PORT TOWNSEND — The 25th annual Fish Feast of the Jefferson County Democrats played host to more than 300 Democrats, there to share ideas and listen to keynote speakers.
Attendees were able to spend time at information booths staffed by different political and activist groups before the grilled salmon, clams and other local delicacies were ready to be served by elected officials of the Democratic Party.
The Sunday event at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds was organized by Claire Roney and put on by more than 100 volunteers of the county Democrats.
The speakers included state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, state Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, state Rep. Steve Tharinger, state Rep. Mike Chapman and state Rep. Mike Pellicciotti.
Ferguson and Franz were the two keynote speakers.
State Sen. Kevin Van de Wege also was in attendance, but had to leave before the speeches, reportedly to attend the THING festival at Fort Worden, Roney said.
The last time Ferguson was at the Fish Feast was in 2017 and he said he was glad to be back up at the event and this corner of the state because it also gave him a chance to visit family living in Port Townsend.
Ferguson didn’t have a planned speech and said he prefers to see what happens when he gets on stage.
“I kinda wing it when I get up there,” Ferguson said. “I don’t write out a speech for these things.”
Ferguson was one of the elected officials that helped serve the attendees meals as part of the serving line.
“That’s part of the fun, not just coming to an event and speaking at it, actually being part of it,” Ferguson said. “That means it’s something especially enjoyable.”
Before the officials spoke, the night had a song and prayer given by Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe members Loni Greninger and tribal council member Kurt Grinnell, who welcomed the out-of-district officials to the area.
Among the crowd were about 20 “young Democrats” on whose behalf Kilmer donated $1,000 in order for them to be at the event and have a short meeting with Ferguson and the elected officials.
“I’m happy to be here with a bunch of young Democrats,” Kilmer said. “They’re awesome and they’re here.”
Each of the speakers had a different issue they wanted to address, but the two keynote speakers addressed two very large topics: the environment and litigation against the Trump administration.
Ferguson had sued the Trump administration 46 times as of Sunday evening — and Monday filed his 47th lawsuit — and so far he has won 21 of the suits, with 26 still not settled.
“When I file a lawsuit, I file it on behalf of the people,” Ferguson said. “Maybe we will win them all.”
Ferguson has been focused on holding the Trump administration accountable for their actions.
“It’s our job to make people follow the law,” Ferguson said.
Environmental protections have caused the majority of the lawsuits, Ferguson said.
“Literally half of those cases are about the environment,” Ferguson said. “The environment is a key part of who we are as a people.”
Franz agreed with Ferguson’s statements regarding the environment and said she handles the issues of climate change on a daily basis in Washington including topsoil losing nutrients, increased drought and more wildfires. She said there is hope for the future, looking out at the crowd of more than 300 people.
“I have three boys watching the world changing,” Franz said. “As a mother it’s my job to give them hope. … That’s hard. Looking at this crowd, there is hope and we’re going to show it in 2020.
“Every single day I see how fragile the environment is. We’re literally seeing the Evergreen State turning brown.”
Washington state fought wildfires for more than seven months last year, accounting for more than 40 percent of some counties’ operating budgets, Franz said.
The Healing Campus facility that is being built by the Jamestown S’Kallam Tribe was used as an example by Tharinger of what the North Olympic Peninsula can accomplish by finding solutions to large issues, such as mental health.
“That’s what we do in the North Peninsula,” Tharinger said. “We solve problems, we don’t create problems.”
Attendees came for a variety of reasons, some for the salmon, others to hear from their elected officials, and others just to talk with other Democrats.
“In these times, it’s very stimulating to talk to fellow Democrats who are excited for a change in regime,” said Linda Martin, chair of Warriors of Reproductive Justice.
People said they were pleased with how the event went and what the officials had to say.
“It was inspiring and delicious,” said Jeff Waibel. “I heard from people who I didn’t know existed. I felt better knowing they’re up there.”
“It’s nice to hear our local representatives in an intimate setting,” said Amanda Hamilton. “It makes it special.”
Roney said she was extremely pleased with how well attended the event was, and for her staff of volunteers.
“I was very appreciative of the volunteers that put on a successful fish feast,” Roney said. “We couldn’t have done it with out them.”
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected].