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A few days ago, just outside a coffee shop in Cle Elum, a person flagged me down to discuss healthcare after hearing I was running for Congress. With a few other participants, we had a sidewalk debate about the healthcare marketplace, the Supreme Court, and the individual mandate. It was exciting, intense, and thoroughly American.

Most campaigns for Congress involve carefully managed interactions with voters. Unscripted events are not very common. I do not agree with this approach. Every voter has a voice; as a candidate I should listen. As an Independent, I do not have to worry about party talking points. If I want to represent people, they have the right to engage me directly on any issue they wish.

The U.S. House of Representatives is the people’s house. The Framers intended House members to be one of the people. At one point they even considered an amazingly short one-year term to keep the connection strong between members of the House and the people. The campaign we have run has focused on direct contact with voters preferring multiple meetings with small numbers of voters each day rather than a few large events where there is no direct contact.

A major feature of the Windle for Congress campaign has been what we call the Coffee Shop Campaign. My first political conversations happened at coffee shops in Washington’s 8th District when I was in community college. Coffee shops have become the place where communities interact on society and politics just as diners and taverns served this purpose in the past.

The Coffee Shop Campaign is a courteous approach to campaigning. I normally get my coffee and sit down like anyone else would. Often I have a voter or two meet me there (you can sit down with me too by completing the information below). Sometimes they are Democrats. Sometimes they are Republicans. Most of the time party affiliation does not come up because what I care about most are the issues and solutions. You do not have to mention a party affiliation to discuss what is right for the country

A potential supporter questions James over coffee

Team Windle volunteers discuss impressions after the Cle Elum Pioneer Days parade

This approach is difficult for a candidate because it feels likes a pop quiz with subjects ranging from controversial social issues to very specific regulatory issues.  I learn a great deal from voters at coffee shops. For example, in Issaquah, I learned about the cost structure of healthcare services from a hospital administrator.  In a conversation in Chelan, I discovered how environmental regulations from the State impose hardships on farmers. This is how I believe a political campaign should be, and it strengthens my platform and positions.

The coffee shop serves other purposes too. Volunteers often meet up to discuss with me what is going on in their communities. We sometimes meet after events to discuss how an event went to try and do a better job of communicating with people. By using coffee shops as our mobile offices, we save money on a headquarters.  We are literally planning and executing a political campaign transparently within communities I seek to represent.

I look forward to seeing you around the District. If you wish to have coffee with me, just fill in the fields below. I’ll schedule a time with you. This campaign is as politics should be: those represented should be able to sit across and engage with those who wish to represent them.