More than a century ago, candidates for public office in the U.S. often campaigned by staying at home and giving stump speeches from their front porch. Today, Uma Coimbature, who is running for Sammamish City Council, is orchestrating her campaign from over 8,000 miles away in India.
Multiple community members have recently questioned why Coimbature has been physically absent from Sammamish through much of the campaign. No one has seen her in town recently, and she skipped all three candidate forums in October.
In a Facebook post on Oct. 24, Coimbature revealed that she has been out of the country this entire time.
“I am currently working my elephant project in India,” Coimbature wrote in the post. “This was already planned for quite a long time and funds have been in place so I could not move my project timing.”
On Oct. 29, she wrote another Facebook post on her personal profile, saying that she is helping to build elephant water holes in a reserve forest in the state of Tamil Nadu, near the city of Coimbatore.
Her novel approach of long-distance campaigning is testing the notion of whether a candidate needs to be physically present to run for city council, or whether an online-only engagement strategy is enough to sway Sammamish voters.
“I have spend days working for the elephants and nights engaging via my website and Facebook with the residents of Sammamish,” Coimbature wrote on Facebook.
“I had confidence in technology to reach the residents and communicate with them as well as any person who is here,” she wrote on her profile, seemingly to address concerns that she is not physically present in Sammamish to campaign.
When asked whether she would be back by Election Day, Coimbature did not answer directly, only saying that “I absolutely plan to return soon.”
Coimbature’s approach to campaigning stands in contrast to that of her opponent, Roisin O’Farrell, who has been knocking on doors almost every day and engaging with voters face to face.
“In the remaining days of the campaign, my focus is on doorbelling as many homes in Sammamish as possible, and speaking to as many voters as possible about the issues that are important to them,” O’Farrell said in an email to the Sammamish Independent.
When asked what she thought about her opponent being out of town, O’Farrell only said that she is “100% focused on my own campaign and running my own race.”