At Large in Ballard: Underdog
Before we met at the expanded Starbuck’s location on Market Street Robert Canamar told me he’d be easy to recognize as one of only two regular wheelchair customers. I realized on my way to meet him that there are quite a few wheelchair users in central Ballard, but Canamar is the only one with a beard that is Lincolnesque.
Canamar had called out to me one day as I hurried along Market Street between errands. There are so many attempts for our attention, Real Change vendors in front of Bartell Drugs, people with petitions and the overflow of red-vested young people with information about American Red Cross. It would have been easier to pass by someone in a wheelchair who doesn’t have the same eye contact advantage.
Like others with clipboards along the street, Canamar was collecting signatures. In his case it was so that he could get on the ballot for the primary election as candidate for House Representative, Position 1, 36th District without a filing fee. If somebody wants to run for election I think they deserve to opportunity to be on the ballet. I signed, took his literature and forgot about him for months until I saw his name this week in large letters on the side of a camper van parked near NW 65th.
The camper van, called The Monster, is Canamar’s home. It’s a roomy upgrade compared to the small motor home that he previously allowed another man to share with him or his years in the doorway of Sterling Bank. Canamar is not shy about declaring himself ‘economically poor’ but he doesn’t believe that should block his attempt to advance to the general election again incumbent Reuven Carlyle, who’s seeking a third term.
In fact while Canamar is seeking endorsements and contributions from small businesses he doesn’t want his campaign funding to exceed $5,000. Canamar knows that he’s an underdog in the race but says he told Carlyle at the start of his second term that he would run against him if he didn’t like how he did his job. Given that Canamar’s number one priority is education he was upset that the legislature did not address education funding until the end of the session, declaring that in home finances the most important bills should get attention first.
A musician, former small business owner and President of the Seattle Street Performer’s Guild I didn’t expect Canamar to be so much the candidate. I suspect this was because I was stereotyping someone who happens to live in a vehicle that needs to be moved every 72 hours. When I interview people in Ballard they usually just start telling their stories. Canamar stayed with the issues, quoting from Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Paine and discussing political activism that started on behalf of the homeless with Operation Homestead.
“I make no bones about being a poor man economically,” Canamar told me, “but I make up for it in being rich in principles and moral fiber.”
Even though his chances of overall victory are slim I realized that Canamar’s candidacy is quite real. A lifelong Democrat he says he’s running as an Independent because he thinks both parties need, “to stop playing games and do the job.” He’s also independent when it comes to his lifestyle, able to keep himself clean and fed without relying on shelters or church feeds. “I can afford to cook my own meals.”
As though preparing for the debate invitation that Canamar hopes is in his future before the general election he made what amounted to a closing speech. “I’m a fighter. I’ll fight for the underdog. I’ll fight for education and truth and I’ll be totally honest.”
If he should win Canamar will easily relocate during the legislative session to Olympia in The Monster. “It runs,” he said, breaking into a grin. “That will be my home, no need to spend money on a second one.”