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.


Me Too…or…It Was Me

In my life…

I’ve perpetuated rape culture by not speaking up.
I’ve “joked” about sex with women with my male friends
I’ve told and laughed at rape jokes
I’ve blamed the victim
I’ve said, “Boys will be boys”
I’ve tolerated sexual harassment
I’ve inflated and spread the myth of false rape reports
I’ve supported with my dollars gendered violence movies, TV, and music
I’ve defined “manhood” as dominant and “womanhood” as submissive
I’ve taken part in pressuring my friends to “score”
I’ve assumed men don’t, or only “weak” men do, get raped
I’ve perpetuated the idea that women should avoid rape instead of telling men not to rape

I’ve been the instigator and the perpetrator of systemic sexism and rape culture. I’m not proud of it, but I won’t pretend like it missed me somehow just because I was raised by women, or because I’m so woke. I also won’t promise that I’m going to be perfect from here on out. I will promise to keep thinking about it, checking myself, and speaking out more, especially to men directly when I see it.

A Funny Thing Happened at the Karen Fraser Picnic

Author’s note: I first wrote this in the days following the picnic. I was talked out of posting it at the time. People thought it might be considered negative or that people might think Clark was involved and it’d make him look bad. SO, FULL DISCLOSURE: beyond supporting Clark with my vote and my endorsement, I am in no way affiliated or connected to Clark’s campaign and Clark doesn’t know I’m publishing this post.

This story matters to me. We need to confront toxic masculinity when we see it, and I regret waiting this long to call it out.

There I was. Sipping a cold beer in the shade. Chatting with folks and having a good time. It was really a great evening  – with a mix of folks, young and old and across the spectrum… I don’t know how many total… 200?

And then my evening was derailed… for a moment at least.

Max Brown, a candidate for Olympia City Council was walking by…

… so I said hello and reached out a hand. He took it and seemed jovial. But then he stepped into my personal space, put his face exactly one inch from mine, and while hovering over me, said, angrily and directly into my ear,

MB: “Since when the fuck am I the conservative candidate in the race?”

RRT: “Who are you running against?”

MB: “Clark”

RR: “Well, there you go.”

MB: “Just because I’m not the most progressive doesn’t make me the conservative.”

RR: “Ok.”

And that was it.

You may not think much of it. He got worked up… campaigns are stressful. He hasn’t gotten a lot of organizational endorsements, the Thurston County Democrats, and many other progressive and environmental groups have spurned him – he didn’t even bother applying for many of their endorsements. He’s got views on issues that are not at all popular in Olympia, such as his position on abortion and a woman’s right to choose. He’s getting asked about that more and more as the campaign goes on.

I’ve never run for office so I don’t know how it feels to be scrutinized like that. I can imagine it’s frustrating.

But Max IS running and this keeps gnawing at me. This wasn’t just a candidate expressing frustration. This was a flashback to high school locker room bully type behavior. His inclination was to get in my face, use a threatening tone, and use profanity directly in my ear.

So I have to think of this as yet another juxtaposition between Clark and Max. It speaks to a WAY of being. Just like that audio tape on the bus last summer showed us who Trump really is when he thinks no one is listening, Max showed his own default way of being.

Using physical intimidation to either get your way or threaten someone who criticizes your political and social beliefs isn’t a quality I want in an elected official, and I think Max might have some maturing to do before he’s ready to hold office.

The Attack on Lisa Parshley


Recently, supporters of our opponent filed a false complaint that suggests Lisa Parshley doesn’t live in Olympia. The evidence they provide is a list of things that are not actually relevant to their residency.

– They say she gets her mail at a private mailbox. Yes, that’s correct. Lots of people do.
– They say she’s listed as an owner of a home in Boston Harbor. That’s true also, it’s a family trust of which they are majority owners. They provide, as evidence, a photo of a sign listing all the families who live on the private road the family home is on. The sign has been there since the 70’s when her dad and the neighbors had it installed.
– They say her husband signed a lease for the property at 1014 E 4th Ave. Yes, he did.
– They say her vehicles are registered at the Boston Harbor address. Yes, that’s true.
– They say she used to be registered to vote at the Boston Harbor address but then it changed to the 4th Ave address. True again.

In 2014 Lisa and Tom began residing primarily at the home on 4th Avenue. As owner/operators of a 24-hour emergency veterinary clinic, they had to be on call as well as covering overnight shifts. Lisa and Tom, like many small business owners, have dedicated themselves completely to their business. They sleep upstairs and the main floor has been used for different purposes including a dermatology clinic, and as of January, a campaign office.

While it indeed is an unconventional living situation, the requirements for voter registration hinge on where a person lays their head at night. None of the factors listed by the Allen Miller supporters refute anything about where she actually lives. This seems to be more about the fact that Lisa doesn’t own residential property within the city limits. Their arguments hover around the notion that because she isn’t “landed gentry” she doesn’t have the right to run for office. In fact, last month at the Gateway Rotary Forum, when the moderator asked each of them to ask the other a question, Miller went first and asked her: “What gives you the right to run for office? You haven’t lived here very long. You haven’t done anything. You’re just a veterinarian.”

This is yet another personal attack lobbed at Lisa by the Miller campaign. They’ve been whispering about this for months, in addition to saying at doors he knocks on that Lisa is, “just a veterinarian with no experience.” The old, ‘Repeat the opposite of the truth enough times so it sticks’ trick. This sort of campaigning worked in the presidential election last year, are we going to let it work here in Olympia? I hope not.

This is the sad side of politics that we need to do away with. We often see weak campaigns that know they’re behind resort to every trick in the book to slam, slander and impugn their opponent. What we’re hearing from the people of Olympia is that they despise this kind of dirty politics. They see it for what it is: a distraction from the issues they care about. They want real leadership and real solutions.

Lisa Parshley is an honest, sincere person with high integrity who is running a positive, issue-oriented campaign. She’s eager to get to work for the people of Olympia.


Rob Richards
Campaign Manager
Lisa Parshley for Olympia City Council Pos. 5

The Bridge Project Community Reception

I don’t often use this space to promote things outside of my own ideas, but I want to make an exception and ask you to join me in supporting The Bridge Music Project. I’ve signed on to be a table captain and I’m looking for 8-10 people who will join me, each donating $100 (or what you can, but $100 each is the goal).

If you can’t join me that night, you can pledge $100 and I’ll collect it and deliver it in your name at the reception. Please contact me at rob@commonaction.org or by phone/text at 360.292.0565 if you’d like to attend or pledge.

The Bridge began as a program of Community Youth Services and is now its own 501(C)3 organization. The money we raise at this reception will be used exclusively to fund the 8-week youth songwriting workshop this fall. So, your $100 can go a long way towards our goal of raising $8500 to cover this year’s workshops.

Watch this short documentary about the workshop:

About the event:

And here’s some general info about The Bridge Music Project:

BRIDGE One Sheet

BASICALLY… The Bridge is a Hip-Hop songwriting workshop for youth between the ages of 14 and 19. Over the course of eight weeks, participants will learn how to write, produce, and perform their own original Hip-Hop song. Through mentoring youth in songwriting, the program equips them with tools for self-expression and understanding that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

“The founding principle behind this program is self-understanding. We believe through giving youth an outlet to better express and understand themselves this awareness will transfer to other aspects of their life such as school and peer interactions. We promote teamwork by having our youth work in a collaborative environment where students are encouraged to work together and share ideas. We also fill a much-needed gap in our community of extracurricular activities involving music.”


I hope you’ll join me, or pledge to support, this amazing organization that empowers low-income youth to BE themselves and EXPRESS themselves.