A seconds-long snippet of James Windle's introductory campaign video has changed the dynamic of the race for what's currently Dave Reichert's 8th Congressional District seat. Heading into the August primary, it's put the focus on a familiar issue for our state: timber. But instead of the logging industry, people are talking about a specific piece of timber - the five-foot, 37-pound log Windle totes on his back during workouts.
A longtime outdoorsy type (fitting of his Sammamish roots), somewhere along the way Windle picked up the, shall we say, unusual habit of getting his exercise by running with a large log on his back. When four seconds of that unorthodox workout made its way into a Windle campaign video, people took note - first the Washington Post's Reliable Source blog, and soon thereafter hacks like me.
"There was nothing on my log on the website. There was just that one little flash on my profile, and obviously a lot of people wanted to ask me more about that. So, it was very unintentional. It wasn't a true campaign gimmick, because I have to admit, I was doing this before I ran for office. And I did what I could to kind of keep it in the backdrop," says Windle of his log-based workouts, noting he suspected the topic might become a distraction.
And while Windle has things other than his log he'd probably rather talk about - like his experience or how as an Independent he believe he's a good fit for the 8th - if it's his log that opens the door to conversations about his candidacy and credentials, he's OK with that. Especially with just over a week until ballots are due.
"One of the things I suspected, and it has come true, is the log [would be] kind of a distraction, but at the same time a conversation starter," says Windle. "If it gets people to ask more about me, then, when you're an Indie, that's kind of what we roll with."
More than simply rolling with it, those powering Windle's campaign - including his wife and a crew of volunteers dubbed "Windependents" - are embracing it. In reaction to the recent interest in his unique workout routine, Windle has scheduled a final campaign push that comes in the form of log-carrying runs through various communities in the 8th District for the week leading up to the Aug. 7 primary. Built around coffee shop stops that have been a backbone of his campaign, the tour kicked off yesterday in Auburn, continues today in Maple Valley, and will make stops in Ellensburg, Leavenworth, Issaquah, Cle Elum, Wenatchee and finally Sammamish before it's all said and done. A Windle press release states: "This march across the District challenges voters this election to think for themselves and vote for an Independent."
James Windle isn't alwasy running with a log. Sometimes he just sits.
As an Independent trying to get noticed, and, maybe just maybe, finish in the top two in the August primary and advance to November, Windle will take the attention any way he can get it at this point.
"I'm rolling with it because that's kind of what you have to do in a campaign, is have a strategy, but that strategy adapts as different opportunities present themselves," says Windle.
Even if that opportunity comes in the form of a big log, it seems.
For Windle, who says a few Independents like himself could help effectively shake up the partisan gridlock in D.C., he's not above recognizing the humor in the situation.
"I'm very, very serious, and I think my resume supports that I'm a very serious candidate, but at the same time politics is hilarious," says Windle. "When you think of the sorts of things we all do to try to convince people to entrust us with their vote, humor is just unavoidable."
With a little over a week to go until the 8th District field will be whittled down to two, Windle is confident voters will recognize through his background and resume that he's "not just someone who's using the log to get elected to Congress," he says. He's optimistic he will have done enough - through introducing himself, and even through his log runs -- to "get some votes."
And whatever happens, Windle says he's content to have "left it all on the field."