Grays Harbor County, Democratic Party, Mccleary Bear Festival discussed on Seattle Now

Seattle Now


Like those counties that will decide who the next president is. Kyw's politics reporter. David hyde looked into two of these counties mason and grays harbor both on the olympic peninsula. He's here to tell us what he found out. Hi david address. David focused your reporting on a town in grays harbor. County called mcclary for sixty years. The town's hosted a bear festival that included a massive bear meat stew until last year and this festival speaks to the community but it also speaks to a greater truth about politics in this area true. Yeah so hundreds of pounds of bear me actually goes into the stu every year out at the mccleary bear festival. This has been happening since nineteen fifty-nine. Have you had a chance to go. No i have not visited. I did look it up though. Yeah me neither and this year was actually cancelled due to cove it. But i asked bryson huff about it. He's lived in mccleary his entire life and he also serves on the city council. It's really good. I know the fire department. They stay overnight apart cooking. Do saturday after the grand parade is when they give it to everybody who has a barefoot full button and i also looked up a seattle daily times article from nineteen seventy-two describing the event. This way everyone just gets together and eats bear because the trees and trees are the economic backbone of the area so this is a place. That's about the timber industry. And it's about this annual bear meat feed event that you say it's been key to this community for sixty years but in two thousand. Nineteen that changed after environmentalists brought a lawsuit that put a stop to certain kinds of bear hunting on timberland's considered cruel like bear baiting But for mcclary that effectively meant no bear meat for their state. Do so of course locals aren't very happy about that. Some of them see this as a form of government over reach overregulation. So what my reporting uncovered is that this bear. Hunting controversy is really symbolic of long simmering political tensions over the environment and other issues to kind of boiled over in two thousand sixteen. That's when grays harbor county flips for donald trump. Okay so logging. Very big part of the community out there. What else should i know about mcclary in grays harbor county. Set the scene for people who maybe haven't been out that way. Yeah if you drive out just west of olympia you'll run into mccleary. This is historically as i said. It's a timber town. It's actually a timber mill town. The simpson mill was the centerpiece of the town. Out there. there's actually something called the simpson door company still operating and the town. Historian tells me that one of their doors was used in the harry potter movies. So famous door making area. The town itself includes some newer sort of fancier homes as well as older kind of company townhomes smaller homes that were actually built by simpson for his workers. You had to aberdeen. You'll see similar kinds of little houses right and the annual income out. There is twenty two thousand dollars a year. According to the latest numbers is just looking at this so not wealthy and historically a place. That's really extraction industry. Fishing timber logging. That sort of things. You had further out to the coast. There's also the cornell reservation so that paints you a little bit of a picture and westport which is of course fishing fishing right right okay. So deep roots in the community not a high earning area also an area that hadn't voted for republican president since nineteen twenty eight deep blue. Route's back to herbert hoover why. So reliably democratic. Yeah just think about that. Ninety years so the rest of washington state is voting for republicans this entire time. Richard nixon gerald ford eisenhower and ronald reagan in every one of those elections grays harbor county reliably filling their ballots for the democratic candidates for president. So i spoke with Historian steve beta about this and this kind of remarkable consistency earned his from the washington. But he's now university of oregon. A said look you know. These places were full of timber. Industry job radicals real lefties socialists. Even communists back in the nineteen thirties. Who became solid union voters and supporters the democratic party because the democratic party was the the party that looked out for the little person. Right sure sure okay. And now this shift to republican what changed here betas said not just trump. It didn't happen overnight and pointed to three big factors where some of these folks in these communities start to lose faith in the democratic party. One is just that unions declined the other. Is that a lot of californians. End up moving here from places like orange county that are really republican in search of basically cheap land and lower taxes but the third factor is a new kind of shift in the democratic party towards a sort of environmentalism. That culminates in nineteen ninety. Four with bill clinton's northwest forest plan. So what's important to that. plan for. Environmentalists is protecting forests of course in old growth forests and spotted owls. And other kinds of you know rare endangered birds but what clinton promises in that plan is that he's also going to protect jobs that there's going to be a balance in. What beta says. Is that the democratic party isn't able to deliver and the the money really most of it is never forthcoming and so at that point you know voters out there start to feel kind of abandoned by the democratic party. Yup feel maybe betrayed. That's history david. What about this year has the current administration delivered for this area. Will it stay red or go back to blue so no the answer is no. Donald trump promised to bring back northwest timber jobs. It hasn't happened. Basically the the job picture. There hasn't really recovered overall since the big recession of two thousand and eight when it comes to timber jobs in particular mason county is actually Seen a decline grays harbor county. A teeny uptick. Whether or not that matters is is a second issue up. Seattle political consultant bent andor stone. Told me that his models suggest that grays harbor county you know might flip back for biden. This year could really go either way says. It's kind of a coin toss. I asked bryce huff the mccleary city council member what he thought and he said he's just not sure i've heard people say that we've had you know gone on for years and trump..

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