White Salmon resident Sasha Bentley has stepped down from her role as chairwoman of the Klickitat Democrats to pursue a new role in civic engagement.
Bentley will be running against Republican Norm Johnson, of Yakima, for a 14th Legislative District seat in the state House of Representatives.
“Washington State has a lot going on for it, but there is still a need for improvement. I have a lot of respect for our local governments, and I feel working at the state level is how I could be the most effective for them and the people of the Gorge,” said Bentley.
Bentley and her husband Chris Johnson moved to the Gorge in February 2016. Chris works for Zepher in Bingen as a senior mechanical engineer, while Bentley has done some legal consulting work, as well as an acting member of the Columbia Gorge Women’s Action Network.
Bentley and her husband also have made a small entrepreneurial effort in educational game design. Early in the summer of 2017, The Enterprise shared a story about Bentley’s game called “Checks and Balances,” a card game to teach people how the United States government works.
Bentley has degrees in political science and women’s studies from the University of Washington and has previous experience working as a legal assistant in Seattle.
Bentley became the chair of Klickitat Democrats in January 2017 and says a driving factor for her involvement in politics was the presidential election of 2016.
“It wasn’t so much Donald Trump being elected as it was watching the voter turnout and just how fed up people were with our government that drove me to get more actively involved. I want to reconnect the people with government and create more trust in it again and have it become more accessible and willing to listen and communicate with the people we serve,” said Bentley.
“Also, I have built up all these skills over the years that I have just been sitting on and felt like it was just time to use them,” she added.
If elected, one of Bentley’s main goals will be to focus on alternative education.
“Beginning with education, one of the things I would love to see and make happen are more alternative schools in our district, particularly trade schools and apprenticeship programs. I want to see trades put on the same level of acceptance as college is for kids as educational/vocational options,” said Bentley.
Some of Bentley’s other goals will be easier access to affordable health care and the Internet in rural areas, as well as encouraging more civic engagement and small businesses.
“Health care is one of the many things that have an impact on almost every aspect of our lives, including politics, unfortunately. When health care is affordable and accessible, we have healthy and thriving communities, which helps business, education, and civic engagement, “said Bentley.
Asked to respond to the concern that partisan politics may come to play in her race against Norm Johnson, Bentley said, “National politics ultimately has an influence on us, that’s just a fact. However, we are such a small community that we really cannot afford to have the partisanship of it affect us too. Ultimately, we know what is good for us locally,” said Bentley.