Chris Byrd of Toutle, an independent running to represent the 3rd Congressional District, decided to toss his name into the candidate pool after being exhausted by its extreme political polarization.
“I don’t think it’s beneficial to our future,” he said.
The high school social studies teacher said the partisan political environment is harmful for the region’s growth and presents a roadblock for resolving its challenges. Byrd takes the position of a mediator seeking to mend the political divide, as he believes the solution to most issues is to unite political parties, though he doesn’t know how he will do this yet.
Byrd called his campaign approach unconventional.
Before tackling issues like inflation and climate change, he wants to shift how policy makers discuss them.
“My goal is kind of an experiment with a social media campaign and see how many people I can reach with my message and see if it takes off,” Byrd said. “I hope to at least make a difference and try to change the conversation.”
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The candidate is attempting to reach as many people in Southwest Washington as he can before the primary election on Aug. 2. He’ll utilize social media platforms, such as Twitter and TikTok, and make cold calls to connect with about 500 people a day until the election. During this time, Byrd plans on assembling a list of constituents’ top concerns and then determining how to approach them in a bipartisan manner.
Collectively, Byrd’s challengers have raised millions in campaign financing, according to the Federal Election Commission. Byrd wants to completely extract money from politics, going as far to not host fundraising events for his campaign.
Compared to other candidates in the race, Byrd doesn’t have much money or public support. However, he is throwing up a Hail Mary and will be pleased if he influences people with his message.
“I want my own kids to have an idea that you can strive for your goals, so I’m going to give it my best shot,” he said. “I’ve got two months to do it.”
Avoiding political tags
Byrd recalled struggling to breathe when he walked outside as wildfire smoke engulfed the region. He noted how steadily increasing temperatures are harming key resources, such as fish, in Southwest Washington. These climate events are devastating, the candidate said, and the possibility of them worsening is frightening.
Despite these concerns, Byrd could not relay what statewide and federal initiatives he backs that would address this underlying issue. Instead, he wants to focus on how to unite opposing views and avoid getting boxed into a certain position.
Byrd’s neutral approach and attempts to please all political perspectives can also be applied to the discussion of public safety.
“Right now, law enforcement is in a super tough spot in our country. They need to be supported,” he said. “That also includes that other side of it that people that, you know, might see the negative side of some of those law enforcement issues.”
In 2018, an independent investigator found that Byrd failed to properly follow district policies and procedures when he was a principal at Toutle Lake High School, according to reporting by The (Longview) Daily News. The incident involved the school’s basketball team members exhibiting sexually graphic and offensive behavior toward players’ mothers, The Daily News wrote. The investigator found that the complaint was incorrectly managed.
“At the time, I did what I thought I should have done according to procedure,” Byrd said. “Ultimately, there were some things that should have been handled differently.”
Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of candidate profiles for Washington’s 3rd Congressional District. Each candidate who has consented to be interviewed will be profiled. Find all the profiles at www.columbian.com/news/tag/3rd-congressional.