Dr. Ann Diamond is a physician with Columbia Valley Community Health in Chelan and Wenatchee. In November, Dr. Diamond announced her plans to run for state representative of the 12th Legislative District as an Independent candidate. She is running for the seat currently held by Rep. Cary Condotta who announced his retirement in May. Also joining the race for this position are Republican candidates Keith Goehner and JD Greening, as well as Democratic candidate C. Keiki Stacy Weigle.
Since announcing her run for the House, Diamond has received the endorsements of Washington Independents and the National Women’s Political Caucus of Washington. Dr. Diamond recently spoke with The Wire about her race and what it’s like to run as an Independent candidate.
Emily Boerger: You have been a physician in rural Washington for several years, what made you decide to switch gears and run for the state legislature?
Dr. Ann Diamond: “There are probably lots of reasons. One is I was part of a group of physicians who went to the legislature to talk about some of the issues that were most important to us. And when I met with the lawmakers, the ones who were from my district were not particularly interested in the issues that we were presenting. One of them, who is now no longer in the race, Condotta, basically told me I should talk to Eileen Cody who was in charge of the Health and Wellness Committee. But of course, she’s not my representative. And that feeling of taking a day off to go to Olympia, to meet some people who are so engaged in trying to lower the cost of healthcare and bring better access to their constituents, and then to meet my representative who had no interest in mental health or increased access to health care was frustrating to say the least… [I realized] that if I was going to make a difference I was going to have to step up and run.”
“I decided in November to run, so for the last six months, I have been travelling the entire district, talking with mayors, PUD, court, and anyone and everyone who will explain to me what they need from the state legislature.”
EB: What does being an independent candidate mean to you and why was it important for you to not have a party preference coming into this?
AD: “Well as an outsider looking into the political world, I’m a physician, I am a scientist, I’m used to evidence-based decisions. You look at what is known about human physiology, and the medications that you’re prescribing, and then you work with your patient to figure out what’s best for them. And patients expect you to be their advocate. And what appears to be happening in the legislature, is the parties are more interested in maintaining their power than they are in doing what’s best for their constituency.
“When I tell someone that I’m running Independent, the most common response I get is, “that’s probably a good idea.” People are frustrated with not having a voice in their government. And when I say “independent,” it allows people to say, “well what issues are important to you?” And we can have a discussion on the issues as opposed to party politics. And what I’m trying to achieve is a crack in the part ideology, to allow some light in.
“There hasn’t been an Independent in the Washington legislature since the very first legislature. It’s been over 100 years. And we are so closely tied to the 48 – 50. I mean, it’s a very close legislature on votes… Have you heard of the road kill analogy? There certainly was a road kill caucus in 2011, and it was a group of moderate politicians who felt like they were being run over by the extremes of both parties. And it was so closely tied that they were able to swing a number of important votes. And I think that idea of a few votes being the swing votes, that’s what Independents could achieve in Washington. And they could pull things back to the middle.”
EB: Have you talked to any current legislators who seem interested in bringing things back towards the middle?
AD: “I have talked to a number of Representatives and most of them have been skeptical. They think that any Independent who gets in will be lonely. And I’ve heard things like, “well, the parties are tribal, and you won’t be part of the tribe.” And that is my concern, is that the parties are tribal and they are no longer representing the people who elected them.”
“So, I can’t promise, because I don’t know. Part of the engagement is to figure out how to do things a little bit differently.”
EB: As an Independent candidate, what are some of the key issues that are important to you outside of health care?
AD: “One of the things about being Independent is we are not a party. So, we’re not coming together and trying to think up strategy. What we’re trying to do is reach out to our constituency and figure out what they want rather than reach out to each other and figure out how we can run a platform.”
“But, when you look at the centrist [movement], they are talking about certain tenants, and being fiscally conservative is one of them. Social tolerance is another — getting the government away from making rules about people’s private behavior. And stewardship of the environment – of actually acknowledging that there’s science and that we need to be responsible and care for our environment and make evidence-based decisions that will allow for continuity. Those ideas I would say those are probably the primary ones that Independents look out for. That you’re not going to waste money, that you’re going to be practical, that you’re going to be socially tolerant, that you’re going to be looking out for the environment, looking at the evidence and being a steward to the public lands, and then being a representative to your community. And that has nothing to do with party. “
EB: A recent poll from the Unite America Institute shows that Washington State may be a particularly advantageous state for Independent candidates because of the state’s top two primary. Do you think it’s an advantage?
AD: “So, if you’re getting through the top two primary, if there’s a Democrat and a Republican in the race, it’s going to be very difficult for independents to win because most people are going to go with what they know. And they are going to go either D or R reflexively. That’s my belief. But if you get through the top two primary, and you have a Democrat and an Independent, or a Republican and an Independent, then I think Independents have a real chance. And that’s where the primary is everything.
“[The poll] also points out that D’s won’t vote for R’s and R’s won’t vote for D’s, so once you remove one of those two options, you’ve picked up those votes for an Independent…so you have to break into the system and that’s going to be difficult.”
EB: What perspective would you bring to the state legislature?
AD: “Being a rural physician means being a patient advocate. You often have to fight for your patient to receive medications or coverage or access to the specialty care that they need. And in a small town you know everybody, and even when you disagree on various topics, people pull together to help one another. That type of pride in a small-town community is something that exists in every town in this very large district. And that small-town pride, exists in local government — who the mayor is, who the city council people are — but it doesn’t translate as well to the lawmakers in Olympia… What has to happen at the legislative level is that everybody needs to come back to the table. And you have to include everyone and just keep plowing forward. And that’s the idea for me, of being Independent, is that I’m not representing Republicans and I’m not representing Democrats. I will listen to every constituent and I believe that’s what other individuals who are saying “no party” are striving for too.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.