Pierce County Auditor – Damon Townsend

Municipal/Other Questionnaire 2022

Candidate Info

Candidate Name:    Damon Townsend
Position Sought:     Pierce County Auditor
Are you an incumbent for this position?     Non-incumbent
Home Legislative District:     26th
Are you a Democrat?     I am not a member of the party, but support the listed values of the platform in regards to my office’s duties.

Campaign Info

Campaign Manager or Point of Contact:     Self
Mailing Address:     5114 Point Fosdick Dr. – STEF – PMB 103
Phone:     2535273414
Email:     electdamontownsend@gmail.com
Website:     www.electdamontownsend.com
Facebook:     https://www.facebook.com/damon.townsend/
Twitter:     No twitter

Part I – Candidate Background

1. Please briefly describe your qualifications, education, employment, community and civic activity, union affiliation, prior political activity, and other relevant experience.

I have extensive operational management and elections administration experience. This office is responsible for conducting all elections in the county, maintaining the voter registration rolls, and providing recording and licensing services for the people of the county. I was an operations manager for CenturyLink for 5 years, the elections supervisor for the county for 5 as well and have served as an elections operations consultant for the past two years. I am an acknowledged statewide as an expert in the elections field by other county auditors, and the fine folks at the Secretary of State’s office.

I was a member and shop steward for two unions, IBEW when I was a tech at Centurylink, and a member and steward for the Auditor’s Office in AFSME when I was the supervisor there.

2. What prompted you to run for this office?

I have lived nearly all my life in nearly every corner of our county. I understand it is a huge and diverse place, larger than the State of Rhode Island, and I love everything about it. I found a passion for elections when I changed career paths from telecommunications to election administration and want to bring that experience to the director level of this county department. I feel the people of the county will be best served by a competent, professional, and experienced elections administrator that knows what the office does. I want to be that professional administrator that I as a citizen of the county would want.

3. What steps are you taking to run a successful campaign?

This is my first experience running for office. I have been a successful operations manager and elections administrator, and I am taking my approach towards this office like a job interview. I am reaching out to all parties, groups, and organizations that I can. This is a 6 month long interview with a diverse panel of decision makers made up of nearly 600,000 registered voters. I think a successful candidate will share their qualifications with as many folks that they can to help get the word out.

4. What are your campaign’s most important themes, issues, or priorities (three to five)?

Experience – I have the greatest experience of any candidate seeking this office. I have run elections in this county, and two others in the state as an interim manager. I was part of the development of the new state-wide voter registration program, and was hired on a temporary basis by the Secretary of State to train counties across the state in its use.

Pierce County Knowledge – I know this county in ways that other candidates do not. I have lived and worked in East Tacoma, Roy, Graham, Gig Harbor, Parkland, Eatonville, and Kapowsin. I know this large county has a diverse population with different needs, and will be an Auditor for the entire county.

Skills – I fully intended to become a history teacher when I first went to college. Life happened, and I went to work as a telecommunications tech instead, but teaching has always been my passion. I have the skill of communicating complex issues with normal folks. I also am a troubleshooter, I learned the skill as a data systems tech, I can find the root cause of an issue, confirm it is the problem, and propose solutions that will remedy the problem. I bought those skills to the elections office to reconcile our reporting and processing procedures already, and will continue to improve them when elected.

Part II – Yes/No Questions, please qualify your answer if necessary

1. Do you support steps to build a fairer economy through tax reform and progressive taxes as wealth increases?     Yes
Optional: Qualify Your Response to #1     I firmly believe that we should all pay our fair share. Those that benefit from government protections and services should repay that security. My office does not have much influence on tax reform, but I want to make sure the services provided by my office are distributed equitably, through the whole county.

2. Do you support robust investment in publicly owned housing/subsidized housing for elderly and low-income individuals/families, and zoning changes to support such housing?     No
Optional: Qualify Your Response to #2     I am a firm believer that folks should own their own home. I fully support programs that assist marginalized, low income, and elderly folks to become home owners, or maintain ownership of their current home. I believe that home ownership is the start on the path of building generational wealth, something that has held back many low income folks. I support government bridging to cover gaps with subsidized housing and the corresponding need to change zoning to support it, but I want the ultimate goal to be to move folks into ownership.

3. Developer impact fees are allowed under the Growth Management Act. Should they be increased to help pay for needed improvements to our roads, parks, and schools?     Yes
Optional: Qualify Your Response to #3     Yes, development reaps great financial rewards to the developers, and they should shoulder some of the costs to support that growth. We have had massive growth in the Gig Harbor area where I live with little improvement to the local transportation network and utility infrastructure.

4. Do you support building a municipally owned and operated broadband system in your city or jurisdiction?     No
Optional: Qualify Your Response to #4     I worked in the telecom industry for many years, and know that the system is ‘less than ideal’ With the rollout of new technology like Starlink and other non plant facilities based ways to connect, I do not believe it is a good use of government funds to build out an antiquated technology. I think a better approach would be partnerships or bulk purchase of Starlink or other wireless connectivity options with vouchers and/or subsidies for low income folks and those in need.

5. Do you support local investments to address climate change where applicable?     Yes
Optional: Qualify Your Response to #5     I hate waste and inefficiency. Reducing energy requirements do both at the same time. Working more efficiently, using better fuels and energy production methods will reduce costs and carbon output. I reduced paper requirements at the elections office by digitizing many of the older form based systems. I also testified at the legislature to pass a bill to allow a different method of protecting voter privacy and eliminating the secrecy sleeve from the ballot packet. Had that passed and were it implemented state-wide we could eliminate 8-10 million wasted envelopes a year.

6. Do you support women’s unrestricted access to reproductive healthcare?     No
Optional: Qualify Your Response to #6     I support a woman’s right to choose, but not fully unrestricted. I do not believe that abortions should be available, on demand late in pregnancy. I believe in what Bill Clinton said back in the 90’s, abortion should be legal, safe, and rare. I fully support unrestricted access to birth control, as that used properly would reduce the need for abortions.

7. Do you support laws regulating the purchase, ownership, and carrying of firearms?     Yes
Optional: Qualify Your Response to #7     I am a responsible gun owner, and have no issues with laws regulating them. I have always stored mine securely, I have educated my children on their uses and dangers, and use them for sport. I think that a requirement for liability insurance like we have with vehicles will help with some of the issues around guns. Some folks have sports cars that can unreasonably accelerate and have top speeds that are illegal everywhere, but there is no restriction on who can buy those cars, but the cost of the insurance for them makes it so only responsible people will buy them. I also support restrictions on gun ownership for folks with mental illness.

8. Do you support the right of workers to unionize and bargain, including public employees?     Yes
Optional: Qualify Your Response to #8     I have always supported the rights of folks to collectively bargain. Unions provide the employer and their customers with a professional workforce, and the workers with a fair and just contract for working conditions. I have been a shop steward for two unions, and management on the other side.


Part III – Free Response (Please answer at least four fully, and consider the additional three optional)

1. Why are you requesting Democratic endorsement? What aspects of the Democratic platform most resonate with you?

I am seeking endorsements from both parties, knowing that I may get neither. I do not support everything on your platform, nor many of the things on the Republican platform. My office is an administrative one, I will not get to make laws or have any influence on may of either parties platforms. What I can offer is a professional, nonbiased election administrator that knows the current election laws, who developed procedures for ballot processing and accounting that are used in multiple counties, a person that worked on the development of the voter registration program used in our state and was a trainer for the counties in its use. Each if the platform points in section 13 of your posted platform are points I support and have implemented in my time as an elections administrator.

2. What public policy reforms do you support to achieve greater equity and inclusion for BIPOC and LBQIA+ individuals in our communities?

Our office knows it is important to reach out to traditionally marginalized groups and communities. We serve all the people of the county, and need to be sure to include all parties in recruiting, outreach, and service. I think interview panels should be as diverse as possible to get as many perspectives as possible. I also know that BIPOC and LBQIA+ individuals often have low voter participation. I want to reach out and educate all about the importance and validity of elections, and make them feel that participation is welcome and needed. We have to hear all our neighbor’s voices when we are making big decisions.

3. What steps do you think need to be taken to improve voter turnout and increase voter trust in our election process?

Education, Education, Education. That is most of what I do now. Folks need to know that their elections are secure, accurate, transparent, and accessible. I have spoken to schools, community groups, and even some of the most hardened conspiracy folks out there. Once people understand how the system actually works, then they can be skeptical about it. Too often their concerns have already been addressed in our state, or the issue they are describing is a straw man argument. I have no issue going into a hostile room and explaining how we do things in Pierce County, and explaining why they should trust us, then showing them how it all works. I want to expand and grow our observer program, and I want to grow outreach to all areas of the county, to all groups.

4. What important local issues have you worked on (or taken an interest in) that you feel aren’t getting enough attention from elected leaders and the local media?

Local elections. Too much is focused on the Presidential elections, and not enough on local issues. Everyone knows who the president is, a good majority know who the governor is, many less who the county executive is, and you will be hard pressed to find someone who knows who their fire/sewer/water commissioner is. I tell folks all the time, it doesn’t matter much who the president is when your house burns down because no one filed for fire commissioner, or if their sewer is backing up in their shower. These local offices need more attention by the media, and we need less focus on national issues.

5. Please list at least three specific, concrete actions you would support to ease the homelessness crisis.

Increase mental health treatment options for folks with low or no cost. They are sick, not homeless and need help. Homelessness is a symptom, not the disease. Increase programs to help people become homeowners, not renters.

Home ownership builds equity and generational wealth, and can provide a safety cushion for folks on hard times.

I was in San Antonio, Texas and saw a great program there. They repurposed coin operated parking meters around the city to collect donations for a food truck program. The money in those meters supported trucks that provided hot meals and assistance for folks experiencing homelessness, and though not a solution, it is a good way to fund and assist folks.

6. What safety, law, or justice issues are currently facing your jurisdiction, and how will you address them?

Again, my office does not make law, we administer those made by the legislature and county council. Overall I feel our election laws are good, they need some administrative cleanup, but no major overhaul.

7. What are the transportation/transit challenges which face your jurisdiction and how would you address them? What role does green energy play in your proposed solutions?

The election center is not the easiest to get to for folks with limited mobility. We have made some improvements, but it is still ‘less than ideal’ Vote by mail helps with this for most folks with transportation issues, but not everyone can vote that mail ballot. My office needs to make sure all citizens can vote, and transportation can be an issue with that. Also we have a hard deadline for ballot return on election night at 8:00 PM, and if traffic is jammed folks could be disenfranchised. We are on our own for siting drop boxes, I would like to work with the roads department to consider possible drop box locations when working on transportation issues (more drive-ups and/or drop box consideration for mass transit hubs)

By typing my name below, I declare under penalty of perjury the foregoing is true and correct.

Printed Name:     Damon Townsend
Date (mm/dd/yy):     06/03/2022

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