“Over a cup of black coffee at a cafe in Battle Ground where at least one patron wore a Donald Trump hat, Gillespie explained her strategy. She said that after she lost to Pike in 2016 by nearly 10,000 votes, her campaign went quiet but it never stopped.
“My expectation is that, given enough time to talk about enough issues … I can earn the support of anyone,” said Gillespie.
She’s given herself time. She recalled how in February 2017 she and a dozen supporters gathered with hand warmers in their pockets on a cold Saturday in Washougal to start knocking on voters’ doors for an election that was almost two years away. Gillespie recalled being surprised and encouraged by the turnout.
Gillespie, a former newspaper editor, said that she has since knocked on thousands of doors. She’s made multiple trips in her hybrid Toyota Camry to Yacolt. She’s gone through multiple inserts for a pair of Teva shoes she wears while canvassing.
Gillespie, 55, said that part of her appeal is that she’s a moderate, interested in results and bipartisanship. She said the Legislature should look at eliminating tax exemptions and loopholes before new revenue. She said she wished the Legislature could have delivered more property tax relief as part of a landmark education funding package.
“It’s a really tough uphill course,” former Camas Mayor Nan Henriksen said of Gillespie. “But when you consider the number of doors she’s knocked on and the number of open meetings she’s had to listen to people, I would hope that might offset the (district’s) history.”
Henriksen said she was won over by Gillespie’s understanding of the issues and her extensive outreach efforts. She also said Gillespie’s eight years on the Vancouver Public Schools board will be an asset as lawmakers take up the issue of school funding.
Rick Wilson, president of the Vancouver Education Association, described Gillespie as a very active board member who would show up early in the morning to pick up litter at schools. He described her as approachable and concerned about student learning as well as district employees.
After taking full control of the Legislature for the first time since 2012, Democrats have used their position to advance pent-up priorities on campaign finance, gun control, voting access, women’s issues and others.
Gillespie said she was supportive of the voting access measures, as well as legislation that would require insurers who cover maternity to also cover abortion. She said she supported net neutrality legislation, as well as a bill intended to address the wage gap between men and women. She described lawmakers’ attempt to exempt themselves for the state’s public record law as “nonsense,” but praised them for finishing on time.”