All over the state and throughout the country, from school board elections to gubernatorial races, more and more campaigns are driven not by candidates’ qualifications or issues of particular local concern but by bigger battles of national scope.

In the campaign for Seattle city attorney – a position that would seem as local as you can get – one candidate, Ann Davison, is being attacked for switching to the Republican Party while Donald Trump was president, while the other, Nicole Thomas-Kennedy, is getting boosted by the country-wide push to defund the police.

In the race for Seattle mayor, candidate Bruce Harrell is being excoriated in a TV ad supporting his opponent, M. Lorena Gonzalez, because he got a campaign donation (which he returned, by the way) from a real estate mogul who had previously donated money to Trump.

Down in southwest Washington, Republican U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler will face primary election opposition next year, not because she has done a bad job serving her district, but because she voted to impeach Trump.

And back up in Seattle, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont socialist who twice was a major contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, has weighed in with endorsements in the mayoral race and in two port commission races.

All over the state and throughout the country, from school board elections to gubernatorial races, more and more campaigns are driven not by candidates’ qualifications or issues of particular local concern but by bigger battles of national scope. Candidates and campaign managers are finding that voters, ever more poorly informed about issues close to home, are revved up by the things they read about on social media and from what they hear on talk radio and cable TV. And those things seldom have anything to do with potholes getting fixed, bridges being repaired or classrooms being properly supplied.

There are many reasons for this phenomenon, including the decline and disappearance of so many local newspapers, the rise of Facebook and Twitter, and the extreme polarization of American politics, particularly the stark ideological drift of cities toward the left and rural areas toward the right. It might be that local politics was never quite as local as it once seemed, but it is obvious now that local elections are skirmishes in cultural and ideological wars that span 50 states. 

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