Conservative Challengers Seek to Take Local Leadership Off of Autopilot

Posted: July 9, 2014 in Uncategorized

Michael DelavarJohn Ley Rockhold
Left to Right: Chris Rockhold, Michael Delavar , and John Ley


This year’s election cycle may have more turbulance than usual as three local Republican incumbents have drawn grassroots-oriented primary opponents. In the 3rd Congressional district, Michael Delavar (R-Washougal) is running against Jaime Herrera-Beutler. In the 18th Legislative district, John Ley (R-Camas) is challenging Brandon Vick for the State Representative seat, and in the 17th, Chris Rockhold (L-Vancouver) squares off against Representative Paul Harris. While each candidate brings a slightly different approach to their campaigns, they all have one interesting thing in common; they are all airline pilots.

So why do pilots feel such an easy transition from their jobs to becoming leaders in the political sphere? It makes intuitive sense: Pilots are often entrusted with the lives of hundreds of passengers every day. They are also skilled in communicating with those passengers in a confident and competent manner. They are trained to deal with crisis-situations with calmness and maturity. Finally, they are accustomed to developing and communicating a flight plan in advance of acting upon it. All of these traits find corresponding activity in politics, and experience in these areas can be a refreshing change. Wouldn’t it be nice, for instance, if all of our elected leaders gave us a ‘flight plan’ before their term started so that we could know for certain what specific direction they intended to take our government? So many politicians give us general platitudes and fluff so that we’re never actually sure who we are electing until well after they are in office, and usually it is an unpleasant surprise to find out who they really are. It would also be nice if our local elected officials were as well-trained as pilots have to be before they can go up in the air.

As always, there is a tendency to default to the incumbent in any race, which gives Delavar, Ley, and Rockhold a tall mountain to climb. Jaime Herrera, for instance, raised just under $1.2 million in the first quarter of 2014 alone. Vick and Harris have also successfully tapped into the corporate donation sources that usually ensure incumbent victory. Corporations are looking for candidates who can provide a tangible ‘return on investment’, like the kind Boeing got last year when a special session of the legislature was called just to give them a huge package of tax breaks. That ROI is usually not to be expected from a principled candidate who votes his conscience and has a strong set of ideals to guide his or her vote. Maybe that principled candidate would vote the same way as the prospective corporate donor, but then again, maybe not. Typically, the ‘Moderate’ faction of both parties is happy to provide that consistently malleable presence in the legislature that can be influenced with campaign funds to vote in favor of the corporate donor. By filling the legislature with such ‘Moderates’, it quite naturally follows that we get the corporate welfare and massive spending that is so typical of the big government paradigm.

Note that I am not saying all corporate donations are a sign that a candidate is a ‘sell-out’. Corporations have the right to participate in the political world too, but having a lot of them usually means that a candidate has something to ‘pay back’ in terms of voting and legislating. When searching for a principled candidate, I like to look in the PDCs and see a healthy percentage of donations coming from private citizens. Note John Ley , for instance, who has done a pretty good job of fundraising from private citizens so far. Quite a few folks were so convinced that he would be a good candidate, they gave to his campaign from their own private funds. That is compelling. Rockhold and Delavar also draw the vast majority of their support from private donors.

It will take a strong grassroots movement, including private individuals volunteering and donating their shekels, in order for any of these aviators to succeed against such strong headwinds. While many challengers are somewhat less than serious about campaigning and even less so about actually being an effective legislator, I know all three of these men, and I consider all three worth the time to check out. Each one has a vision and is asking questions that need to be asked of our often complacent leadership. Each one is also devoted to promoting the principles of small government and personal liberty, which I consider a requirement to win my vote.




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