This week, for the second time, the series of Candidate Vetting sessions being held by We The People – Southwest Washington, included the vetting of a candidate for the Washington State Legislature. The candidate in this instance was Shannon Barnett, who is running for State Representative in Washington’s 18th Legislative District.

One of my main observations about the first “We The People” Vetting of a candidate for Washington State Legislature was that there was apparent room for improvement in the process. Although I thought the process seemed to be a bit better this time around, for me, the most noticeable aspect of this vetting session was that there remains significant room for improvement. This time around, the Q&A did seem to be better oriented for a State Candidate versus a Federal Candidate. However, there just seemed to be a lack of energy in this session, especially compared to the preceding sessions, one for a U.S. Congressional Candidate and one for a U.S. Senatorial Candidate. Perhaps this is the result of Federal Candidates being given more importance than State Candidates. If so, that seems counter to the purposes of an organization that places great value on protecting States Rights. Or, it could just be a function of logistics. I’ve noticed that the vetting performances I’ve found to be best have each come from the candidate who was “first-up” on a given evening. As a suggestion, We The People might want to consider mixing up the sequence in which they vet candidates rather than always going in a sequence of U.S. Senate Candidate, followed by U.S. Congress Candidate, followed by State Legislature Candidate.

With that said, let me fill you in on my observations of Shannon Barnett and his performance in this vetting session. When it comes to addressing Shannon’s “Background”, I think it’s important for me to note that I’ve had a bit more personal contact with Shannon than I’ve had with the other candidates who’ve been vetted, up to now. Most of that personal contact came during the time that I served as Campaign Manager for a U.S. Congressional Candidate, who is now also running for State Representative in Washington’s 18th Legislative District. One related anecdote, that I really like because it indicates what a “small-town” community we live in, is the coincidence I discovered that the Barber I go to in Vancouver was Shannon’s Barber before he married and moved to Cowlitz County. She and I agree that the way Shannon presents himself on his Campaign Website is pretty accurate – i.e. A “good guy” who was raised in this community and in addition to living and working here, he’s been active in local Republican politics as well as several community organizations.

Of course, the quality of being a “good guy” who was raised in this community serves Shannon well in terms of his “Ability to connect with the grassroots”. However, I think that what I mentioned earlier about the seeming lack of energy in this session took its toll even here. Especially in this case, I think that’s a reflection of the need for improvement in the vetting process and not in this candidate.

As I recall, in Shannon Barnett’s opening remarks at this vetting session, he said something about changes in our community in recent times meaning that he and his family are no longer able to live life “as they see fit.” That seems to be a good summary of this “Candidate’s motives for running”.

Once again, I was looking to Barnett’s responses to the questions he was asked, during this vetting session, to help answer the overall question of “How well equipped is the candidate to serve?” As I’ve said before, the Q&A at these sessions seems pretty slanted towards criticizing missteps of the sitting government. This doesn’t easily lead to a candidate offering their ideas for positive alternatives and I’d like to hear more of that. In Shannon’s case, some general alternatives were suggested but I think we need to hear our candidates offering more substance. One example here was that, in discussing the need for controlling the State budget, Barnett stated that we need to find ways to reduce spending and that he would not support spending increases. That seems pretty obvious to me but I’d like to hear specifics of proposals on how to do this. And, I’d like to hear proposals that go beyond finding better ways to tinker with the State budget. When asked, “What would be the first bill you would sponsor?”, Shannon said he would sponsor a bill addressing prevailing wage rates for State bids. No doubt, that would be worthwhile but it seems to me that having the State Legislature do all it can to restore vitality to our communities and their businesses should be a far greater priority than working on one area of inefficiency in the way our State government operates. Generally, I did sense that Barnett had a respectable understanding of the issues he was presented with and that his views were in agreement with those of We The People. There is one area that I had hoped to explore here but my lottery ticket was not drawn and I didn’t get to ask my question. Although I know Shannon takes a strong position on Public Safety and Crime, one thing that doesn’t seem congruent with this is that I think I’ve heard him say that he is opposed to the Death Penalty. I’d like to hear more from him on this, especially since it isn’t in line with my views and I think that may be true for the majority of the We The People population.

Shannon Barnett’s wrap-up to his vetting session included his encouraging those in attendance to continue to scrutinize all the candidates running for office this year. I fully agree with that. More specifically, let me say that my motives for being more involved in the political process now than I ever have been before are precisely matched up with Shannon’s motives in running for office – i.e. Changes in our community in recent times mean that we are no longer able to live life “as we see fit.” In order to effect the positive changes needed here, each of us need to commit to no longer standing idly by and to remain fully involved.