catherine Ushka. Ushka is plugged into the community and I have had few major disagreements with her during her tenure on the board. It’s a head versus heart situation… a tough one… and I am choosing to not disclose my voting preference on this one. Coin toss.

Position 4

This is the biggest no brainer on the ballot. If elected, Andrea Cobb would instantly be the best education policy mind on our school board. She is a former policy analyst at OPSI, former Director of College Access at University of Puget Sound (read: minority/low income outreach) and currently working for the Tacoma Housing Authority. She sits on the board of Palmer Scholars (an org that provides tens of thousands of dollars to students in the Tacoma area). When I heard Cobb was considering running, I called her and encouraged her to run. I think she would be a phenomenal addition to TPS’ board. Hell, if Cobb was running against my mom, I’d still vote for her. Vote Cobb.

Pierce County Charter Review

I live in Council District No. 5 and the pickings here are slim. I really wish I had more insights on these races and better candidates to choose from, like people do in District No. 4 (more on that next ¶). I know none of the candidates in person or otherwise.

That said, in two of the races there are perennial candidates who run every year as the designated “Republican Sacrifice” to the various incumbent Democrats here in Tacoma. Don’t fall for name recognition: neither merits your vote. They are Steven T. Cook in Pos. 1 and Terry Harder in Pos. 2. In Pos. 1, I recommend April Sanders (note: not a strong recommendation). In Pos. 2, I find no candidate suitable and intend to either undervote (mark no one) or write myself in. In Pos. 3, I support the current President of the Pierce County WA State Employees Local 53, Kenneth Blair (but largely only for his union cred).

If you live in Council District No. 4, as most of my friends do, I recommend Ladenburg for Pos. 1. John is a familiar face in county politics. He’s competent and spearheaded the creation of Chambers Bay. He’s a honestly a giant in comparison to the others in the race. Pos. 2. I’d like to support Jamika Scott, but she couldn’t be bothered to fully fill out her submission for the Voters’ Guide therefore, I default to Timothy Farrell. He’s a former Pierce County Council Member and served reasonably well while serving.

No other candidate, IMO merits consideration. In Position 3, I recommend former County Auditor Cathy Pearsall-Stipek. However, I also like Jamie Nixon, mainly because he looks like a young Harrison Ford.

Port of Tacoma Commissioner No. 5

I rubber stamp the News Tribune’s endorsement of Clare Petrich because… just because.

That’s it… my view from the Eastside. Like I said, I would love to hear your thoughts (as long as they aren’t anti-tax/anti-government drivel–you can keep those to yourself) in the comments.

Please remember, ballots must be submitted tomorrow by 8 pm. Find your nearest ballot drop here.

Join me later this fall: I will be hosting a Tacoma School Board Candidate Forum (September 15 at King’s Books) and a Bring Your Ballot Party (date TBD).


Read the original post on Nate’s blog here.
Featured photo from the twitter feed of the Pierce County Auditor’s Office @piercecountyaud,

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About the Author

Resident of Tacoma's Eastside and lifelong Tacoman. Nate is a Greener and 2014 recipient of the Milken National Educator Award; he will serve as the 2016 Puget Sound ESD Teacher of the Year and teaches AP Government and AP Human Geography at Lincoln High School. #EduColor

2 Responses to From the Eastside: Nate Bowling’s last minute Tacoma voters guide to the primaries

  1. Progress says:

    Leighton and McCarthy are two teachers that you missed naming. I think it is important to mention them as they understand schools and the need for a good education system. I sadly think you’ve picked the wrong horse in District 3. Blocker is backed by the Chamber, flip-flopped on Minimum Wage (I don’t even know where he stands on it anymore. It seems to change every debate/forum I go to), and overall an establishment rubber stamp (Hell Thoms is campaigning with him). Brady and Leighton are a bit more representative of the progressive values of District 3 and they are both policy wonks that know the issues and participated in the Hilltop Subarea Plan. The guiding document to the future of Hilltop. I wouldn’t write off Brady either as the composure of City Council is quite progressive right now. The Chamber is backing Blondin and Blocker. They are simply too conservative for the district.

    In the vein of being anti-establishment I like Anders as well. He doorbells the entire district and fights for a progressive agenda. I like Hines as well, but I think he would be better after Anders. He was unfortunately convinced by “the establishment” to run against Anders and not Conner McCarthy. I don’t want a milquetoast to acquiesce in the campaign run just to get endorsements because everyone was going to support McCarthy. The move from the open seat to the District 1 one was almost unforgivable. Detention 1 election term may suffice though…

    • nate bowling says:

      There isn’t really a bad choice in Dist. 3. I support Blocker but think Leighton would be a fine councilman (it’s a mater of taste, IMO). I am interested in watching how people are responding to Keith. A lot of people are saying he’s moderate, establishment, etc. I don’t think he’s as establishment as people may think. I don’t think black candidates who are hell fire and brimstone-y get elected very often, esp outside of majority black districts. I think Keith is very much representative of the district… as is Justin (circular).

      I like Anders. I have sat down and spoken to him at length. I just think John is a better candidate. That said, if Hines doesn’t advance, I would def support Ibsen over Tara in the general.

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