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Local Democrats are led by a native daughter

Katherine Woods is chair of the Kitsap County Democrats. - Courtesy photo
Katherine Woods is chair of the Kitsap County Democrats.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

(Editor’s note: Last month we featured an interview with Kitsap County Republicans Chair Chris Tibbs. This week we feature Kitsap County Democratic Chair Katherine Woods. Here, she answers questions about herself, Kitsap Democrats and upcoming races.)

Tell me a bit about you.

I was born at Harrison Hospital in Bremerton. I grew up here, graduated from Central Kitsap High School, and moved to Salt Lake City to attend the University of Utah in 2008. After I graduated from college, I moved back home and married my husband, Michael. We have a home in Bremerton and a corgi named Benny. I’m 23 years old.

How long have you lived in Kitsap County?

All of my life, outside of the three years I was in Utah for school.

What do you do professionally?

I’m an External Relations Specialist in the King County Executive’s office.

How long have you been involved in politics? What campaigns have you worked on?

I’ve been active in politics since I was 16. In Utah during the 2008 presidential campaign, I lead a team of student volunteers and we made phone calls into Colorado and drove there on the weekends to doorbell. When I moved back, I became involved with local campaigns, starting with Christy Cathcart’s re-election to the CK School Board.

In 2012, I was a Field Organizer and later Regional Field Director for the coordinated campaign that re-elected President Obama, elected Governor Jay Inslee and Congressman Derek Kilmer, and passed same-sex marriage in Washington State. In January 2013, I was unanimously elected chair of the Kitsap County Democrats. Last year I managed King County Executive Dow Constantine’s re-election campaign.

When did you become head of Kitsap Democrats?

I was elected last January for a two-year term.

What led you to that role?

While working on the 2012 presidential and coordinated campaign, I mostly worked out of the Silverdale office managed by the Kitsap County Democrats. I became acquainted and close with a lot of the members of the organization, and was encouraged to run.

What are your responsibilities?

The role of chair is all encompassing and goes far beyond what I could have imagined. Our bylaws reference keeping a list of updated PCOs and running our meetings, but they don’t mention the countless hours spent recruiting volunteers, looking for office space, writing emails, updating the website, coordinating events, etc., all to elect Democrats. The job takes as much time as you’re willing to put in. I often find myself wishing I had dozens more hours to work for the party, and that’s after spending thirty hours a week on it. But, of course, it’s all worth it if it means electing Democrats: people who want to make sure that every child receives a good education, that everyone has access to affordable healthcare, that we take care of our planet, and that every person has the opportunity to succeed. Based on their actions, I don’t believe the Republican Party believes that, and it’s disheartening to say the least. We should be electing people who want to better our nation and the lives of its people, not bring government and the services it provides to a grinding halt.

What do you think the status of the party is?

As I’m sure you know, the last two years have been frustrating given the flip-flopping that’s occurred in the State Senate. But we’re working hard to change that. We work hand in hand with our legislative district organizations to ensure good Democrats are elected and re-elected. We are also in good shape county wide. We have some excellent candidates prepared to run this year, and I’m confident in where we’ll end up come November.

What are the big elections coming up?

The county commissioner race will be a big one, obviously. Irene Bowling challenging Tim Sheldon in the 35th is drumming up excitement, and we have plans for races in the 26th as well. And then there’s the rest of the county-wide seats, as Auditor Walt Washington and Sheriff Steve Boyer are retiring. We have truly exceptional candidates, Dolores Gilmore and Gary Simpson, up for those spots. But since this is a “blue moon year,” — ­no statewide, top-of-the-ticket candidate — it’s going to be an interesting election year for sure.

The Republicans are saying that Jan Angel’s victory shows an upswing in support for Republicans in the county...what do you think?

I wouldn’t say that at all. Sen. Angel has been an elected official in this area for a long time and, in a special election year, a lot of people don’t turn out to vote. Nathan Schlicher, who was virtually unknown to the district until the end of 2012, came extremely close to beating someone who many considered the incumbent in the race. Looking at the data, our problem was turnout, not Democrats voting for Sen. Angel.

Does the Kitsap Tea Party affect the Democrats in any way in Kitsap County?

The Tea Party — or any third party — has an effect on us in that primary races become more interesting. It might change field strategy, who we talk to and who we don’t. It might change how involved we are in a race. But mostly, it puts all of our focus on the primary and makes us work quicker and longer.

Do you think the two-party system works...in light of no compromise in Congress?

I don’t think the two-party system is to blame for why we don’t see compromise or progress in Congress. This is the most unproductive congress since the 1940s, and it isn‚Äôt because of the two-party system. The reason Congress can‚Äôt get anything done is because a third party, the Tea Party, has gained control.

Is the Kitsap County Democratic Party sound financially?

We're always recruiting new members and fundraising, but yes. We raise enough funds for a campaign headquarters in even-numbered years and to support our candidates countywide. We are the party of the 99 percent and don't expect to raise the money the Republicans do. But, as much as they'd like to believe it, money doesn't buy votes. Mailers aren't nearly as effective as a volunteer on your doorstep.

What do you do when you have free time...your hobbies, etc.?

I'm a huge Seattle Mariners fan, as is my husband. I play the flute and am one-fifth of the woodwind quintet Winds of the Sound. And I spend every rain-free moment I can playing outside with my dog, Benny.

Anything else that you think readers need to know about Kitsap Democrats?

We are a 100 percent volunteer organization. I think a lot of people often believe we have paid canvassers or robocalls, but we don't. We have hundreds of people volunteering their free time to make phone calls, knock on doors, register voters, etc. And that's why we win. We have an operation unlike any other, and I look forward to re-electing and electing all of our Democrats up and down the ticket this year.

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