Why I’m an Independent & My Experience as an Independent Legislator

Hello Folks, Rep Owen Casas here. As campaign season comes into full swing, I thought it would be helpful to address two topics of importance to me, and if you are considering voting for me would be important to you too: Why am I an independent and what has been my experience as an independent legislator?

From my experience in two previous campaigns for this office, I know that folks in the District want a local representative that will have an impact, both on legislative process and legislative outcomes. I also know that although many in the community have come to appreciate my style of decision making, many might not be aware of how important my independence is to making those decisions.

So why am I an independent and why is that so important to me?

The abridged version of why I never enrolled in a political party is this: Because I was an active duty US Marine in my younger years, I pretty much disregarded most things political until my mid-twenties, at which point my stubbornness, independence and hard work ethic was already set, no party needed.

I realized while attending university that some aspects of both major political parties resonated with me: the fiscal prudence of the Republican party and the social open-mindedness of the Democratic party. Believing neither party had a monopoly on good ideas, I felt comfortable working through policies and related material to make my mind up for myself, without the influence of a party. This process of working through material to formulate an opinion is guided — in large part — with input from a range of folks on “both sides of the aisle.” I believe this process, now done in conjunction with my independent colleagues, lends itself to opinions rooted in political reality but independent from unreasonable influence.

How has this style of governing influenced the legislative process? Have I been effective?

As a first term legislator with no party, influencing the process and outcomes to a high degree isn’t grounded in reality. That said, legislators can be as effective and influential as they have the energy, curiosity and creativity to be. Being both curious and energetic, I am pleased with the effectiveness I’ve shown throughout my first term. Obviously “effectiveness” is a range. My effectiveness ranged from ferrying verbal messages from leadership of one party to leadership of another, being tasked with gaining support from Republican leadership for a Democratic priority (which was gained) and sponsoring a Governor’s bill so Democrats were open to supporting it (the bill was LD 1899 and received unanimous support in committee, the House and Senate). Being effective also meant being a nonpartisan sounding board, where I often spent time explaining to my Republican friends where the Democrats were “coming from” and vice versa for the Democrats.

Although my process for evaluating public policy isn’t perfect, I still have a lot to learn and I will likely make mistakes in the future, I hope folks appreciate the complexity of the questions asked of the legislature and how much goes into making good decisions. In a world of emotional reactions and sound bites, I think it is even more necessary for lawmakers to have a deliberative and principled process for voting on bills.

Paid for and authorized by Owen Casas.

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