Finding common ground in government, politics | In Our Opinion

U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, tells a story about the advice he received when he was a rookie state senator.

A veteran legislator, a Republican, advised him to always reach across the aisle—always get a sponsor from the other party for each bill. And always do what you think is right—vote for the good bills, vote against the bad ones.

Kilmer took that advice with him to Congress, where he co-chairs the House Bipartisan Working Group. Members of the working group identify issues on which they agree and write legislation accordingly. The idea, according to Kilmer: Congress is never going to agree on everything, so let’s identify issues on which we do agree and work to resolve those.

The nation’s federal and state capitals are today known more for partisan rancor than bipartisan progress. But across the country, several federal and state legislators from opposite parties have found the better angels of their nature and are actively working together to accomplish good things — on issues ranging from identifying and combatting causes of ocean acidification, to improving early learning, child welfare, and juvenile justice services in the state. (We were more than pleased when senators from both political parties voted against repeal-and-replacement of the Affordable Care Act, and Senate Health Committee leadership issued a joint statement outlining a commitment “to stabilize and strengthen the individual health insurance market so that Americans will be able to buy insurance at affordable prices in the year 2018.”)

State Reps. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo, and Michelle Caldier, R-Port Orchard, who have found common ground on such issues as health care reform, will participate in a public discussion on ways that people from different political parties and political persuasions can work together for the common good.

The discussion, aptly titled “Finding Common Ground,” is scheduled for 6:30-8:30 p.m. Sept. 26 in the Norm Dicks Government Center, 345 Sixth St., Bremerton. The event is organized by the League of Women Voters of Kitsap. We encourage residents to attend and bring their questions.

Now, some words of wisdom to remember:

“Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.” – John F. Kennedy inaugural address, Jan. 20, 1961

“Our problems cannot be solved by one person and not even by one party because our problems are not Democratic or Republicans problems — they are American problems. We are all in this together, and because of that, it is imperative that we work together.” – U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Ohio, member of the House Bipartisan Working Group

(For information about more League events and forums, go to