Throwing My Hat in the Ring

I’ve decided to seek the Vice Chair position with 22nd LD Democratic Party. The following is the nomination letter which I submitted yesterday. Wish me luck! Or vote for me if you’re a member!

I’m writing to express my interest in becoming the next Vice Chair of the 22nd Legislative District Democrats. I hope you will accept my name for consideration for this venerable position.
I’ve lived in the 22nd District for 23 years. As a senior at River Ridge High School, my senior project was focused on politics. I shadowed then Senator Karen Fraser throughout her campaign. I learned a lot from her and our team, and most importantly the experience lit a fire in me to give back and work hard for my community, and my party. I left for four years to serve in the United States Navy and returned home in the fall of 2000. Since then I’ve volunteered and worked for local nonprofits, in houseless services and community organizing, as well as for local progressive candidates and causes. Currently, I serve as District Representative to Congressman Derek Kilmer.

Over the years I’ve accepted increasing levels of responsibility on campaigns. In 2015 I managed the campaigns of Marco Rossi for Mayor of Olympia and Ray Guerra for Olympia City Council. Though not successful, I learned a tremendous amount from the experience. Those lessons were put in play last year when I managed Lisa Parshley and Carolyn Cox’s campaigns, which won, despite having well established and well-funded opponents. Those victories were in large part due to the support of the party, its PCOs, and especially the Young Democrats who I got to mentor through the campaign process.

The biggest lesson I learned from the campaigns last year, especially from looking at the precinct breakdowns from both the primary and general elections, is that we win in precincts with active Precinct Committee Officers. My reason for running for this position is because I want to help my party recruit and train PCOs. I also want to take it one step further, I want to challenge our PCOs to not just support our candidates during elections, but also to do the work during the off-season to recruit members, work on community education and engagement, voter registration, and to work hand-in-hand with our elected Democrats to fulfill our platform. If we’re going to live up to our ideal of being the party of the people, then we have to meet people where they are by being a continuous presence in the community, not just a campaign season pop-up shop.

I hope you’ll vote for me for Vice-Chair of LD22, I’m excited to take on this responsibility and to help lead our party into the Blue Tsunami!


Rob Richards

The Happy/Sad Binary

I’m really happy.

These days, I feel happier than I have (allowed myself to feel) in many years. Along with this new happiness is all my old existential dread, anxiety, unconfidence, untrust, and yes, sadness. I worry about not being good enough, people call it Imposter Syndrome. I lay awake at night thinking about all the things I didn’t get done, surely leaving dozens of people disappointed. I feel guilty for not doing enough for justice, and shame that I don’t stand up for equity as fiercely as I’d like. I feel remorse that people suffer while I procrastinate or philosophize. Sadness can happen when I feel alone or when I long for companionship or partnership or friendship. But those things come and go and when I’m not feeling them, I feel happy. Happy is my default. I think that’s pretty cool.

Too much of what I see demands that I choose a lane. Either you’re happy or sad, whole or broken,  functional or not. The Self Help Industrial Complex (Elephant Journal, Good Man Project, etc) need you to feel broken. The need you to need them enough to pay them money for what they have. I see their articles shared all over and they all seem slanted to make you feel like something is wrong with you, that you’re broken because you feel sad, that you need help because you feel things wrong, or don’t feel, or feel too much.

What I think is this: all things exist on a spectrum. Anybody who tries to convince you of a binary is probably selling something and you should throw them out of the temple. Sometimes the spectrums have spectrums and it’s damn complicated and I don’t understand my brain. But I trust it. I trust me. I have good instincts and that gets me through. I know that there’s no such thing as fate, nothing happens for a reason, and nobody is in control. Also, life would be really dull if the weather never changed, so I embrace the turbulence.

Like Matsuo Basho said, “Clouds come from time to time and bring to us a chance to rest from looking at the moon.”


Obligatory “Something About Guns” Blog Post

This whole debate is a big pile of mental spaghetti. I’ve been itching to write about it but haven’t been able to quite find the words – or the strength – or maybe the nerve?

Three hundred and sixteen (316) people have died in school shootings since 1990. There were 54 in the 90s, 106 in the 00s, 156 in the 10s so far [at this rate we can expect 20 more in the next 2 years]. If that trend we’re seeing decade by decade isn’t terrifying to you then you should stop reading because there’s no hope for you.

If you’re still reading, congratulations. You’re a real human with a heart and feelings, capable of empathy and compassion.

As I’ve been trying to untangle this in my brain [one more time] here’s what I’m seeing.

The Kids

Those beautiful amazing sweet wonderful strong young adults. If we had been as strong as them after Columbine we could have fixed this then and prevented the deaths of hundreds of children. If they’ve done nothing, as Brittany Packnett said on Pod Save The People, they’ve exposed our great shame and failure as adults. We’ve failed our kids by becoming resigned that nothing will ever change. Another shooting, another shrug of the shoulders. Another, “what can we do?” Well, right now, we can get out the way. Once again [think: civil rights movement, Vietnam War protests] the young people of America are offering to save us from ourselves. We should support them. Stand with them. Cheer them on. We may not understand their tactics or agree with their strategies, but that’s probably not because we know better than them – it’s probably because this is no country for old men. America isn’t the same country it was when you were in your early-twenties [Obviously if you’re a young person I’m not coming at you here]. Our country is completely new and different and needs new and different kinds of leaders.


[I promised myself I’d get through this without swearing] Vile, deplorable, disgusting, deranged. Those are the words I have for the NRA – and I’m just talking about La Pierre and Loesch here really. Let’s start by establishing a known known: the NRA is a lobby group for gun manufacturers. They like to posture like they support individual gun owners and their rights, but that’s just sheeps’ clothing. Like any lobby group, they want everything. They want every kind of gun and bullet and accessory to be 100% legal and accessible to 100% of consumers. They pay a lot of money to craft message to get them there. Part of that, and this is Dirty Messaging 101, involves creating a fog. If the AR-15 is making your clients [and you] filthy rich, then you protect it by distraction. They’re making it about mental health by using a lot of desperate and emotionally charged language. They talk about not wanting “nutjobs” and “crazy people” getting guns, very careful to carve out only the tiniest slice of consumers. Their members and supporters hear this and think, “I’m not a nutjob. I don’t want nutjobs getting guns either. They’re right. It’s not about the guns. It’s about mental health.” Then they repeat it to their friends and on Twitter and on morning shows that The Cheetoh watches.

Another known-known – and your talking point to memorize and repeat to everyone everywhere:

Less than 4% of all violent crimes have anything to do with mental health. The emotional problems that these shooters have aren’t diagnosable mental health conditions. We stop the shootings by getting the guns. Period.

Don’t let them change the subject.


Your marching orders:

  1. Get out of the way of young people. Support them and love them unconditionally.
  2. Memorize and repeat the above quote until it sticks and the conversation becomes about guns and bullets and regulating them.
  3. DO MORE…

There are still more things you can do right in your city.

Lobby your city council to ban weapons in public places: city hall, parks, schools. No matter what anybody says THE DATA supports the fact that fewer guns mean fewer dead children. Ask the city council to BE BOLD: ban the sale of the AR-15 within city limits. Ban assault weapons across the board. Maybe it’s a symbolic gesture, but so were sit-ins and die-ins and pink hats but those things move us, inspire us, and can spark the change we seek. I’d rather my city do something than yet again shrug and say, “What can we do?”

We can do everything. We can change the gun laws in our country. Change moves up, and if we want Congress to move, we have to show them the way.

Hello, Friend

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve put anything here. This isn’t an apology or a promise for more frequent writing in the future [though I do like the idea of writing regularly again. I miss it. It makes me happy.]. This is just a note because I like sharing my life with you.

You may or may not have heard…

I started a new job in November (fancy job title = District Representative, US House of Representatives) and it’s kept me very busy. I work for one of our members of Congress (Rep. Derek Kilmer, WA-06) handling community outreach in Grays Harbor County as well as working with veterans & active duty military on casework.  I love the job. It just feels right; like this is where I belong. In just a few months I’ve grown to really like my coworkers and feel a kinship with them. They work so hard and I aspire to reach their level of awesomeness as I continue to acclimate. I’ve also begun to get to know and spend time with  Derek. He’s the type of person that makes me want to work hard because he works hard. Like me, he seems to hate that politics gets in the way of governance and progress and would be much happier just focusing on helping communities in the district. He’s very sincere and genuine, and well liked by our constituents – even among the conservative rural Republicans who probably voted for the Tangerine.

I’ve spent the last few months, while drinking through the firehose that is congressional work, also figuring other stuff out. I turned my Facebook account off, which was followed by a flurry of messages (even from my mom} from people wanting to know why I unfriended them. I didn’t unfriend you. I unfriended Facebook. It boiled down to whether it was enhancing my life or not and after a period of observation I figured out that it wasn’t.

As this local campaign season gears up I can already tell I’m really going to miss the campaign trail. As much pressure as it is to run a campaign, I kind of revel in it and it makes me feel really alive. It always reminds me of my days in food service when I’d be slammed and get into the weeds a bit (maybe even let myself slip into the weeds a bit just to feel that feeling). That feeling when your mind and body are working together without much conscious thought, just autopilot, and you make it through without screwing anything up too bad and you can sit there and revel in your success… it’s the best feeling in the world. The day to day of campaigning and working with a candidate to help them craft message and delivery, to work with volunteers and teach them and guide them. It’s a thing that I really enjoy. Maybe I’ll find a way to get a taste of it this year as a volunteer, but it won’t be the same as being a campaign manager.

Well, friend… that’s all for today. I have a few intrusive thoughts bouncing around in my head that I hope to share with you… so maybe you’ll hear from me again this week. Or maybe not until May. Who knows. It is what it is. Whenever it happens is exactly when it’s supposed to.

I leave you with this:

This morning while drinking coffee and watching my cat play I grabbed the Pablo Neruda anthology off the shelf and started flipping through it. It stopped on the following poem, which inspired me to sit down and write and reminded me how much joy writing brings me. Enjoy, and see you around the bend.


And it was at that age . . . poetry arrived
in search of me. I don’t know, I don’t know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don’t know how or when,
no, they were not voices, they were not
words, not silence,
but from a street it called me,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among raging fires
or returning alone,
there it was, without a face,
and it touched me.

I didn’t know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names,
my eyes were blind.
Something knocked in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
that fire,
and I wrote the first, faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing;
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
and open,
palpitating plantations,
the darkness perforated,
with arrows, fire, and flowers,
the overpowering night, the universe.

And I, tiny being,
drunk with the great starry
likeness, image of
felt myself a pure part
of the abyss.
I wheeled with the stars.
My heart broke loose with the wind.

Portrait of a Campaign Season

Et ignotas animum dimittit in artes

IT WAS December 2016 and the mood was dismal. The manifestation of the devils of our nature loomed. This devil, one of our own design, was allowed by the evil of some and the passivity of most. Fear and shock prevailed. Yet something stirred. The stakes felt higher than before. The mood changed – not hopeful – but resolute. We would not go gently, no matter what, and we wouldn’t watch our friends suffer while we sat silent.

It was about this time that I met Lisa Parshley, a political neophyte with sincerity and something in her eyes that told me she was the real deal. We spoke for an hour or so at that first meeting, covering her background, history, politics… but I only needed about ten minutes to know that I wanted to help her win. Her spirit – to overcome obstacles, persevere, to be kind yet firm  – it was what our city needed.

As we built her campaign and the team formed and grew, other campaigns formed around us and we quickly saw that Lisa wasn’t running on an island. Progressives were standing up, stepping up, and ready to support each other and win (or lose) together. We knew that the money might not be on our side, but we knew we had people. We had each other, and love and respect.

We began having coordinated campaign meetings where we would commiserate, plan, and give support and solidarity. We shared data and volunteers and coordinated our field operations. We knew where every campaign was, had been, and where they were going next.  It’s been said it was the first coordinated campaign of its kind here at this level.

Across the board, we had opponents who practiced the politics of old: dismiss, distort, distract, dismay. Dismiss the facts and say whatever you want because a lie repeated enough times becomes truth. Distort your image to fit whatever you think you need to be on that day. Distract people from your lack of real solutions by making grand promises. Dismay people into resignation to mediocrity.

Together we forged a new path. We created a new politics: embrace, enlighten, engage, empower. Embrace each other across our differences and promote fellowship among people across affinities. Enlighten and educate people  – promote smart choices, not emotional ones. Engage people, bringing them into the process from goal-setting to design to action to revision. Empower people to take leadership and hold electeds and executives accountable.

Let me be clear. This isn’t a rant on how I feel politics should be. This is a recounting of what we did. We took the resistance and organized it and mobilized it, and it’s going to lead us to victory. We may not win them all tonight – we could – but we’ll definitely win some, and then we’ll keep building. I’m allowing myself hope for the first time in a long time because of this amazing community of advocates and activists who aren’t going to stop pushing.

Into the future I go, conscious of an invisible grace pervading and making light my limbs.

Did the snow take you by surprise?

It probably surprised our neighbors living rough also.

It’s time to collect supplies to help keep folks alive this winter who have to spend too much time outdoors. I’ll be collecting stuff once a week and delivering to the Interfaith Works Emergency Overnight Shelter and the Olympia Downtown Ambassadors.

PLEASE bring socks, hand/toe warmers, gloves, and hats to the following convenient Downtown locations:

  • The Brotherhood Lounge
  • Captain Little
  • Compass Rose
  • Little General

PLEASE spread the word!

Brendan Williams

By now, if you pay attention to the local news, you’ve heard about the 4 women who have come out and told their stories of sexual harassment and assault by then State Representative Brendan Williams.

Brendan is someone I’ve followed closely and gotten to know fairly well since his time at the legislature. We message each other fairly regularly, kvetching about politics mostly, and have had a good rapport. His progressive politics and straightforward and direct approach was something I appreciated.

Yesterday, before the article naming him and his victims, Brendan commented on a Facebook post of the original Olympian article that called out the culture of harassment at the legislature. He applauded one of the women who spoke out for her bravery.  One woman who was a victim of Brendan replied to the comment, bravely telling her story and calling him out as a hypocrite. He soon deactivated his Facebook account in response.

I was made aware of it all and at the urging of a friend I texted Brendan. I told him that if he made mistakes in the past hiding from them won’t change them. I told him I support him in being honest about it and offered to help him use his experience to educate other men and start to change the culture. He responded by blaming the victim, painting a picture of her being erratic and making bad decisions. He also claimed to be one of the only legislators who would actually report misconduct in their workplace.

Given the opportunity to come clean and do the right thing, Brendan chose to hide and blame the victim. That’s not ok.

Men: we can must do better. I want to know who is with me in creating a culture where we no longer tolerate this kind of behavior from our fellow men. A culture where we own up when we screw up and we support women, don’t call them crazy, dismiss them, or make them feel like their jobs are at risk if they speak up.

The path ahead is pitch black. I don’t know how to move forward. We have to work on this together. This is me fumbling for the flashlight.