This Is What They Mean by “Our Democracy”

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The state of Washington is democratic. If you pay a $1,700 filing fee, you can run for US Senate. The state gives you half a page in the Voter’s Pamphlet, which it mails to every voter. You can have your picture, your name, your email and webpage addresses on that page, along with your statement to the world. And you can say just about anything you want.

This year there are 18 candidates. Set aside the two who will make it to the November ballot: Patty Murray, 71, the incumbent Democrat, who will win, and Tiffany Smiley, 38, the sacrificial Republican. The fun in the primary election is the candidates who will lose.

You’d think that for the nation’s upper house, the men and women (mostly men) who offer themselves would have some elected experience. The Pamphlet asks about that. Most of them leave that part blank, though John Guenther writes of his experience, “None, which is an attribute.” Dave Saulibio writes, “Yes, I have no experience.” No bananas, either.

The fun in the primary election is the candidates who will lose.


Saulibio and Guenther are both Republicans, though Saulibio states his affiliation as “prefers JFK Republican Party,” which is a new one. Washington has a top-two open primary, so that on the primary ballot you can “prefer” any party you want. It doesn’t mean that the party, if it exists at all, prefers you. Several years back, Krist Novoselic, the former bassist for the grunge group Nirvana, ran for a county office as a member of the “Grange Party,” which didn’t exist. He said he did it in the hope that the Washington State Grange (of which he was a member) would make a stink about its name being misused, which might have led to a welcome change in the rules. The Grange, however, said nothing. “Maybe I should have put down ‘Microsoft Party,’” he told me.

The state of Washington does not correct the candidates’ grammar, punctuation, or usage. Leon Lawson, Republican, writes, “I see the drug’s, I see the crime.” Sam Cusmir, a Democrat, writes, “The effect of Covid on everything still need recovery, not just resuming. Endeavors to gain what is needed to do something, to invest in capital, and the to discover a marketable service, all have been his good choices.”

The candidate statements include personal history, which is sometimes revealing. Mohammed Hassan Said, who “prefers Democratic Party,” announces that he is an “expert of U.S.-Arab/Muslim relations” and former assistant clinical professor at the Veterans Administration in Fargo, North Dakota. “Unexpectedly the Health department suspended my medical license based on misinformation & what I suspect to be racism and Islamophobic,” he writes. “My case was handled through Zoom due to the pandemic and those members if the medical commission were all below my education and experience. I was racially targeted and they said I was demented and unable to practice.”

On the primary ballot you can “prefer” any party you want. It doesn’t mean that the party, if it exists at all, prefers you.


Candidates are invited to list their qualifications. Some wisely leave that part out. Others lay it on. Dr. Pano Churchill, “prefers Democratic Party,” writes, “I have been the elected leader of the environmental parliament, with 20 yrs. experience. I am also the elected leader of the Independent Lincoln Party, which I have successfully led since 1999.”

Martin D. Hash, of “no party preference,” boasts doctorates in Medicine, Law, and Computer Science, as well as Masters’ degrees in Medical Science, Engineering, and Business. He says he has founded a tech company, has written 20-plus books (none of which I can find on Amazon) and was a writer on three movies. (On IMDB I find Telepresence — a 1997 flick about space monsters — and the Tin Woodman of Oz and The Scarecrow of Oz.) “As the world’s only-ever simultaneously licensed doctor, lawyer, accountant & engineer, plus business owner and creative,” Hash writes, “all kinds of people can talk to me about highly complicated issues. I have traditional values but willing to change my mind when the facts change.”

With Hash, you get it all.

Some of the candidates’ interests are narrow. Jon Butler, “prefers Independent party,” is running for the US Senate to reform family law. Bill Hirt, “prefers Republican Party,” is running to oppose light rail, which Seattle-area voters have already approved. Dan Phan Doan, “no party preference,” is running for US Senate “to help the laid the foundation for the future young generation of politicians who choose to pursue the opportunity to run for office.”

He’s running as a Democrat. Is that the right party?


I’m thankful that some of these aspiring senators have more to say than this, though not all of it bears close inspection. Thor Amundson, “prefers Independent Party,” writes, “If corporations move to other countries, they should follow the same rules and labour practices as in the USA. Stop shipping logs, jobs, and clean air and water overseas.” I get the part about logs, but how are they shipping the air? And if US companies should abide by US laws in China, should Chinese companies abide by Chinese law in the United States?

Amundson would also use his seat of power in the Senate to “reintroduce the monarch butterfly to Washington state” and “make C-Span more entertaining.” That sounds good.

Bryan Solstin, who says he is a patent lawyer and aerospace propulsion engineer, is running to fix America’s monetary system. “We are in a large-debt cycle,” he writes. “I advocate privacy, individual sovereignty, and private property. In summary, Bitcoin.” He’s running as a Democrat. Is that the right party?

“I don’t want you to give me your money, you can give it to the clowns.”


Railroad worker Henry Clay Dennison, who “prefers Socialist Workers Party,” advocates “unconditional recognition of Israel as a refuge for Jews.” I think this is a strange position for a man of the Left, but Dennison is very Old Left, like someone who just woke up after 60 years. He wants to “defend Cuba’s socialist revolution,” as if Fidel Castro has just led his guerrilla army into Havana.

At the other end of the spectrum is Leon Lawson, who lists his affiliation as “prefers Trump Republican Party.” “As far as Senate experience, from what I understand of the job, it is suited for a person of my caliber in administrative law,” he writes. “I don’t want you to give me your money, you can give it to the clowns.”

Under community service, he describes himself as “lifelong member of the department of Based.” What that means, I don’t know.

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