This is the second in a series of interviews I’m doing with candidates for the 1st Congressional district. You can read my first impressions of these candidates here and my interview with Laura Ruderman here. I will gladly interview any candidate running for office this year, so if you would like an interview, please email me here.
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Roger Goodman is a conventional candidate with some unconventional ideas. Clean cut, in a dark blue shirt, his legal background seems at odds with his laid-back approach to issues. Currently, he serves as state representative from the 45th LD, and over a cup of tea at Caffe Adagio, he explain to me why he is running for Congress.
“There are two answers to that, the first is that I have served a good part of the district (in the state legislature), and this is an opportunity to make even more of a positive impact by serving more of the area. Its a boring answer but its true.” His smile turns serious, “Second answer is being a change agent. We need to preserve our education, higher ed specifically.We need to revive the economic policies that made the middle class strong in this country. I’m a middle class candidate and I will be a strong voice to turn the country around.”
“I almost lost in 2010, running against a headwind when over 700 state-level Dems lost nationwide, with all the Chamber of Commerce and Koch brothers money flying around. Some of that came to my district and I still won. I can stand up in a headwind, and I can win. Now my attitude is get into their faces, stand up to those people with personality disorders that are ruining our country.”
So what would be his number priority if elected to Congress? “I would push for a program to revive the american industrial infrastructure. It starts with education; federal incentives for high quality early learning, then start addressing the achievement gap.” We got a little sidetracked here talking about how Charter schools are not a good solution before getting back to his program. “We need to focus our education on S.T.E.A.M. (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics), then finally invest in our physical capital, roads, bridges, canals, and our human capital. Let’s put people to work right away on roads and railways. I acknowledge we are in debt, because a trillion dollar misadventure in Iraq among other things, but we need to invest in the future.”
As a current state legislator, I asked him candidly, “On a scale of one to a whole nest, how much of a weasel is Doug Ericksen?” Goodman laughed, “I’m not unhappy to see him in the Senate, there I don’t have to listen to his speeches.”
But moving on to his legislative accomplishments, Goodman was quick to point out that he has the highest pass rate of any other legislator in Washington. This means he has the most bills moved through both bodies and turned into law. He cites his work on our Domestic Violence laws and DUI laws towards protecting people. “When I arrived, I asked a question of our state, ‘Where’s the Harm?’ The answer is on our roadways and behind the doors of too many of our homes. On the judiciary committee, I have had the ability to amend those laws to protect our people.”
He also spoke out against the recent effort by Senate Republicans to circumvent the budget process, with the help of three “Roadkill Caucus” cross-over Democrats, to cut several million dollars from education. “I’m distressed by the ideological flamethrowing. Our job is to govern, and if you look at the bills we pass, we do a good job. For some obstructionists in the Senate to hold a bunch of hostages, it is close to treachery. There is no end in sight and the Governor isn’t helping. In the House, we sent over a fantastic budget, and look what they did.”
He didn’t mince words over the Republicans claiming to “Reform” the budget. “You want to talk about reform? Reform isn’t privatizing liquor, reform isn’t getting rid of print shop. Reform is not locking up thousands of people who are dark skinned and doing drugs. Reform is doing a tax structure that is more secure and stable. Reform is making a health care system with a single payer method. I don’t hear them talking about those sort of reforms.”
But back to the subject of being a legislator. “Other than being prolific, I’ve improved the operation of our laws. My legal training really helps me be a better legislature. Things like interpreters in the courts. I want to put more justice in the justice system and it is a long struggle.”
Goodman has been very active with the law and justice community, and one of his key issues is ending the drug war. “Generally, we need to be prioritizing crimes against person, rather than using the criminal justice system to address behavior issues; like addiction and mental health. It is wasteful and inhumane. We need to be using the criminal justice system to address harm to persons first, harm to property second, when it gets to behavior issues, let’s let health care be our response.” Goodman supports I-502, the initiative to tax, legalize and regulate marijuana, despite it’s flaws. “The initiative would send a very strong message to the fed government. Only way cannabis prohibition will end. Someone has to take the lead, and it might as well be us.”
What about our growing jail population? “It used to be 25% of the people in prison were there for drugs charges only, now 7%. Doesn’t mean that they aren’t going to jail, just that they aren’t going to prison. In Seattle, they are starting a street level intervention,where we are trying to work on pre-arrest or pre-booking diversions. This is a more humane and cost-effective approach. For instance, I passed a bill that gives judges the authority that allows to order people to a community treatment program or jail. And it allows them to get day to day credit. Judges have that discretion and it moves us in a more therapeutic rather than punitive direction. All the GOP voted for that bill, I might add, but it was midnight so they might not have know what they doing.”
Turning the conversation to more specifically local issues, I asked about the proposed Cherry Point facility. “We need to proceed with caution. Any politician that says they are just for it or against it is simplistic or naive. We have a long permitting process. I am an ardent environmentalist and am very concerned about the ecological impacts. Skagit will get all the impacts, and gets no benefits. Now I know another constituency sees good jobs. I understand that. This is not an issue I would run away from. I would get right in the middle of it, I have a record of getting people together who disagree and getting them to resolve.” But bottom line? “I’m not going to block it or assist it. I will assist in getting people together to work out a solution.”
So what makes Goodman stand out from his competition? “On paper, I have more experience as a current veteran powerhouse legislator and former chief of staff to a congressman, I’ve been around Capital Hill. I don’t have any illusion about changing the rules or changing congress. I’m not going to waste my time as a freshman in the minority trying to change the rules. I would vote for it sure but I’m not going to spend my time when I could be serving my constituents.”
“Another thing is intangibles,” Goodman continues, “I’m a nice guy, I’m a middle class guy, I’ve experienced hardships. I don’t have millions of dollars to bankroll my own campaign. I’m in touch with my constituants, I’m a common man using common sense but I have an uncommon experience. There is an empathy.”
“I also appeal to the libertarian sentiment in this district. They like their pot, their guns and their freedom, and I agree with them. I don’t want the government in my bloodstream or on my phone. I’m a libertarian Democrat. Not a Ron Paul democrat, I think we need a public health system for example. But there are a lot of aspects of my record that give me an edge.”
He also cites some of his other strengths. “I’m the only current legislator that has stood up for Democratic values, I’m not roadkill. Who has really gotten run over? The vulnerable and the poor. If you hang around the middle of the road, you end up with a yellow stripe down your back.” He cited his 100% labor voting record this year (he has a 93% record over his lifetime).
After our interview, he attended the Whatcom Democrats membership meeting and gave a well-received speech. Overall, I was struck by his calm patient demeanor. It is clear that law and justice issues are his passion, but there is a careful measured approach to lawmaking as a whole and a delight in the details. Electing Goodman would be placing a definite steady hand at the legislative wheel.