Nov 13, 2021
This week we have the second part of the Hacks & Wonks post-election breakdown, featuring Executive Director of America Walks and former mayor of Seattle Mike McGinn, Managing Partner of Upper Left Strategies Michael Charles, and Co-Founder of the Mercury Group and former Colleen Echohawk campaign consultant, Bill Broadhead! They get into election results from outside of Seattle, the continual incorrect characterization of the most progressive elected officials as the "most divisive", the need to hold elected officials accountable to their campaign promises, how strange the office of City Attorney actually is, and much more.
As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at officialhacksandwonks.com.
Find the host, Crystal Fincher on Twitter at @finchfrii, Bill Broadhead at @billbroadhead, Michael Charles at @mikeychuck, and Mike McGinn at @mayormcginn. More info is available at officialhacksandwonks.com.
"Seattle Progressives Gain 13 Points from Election Night, but Come Up Short" by Doug Trumm from The Urbanist: https://www.theurbanist.org/2021/11/12/seattle-progressives-gain-13-points-from-election-night-but-come-up-short/
"Where Urbanists and Progressives Go from Poor 2021 Showing" by Doug Trumm from The Urbanist:
"Election results for Seattle and King County 2021 races" by Crosscut Staff from Crosscut: https://crosscut.com/politics/2021/11/election-results-seattle-and-king-county-2021-races
"Hamdi Mohamed and Toshiko Grace Hasegawa, both challenges in Port of Seattle Commission races, take lead" by Akash Pasricha from The Seattle Times: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/mohamed-and-hasegawa-both-challengers-in-port-of-seattle-commission-races-take-lead/
"What the Seattle election results mean for progressives" by Katie Wilson from Crosscut: https://crosscut.com/opinion/2021/11/what-seattle-election-results-mean-progressives
"Bruce Harrell and other winners of Seattle elections made big promises. Next they'll try to deliver" by Daniel Beekman and Jim Brunner from The Seattle Times: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/bruce-harrell-and-other-winners-of-seattle-elections-made-big-promises-next-theyll-try-to-deliver/
"Republican Ann Davison, talking law and order, wins Seattle City Attorney race" by Mike Carter from The Seattle Times: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/republican-ann-davison-defeats-nicole-thomas-kennedy-to-become-seattles-first-woman-city-attorney/
"Election Analysis: Garcia surpasses Barrett as Mora unseats Marx in Burien City Council races" by Nicholas Johnson from The B-Town Blog: https://b-townblog.com/2021/11/06/election-analysis-garcia-surpasses-barrett-as-mora-unseats-marx-in-burien-city-council-races/
"Six takeaways from the 2021 Spokane City Council election results" by Daniel Walters from the Inlander: https://www.inlander.com/spokane/six-takeaways-from-the-2021-spokane-city-council-election-results/Content?oid=22652130
"Election Results 4: Challengers continue to hold leads in SeaTac City Council races" from The SeaTac Blog: https://seatacblog.com/2021/11/07/election-results-4-challengers-continue-to-hold-leads-in-seatac-city-council-races/
[00:00:00] Crystal Fincher: Welcome to Hacks & Wonks. I'm Crystal Fincher, and I'm a political consultant and your host. On this show, we talk with policy wonks and political hacks to gather insight into local politics and policy in Washington state through the lens of those doing the work with behind-the-scenes perspectives on what's happening, why it's happening, and what you can do about it. Full transcripts and resources referenced in the show are always available at officialhacksandwonks.com and in our episode notes.
Outside of Seattle - some people are very happy. Some people are just going, Okay, we wanted a different direction, we actually wanted substantive change - did not get that in Seattle. But in a lot of the suburban races - to me, actually this year, and interested to see if you agree - I think it was a better cycle than the average suburban cycle is in these races. I mean, I'm thinking about SeaTac and Burien, I'm thinking about Spokane. I'm thinking about a lot of these races where - in these suburbs, especially with a lot of the rhetoric that have been going on and getting more conservative in school board races, and a lot of these where we've been seeing super conservatives not hiding their language in progressive sayings - just straight out criminalizing homelessness is the right thing to do. They're trying to take over our school districts with critical race theory and just a lot of the rhetoric - Hey, we've got to just straight up lower taxes, all this taking care of people stuff is too much. And seeing pushback on that and seeing candidates who are substantively progressive and talking about things in a number of the suburbs that haven't been talked about in that way. What have you've been seeing, Michael Charles?
[00:02:05] Michael Charles: Yeah - I mean, to me, it's been more of a mixed bag. I think we look on the Eastside and I think a lot of the pieces on the Eastside that we'd hoped - some of the seats in Bellevue, in particular - where we were hoping for stronger showings from progressives. It was pretty much a repudiation directly to turning the council - what could have potentially been a more progressive council. Looking into South King County, though - you mentioned SeaTac. I thought that was - that's such a dramatic shift from what it's been for like the last six years, 4-6 years. So real exciting to see that move in a different direction again, and especially with low turnout and everything that went - makes me think maybe even the voting population period is shifted. Some exciting wins in Tukwila - youngest City Councilmember in the state elected there and that was pretty cool.
And there were some fun things to celebrate, but then some trends - looking into the next legislative session and thinking about what districts are close, and where are we going to be having fights versus Republicans? Looking into the 30th LD, looking into that part of South King County - I didn't feel really good about those results. I thought Kent was bad - and I don't know if, again, was it bad candidates? Because I think about Brenda Fincher - here we go - good progressive in Kent elected year after year. So again, is it about message? Is it about not putting the appropriate campaign resources into these areas? I'm not of the same mindset - I think the progressive message works. I do think that King County tends to be in favor of the progressive message and I just think it's been a lack of execution from the left, honestly. And I do find a lot of it to be - we're trying to live out these values, but not willing to execute on the campaign trail. It's maddening to watch because you do get these good candidates - you get people that are winning. I mean, I think about Toshiko and Hamdi winning countywide - these were clearly more progressive than these challengers that had been there, and they were winning. So I want to refute.
And I think what the right wing wants to happen, more than anything, is to say that this was a repudiation of progressive values - that we're moving too far to the left and all this. And that's nonsense. We're getting younger, our electorate is getting more progressive. We have to do a better job of executing. And I just think we can't buy into this inevitable narrative that's going to come out of - and you've already seen it from the typical players of - this is clearly a refutation of progressives gone too far. They're radical. The moderate progressives are the ones now that were left in the rain. And that's just not how this works either. So I just think we're not seeing the - I don't know whether it's coordination from outside sources, other people, but we're just not seeing what we need at this time.
[00:05:20] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, I agree with you. I think we have to have a serious conversation about just allocation of campaign resources - how you spend the time and the resources in campaigns. Certainly, as a resident of Kent, I have been repeatedly frustrated by the results that we've seen, but I think that we have to take a look at a couple different things. One, I think Cliff Cawthon, who was running for city council, ran a good solid campaign. I think we see that race tightening up, and I think much like the opponent that he is up against right now, a lot of times it takes more than one run to win. A lot of times it takes a little bit more familiarity - and taking out an incumbent is hard. I think if Cliff runs again - he worked hard, he did the types of things that are consistent with winning campaigns.
As far as other campaigns, I'm not sure. But I think that, absolutely to your point, progressive messages win. And I actually think that if we look at, even the rhetoric in Seattle, the more moderate candidates had to articulate a progressive message. What they didn't do was say - they had to at least give lip service to inclusionary, non-exclusionary zoning. They had to talk about transit and transportation choice. They had to talk about racial equity and increasing justice. Now, are they going to deliver on those things? Were they squishy on that? That's what we see term after term after term. But what they couldn't do is say, No, we're not going to change anything. What they couldn't do is say, We need to lurch back to the right.
[00:07:10] Michael Charles: I was going to say - I was just going to bring up that Renton race with Carmen Rivera and Ben Johnson really fast - just thinking about how Ben Johnson even had to brand himself like Bernie Sanders in order to even come across as a liberal, in any sense. And I think Carmen's going to end up pulling it out down there, but not for what was the fakest, terrible pretending-to-be-a-liberal I think I saw across all of the County.
[00:07:40] Mike McGinn: I think there's a few points. One is, yeah, in order for the more conservative candidate to win, they have to show that they care about the progressive issues - there is an underlying thing there. But it sure is nicer to get someone who's actually a champion rather than someone who's paying you lip service, and that's a lot of what we're talking about here. I think also, the fact that there are articles out already about - progressives it's all - this just proves that progressivism doesn't work in Seattle, or that's the bad tack to take politically. That's part of the four-year game. Don't you think those articles were written before the Election Night occurred? And those articles were written in order to cow the sitting Councilmembers from pursuing things that might be quite popular with the public. This is actually part of the four-year game.
Now having said that, I want to draw a distinction. There's a difference between being the most progressive and talking to voters about progressive issues that resonate with them. And this, to me, was my biggest gripe with the Seattle race this year. The infighting among progressives of, Oh, well, you're not really a progressive, or you did this and so you're not a progressive. That just made it - that was actually the decision to be made in the primary, right? And that was one issue I had.
The other issue I have with the decision made is, Well, who can finance the candidate? And I guess whoever has the most money - Labor - gets to pick the candidate, and we should all go along because they have the most money. That was a mistake, this race - I get it. I have been in places where I wanted to believe that the thing I believed in was the most likely thing to win, including me. I have been there. I have fought for things. It's like, well, if we just explain it enough we can get over the top. It's easy to get blinded by the fact that what you believe in is what you want to be on the ballot, but that requires -you've got to step back a little bit collectively.
I guess one more point is I think that the County and the City - it's a little different this year. The Port races are great - I love seeing the people who voted for that Shell oil rig get voted out. That's awesome. I loved seeing Toshiko and Hamdi moving into the Port, my buddy Mohamed Egal won down in SeaTac after his second race down there - in a place where we had literally a Trump-loving mayor and a plan to map out where Muslims lived in the city. And that's a good example - obviously, Mohamed had to figure out how to win, how to speak to voters in a way that he could get votes. So I don't think it's so much about how progressive you are - it's can you connect those progressive values to the things that voters care about with the ideas that'll move voters. And I just don't think we were at all there this year with how we did it in Seattle.
[00:10:37] Bill Broadhead: I guess my thing, picking up on what McGinn's saying is - the lesson here is those with great power have to exercise great responsibility. Labor's obviously a valuable partner - they bring money, they bring resources - but they have to get better politically. Honestly. If we don't want Fox News running the victory laps they're running on my TV today. We got to get better, they got to get better. You know who else has to get better? The Stranger has to get better.
[00:11:06] Michael Charles: Wait. Are you watching Fox News, Bill?
[00:11:09] Bill Broadhead: Yeah, no - you turn it on. I mean, they're like, Look at Seattle, look at Seattle - they're electing a Republican.
[00:11:19] Mike McGinn: You don't have to look at Fox News. You don't have to look at Fox News. It's everywhere.
[00:11:21] Bill Broadhead: Everybody's holding up Seattle.
[00:11:22] Mike McGinn: Electing a Republican for the first time - yeah.
[00:11:27] Bill Broadhead: As an example of the-
[00:11:28] Mike McGinn: And Bruce Harrell is a uniter. Uniter in chief. That's the message they're sending out right now.
[00:11:34] Bill Broadhead: It sickens me. And so, another entity that has great power that needs great responsibility is The Stranger. The Stranger determines primary elections on the left - and that used to be run by a very smart group of people that really knew what they were doing with politics. And now it's like children playing with a nuclear bomb - they have no idea what they're doing. And all I'd give you is - all of their last endorsements and how well that's worked out for us. We really need to up the political game at The Stranger if they're going to have so much power in the outcome of these elections.
[00:12:15] Crystal Fincher: Progressive candidates have to do a better job of speaking to an electorate that may not be used to speaking in the ways that they're speaking - in very online spaces and to each other. And I feel like, when this is talked about in very progressive spaces, it's like, Well, that just means that we're changing our values and we're not going to change anything. It really is about just speaking to your audience in the way that they understand, and connecting to them in the ways that they talk - in the context of their everyday lives, which may sound different and may look different to different people in different walks of life. But I think we have to recognize that that is different for different people and we have to be very thoughtful about concepts that may be very familiar to us in some spaces - are not yet at all familiar to other people.
If you do not speak to those issues, even though they're using coded language - we know what they're talking about, right? If you don't speak to those issues to those people, you have just one conversation going on with no opposition. You at least have to speak to those voters. You at least have to speak to those issues in ways that they hear and understand, which doesn't - I completely want to underscore - this does not mean that you soften on the issue. It doesn't mean that you stand for any less equity or justice. It doesn't mean that you try and become more moderate. Lots of people think about "pivot in the general" and now you're moderating your opinions. It is not that. But it's recognizing that you're speaking to a broader electorate and you have to do it in a way that's relevant to them and their lives, and in ways that feel familiar to them. That's the thing - you have to connect with people where they're at. You have to connect in a way that feels familiar. And I think that sometimes we overlook that what's familiar to us may not be familiar to someone else, so we have to communicate in the way that best reaches them.
[00:14:32] Michael Charles: Well, I will say one thing - Mike, I know you mentioned calling Bruce the uniter in chief, but I think that brought up a - and I know you were saying it sarcastically - but I do think that he did a much better job of owning a positive message at the end and just being a much more positive candidate. It wasn't, The sky is falling, all this. And we might be right, but that message turns people off that aren't tuned in to the everyday nuances of politics. It has to be a more positive message as well. So I was just going to throw that in there about your previous points. But go for it, Mike.
[00:15:09] Mike McGinn: No, I think that's a great point. I think that's a great point. And I think the reason I threw in that uniter in chief argument is just because - the way that the other side works, the way the other side's permanent war machine works is - whoever is the most progressive person on the other side is the most divisive person. I mean, they've been running the same script year after year. And they've now elected three in a row - Durkan, Murray was hailed as a great collaborator who could bring people together, and Durkan was a steady hand on the wheel who could bring people together around solutions. And now Bruce is the uniter in chief. And one of the consultants who's worked on all three of those campaigns was quoted as saying, "Seattle's more divisive than ever." Well, how did we get more divisive than ever if we're now onto our third straight great uniting mayor?
Maybe it's not the progressives that are the divisive ones here. Maybe what's divisive is allowing the income disparities in the City to grow to astronomical levels, while people are pushed out on the street and we fight the taxes to pay for it. We fight the income taxes at the state level, we fight the housing that people can go in. Maybe those are the divisive actions. Yet, somehow or another, the other side gets to run around saying that the people who were coming up with the solutions that might scale to fix these great issues of inequality are the divisive ones, and the people who are fighting the solutions to these problems are the uniters. It's a really neat trick they're pulling off here.
[00:16:51] Bill Broadhead: And the other very practical step we can take if we want to start winning is - we can figure out how to talk about our values and our issues and our solutions with voters, particularly swing voters in Seattle and other places we want to win. And you do that with research - you do it with focus groups, you do it with polling. And you invest some money and you figure out, how do we need to reach people? What kind of language do we - what works with people? What works at an emotional level? And you do the work. You go in - I mean, it's hours and hours behind the glass. We've all done it, but you invest the time, you invest the money, and you figure out how to communicate. And then you do it.
[00:17:35] Mike McGinn: I think there's another thing that goes on too. And I noticed this with the Council I had. They spent four years asking when I was going to fix things, and making sure I was the focus of attention. And I think there's something - so there's another asymmetry, which is, I think the progressives are like, Well, we're not going to play that political game. We're going to try to figure out how to fix it. But they put themselves in a position where they weren't able - you can't fix the execution of sending a group of people into a park in a way that will effectively deliver services. You can't fix that from the Council - that's an executive branch function, because the executive controls the Human Services Department, the police, the contracts with the shelter providers, et cetera.
So I think we've seen a lot of instances where the Council was attempting fill a really significant vacuum of leadership - Ed was caught up in scandal, Durkan was not interested in trying to figure out how to bridge those gaps. And the Council tried to step in and lead, and they really paid for it. And I want to praise them for wanting to step in and try to lead, but they didn't do enough of - and I think sometimes the outside allies don't do enough of - really naming the source, the problem, properly. And I think that's something we need to think about too. Really not just, oh, there's a new mayor. Let's just figure out what we can get from them, and we don't want to appear to be divisive. That's the other thing about "the divisive." Let's make sure we're holding the new mayor accountable and so that the voters really understand what are the policy things that are solving things or not.
[00:19:18] Bill Broadhead: Jenny Durkan, when she ran in '17 - she promised 1,000 tiny homes. She delivered 73. Nobody called her on that. Nobody said, Oh, you're pissed at people sleeping in parks? Well, you know why? Because Jenny Durkan promised 1,000 tiny homes and she didn't build them.
[00:19:40] Mike McGinn: And that's more than a tweet - that's a campaign. That's a campaign. That requires steady drum beat of messaging.
[00:19:48] Bill Broadhead: And so, there was no effort to hold her accountable, and instead, like Michael said, the City Council took on the responsibility but they couldn't really execute, so then they got stuck in the middle with that. So now Bruce Harrell said 2,000 - he upped the bid. He said 2,000 tiny homes. So now he owns it. If you see people sleeping in parks, the question is, how many tiny homes have you built, Bruce? Where are you at on your promise? You said 2,000 homes in the first year. Where are you? Are you living up to your promise?
[00:20:22] Mike McGinn: And we stand ready to help.
[00:20:23] Bill Broadhead: Yeah. The Council needs to put this on the mayor - he promised to fix it, he gave a metric. Where is he on the metric? We can't make the same mistake we made with Durkan.
[00:20:34] Michael Charles: We're not holding these executive-level leaders accountable in any way. You don't see any stories and follow up in the news - in The Seattle Times, and even in The Stranger - rarely do we see a story and follow up to - you made this promise to solve homelessness and what happened? It's very rare, and it's definitely not coming around campaign time. And it's definitely not coming when we can actually do something about it, usually, which is unfortunate. And I think that pillar of civic engagement is really lacking from the press corps out here. And it's purposeful.
[00:21:12] Crystal Fincher: And you have one side who has very unified messaging - that whoever isn't carrying their agenda, which often is the agenda of not doing anything - certainly not doing anything different, which in Seattle often just translates to not doing anything. It's the other party who is always at fault. So with Mike McGinn - oh, he was divisive, he was the problem. We need to change. Even though - you had a clear vision - you were very clear what you were trying to do and had a Council who had stated publicly that they were trying to obstruct what you were doing.
And then we see it flipped with both Ed Murray and Jenny Durkan, where now you have a more conservative mayor than the Council. And so, now it's the Council's fault that things aren't going right. And now everything that's happening in the City is owned by the entity actually trying to take action to change things. That's been very intentional - the drumbeat of that, just in daily news coverage, has been consistent. So it is that accountability piece to say, wait a minute. And if you've listened to me for a while, you know that this has been frustrating. I know it's been frustrating to you, Mike McGinn, in that, Hey, Durkan said this. Durkan is actually the one in charge of taking care of this. Durkan has actually got to - has money authorized to spend, but isn't spending the money. What is happening here?
[00:22:41] Mike McGinn: Somehow or another they turned Lorena into the incumbent mayor, which is just ridiculous. Just absolutely ridiculous. Somehow or another Lorena was the incumbent mayor and was the source of the problems.
So one of the things is, before I go back to that point. The M.O. of the right, of the establishment, is they pick the most liberal person and try to isolate them. So I always felt that Nick Licata owed me, because as soon as I showed up - all of a sudden Nick was the elder statesman and why couldn't McGinn be like Nick, who got along with people. And after me, it was Kshama. And now Kshama was the person. And when they couldn't lay a glove on Kshama, then it had to be Mike O'Brien - somehow or another - nice, pleasant Mike O'Brien was the most divisive person in Seattle politics. It was hard to make stick, but they were going at it. So that's their M.O. Is they always go for the furthest left person and call them the most divisive. They call them the most divisive person.
The point I want to make from the City Council thing is - in the role of City Council and mayor - is just recognizing where their actual strengths are. The Council's strength is in passing policy - they ultimately pass the policy. There's a lot of room within policy for mayor, but the Council ultimately has the final word on policy. They also have the final word on budget, so they can withhold money or give money. And they can use that power. They gave away power to a mayor - they would pass money and not hold her accountable, or they would cut money and then Jenny would go spend it from somewhere else and say, Oh, well, you didn't tell me I couldn't spend that pot of money on the thing that you said I couldn't spend money on. So they let her just run free there.
The other real power they have is the power of oversight. The City Council does not have the power of execution - they just don't. They can't administer the agencies. And when they try, it's just not going to work. It's nothing to do with the people involved. It has everything to do with the position. So don't try to run the agencies - don't try to run the details. What they can do is - they can hold hearings. They can actually subpoena people if they wanted to. And they can publicly hold a mayor accountable. Now, of course, that drove me nuts as a mayor, and it probably drives every mayor nuts. But that's actually a significant value add of a City Council - is to do that. So let's go into this next one and do it.
[00:25:02] Bill Broadhead: That's where Lorena got in trouble, in the run up to this election - is she got so afraid of being tagged as divisive that she got stuck in that middle ground of, Well, I don't want to do any of the things Mike said, because then I'll get tagged in this divisive narrative. But if she doesn't do that, then she's going to get tagged with all the failings of incumbency. I mean, and it's like Ann Richards used to say - the only thing in the middle of the road is the yellow line and the dead armadillos.
[00:25:34] Crystal Fincher: From the council perspective, is to also - I think a lot of them - and they've passed excellent policy. The JumpStart Tax is huge, right? That is monumental, major, substantive, impactful policy. But it hasn't necessarily been messaged like that out of the Council, and I think sometimes it's really easy to get caught up in the work of doing, that you forget that you also have to communicate that to the residents as you're doing that work. That's as much of the job as the job, unfortunately. And I know that can be frustrating and they've got so much that they're trying to manage within those offices already. But I would just impress upon all of them to remember that they, throughout this time, also have to make sure that the residents of Seattle understand what they're doing. And I would say that the opposition does a much better job, even when they're not doing anything, of making it seem like they are - and speaking to the residents of Seattle about their perspective on policy, about using their bully pulpit, calling their press conferences to talk about their perspective. And the Council can and should, and in fact I think they have to, do the same thing in order to have that translate into electoral success. I think that's part of it - is the consistency of that communication.
[00:27:08] Bill Broadhead: I agree with that, Crystal, but I also think - I mean, just like the Downtown Seattle Association and that constellation of corporations and public affairs apparatus operates around them. I don't think you can just count on the Council to do that. I mean, the left really needs to build a war machine here to bring some parity to the existing operation on the establishment side.
[00:27:39] Crystal Fincher: I agree. So when you say build that war machine, what does that look like to you?
[00:27:44] Bill Broadhead: Well, I mean, first of all, I would hope - my dream out of all of this is - it's such an obvious, stunning defeat that everybody goes, Wow, we got to really take stock of what we're doing and how we're doing it. And I would hope that everybody that's a player in this and selecting candidates and funding candidates and recruiting candidates and running campaigns - really has an open door approach. And there'd be some kind of summit, some meeting where everybody gets together and says, All right, let's talk about why we're not winning these races in a progressive city. And that it's a free form thing and nobody controls it. And that we hear from a lot of different voices. And out of that, we hopefully can put together a plan. It's Seattle - I think there is money there to do the research, to do the polling and focus groups, and fund some basic operation so that we're not just - every time an election rolls around, we're not trying to build it from scratch.
[00:29:06] Mike McGinn: I said it's kind of funny - I ran from outside of that apparatus in '09, and the fact is that it was just a really unique set of circumstances that year that I could end up in the general. But I totally agree with what Bill's saying. It actually needs people to be able to sit down and have a heart to heart, and nobody's tweeting from the meeting - of what happened and allow people to be able to talk about it and see if they can't come up with a game plan for moving forward on that. I mean, because everyone has their own - every group that plays in elections has their own particular agenda. And there's obvious - and those agendas are being frustrated because we don't have a mayor. We're going to have three straight terms of mayors where that's a lesser priority for many of them. Not all of them - some of them are still going to get stuff from Bruce. And that's the other game they're all playing. Every one of them's going to be playing the game of, Well, maybe if we're just nice to Bruce. Let's just see what we can get. And if Bruce is smart, he'll give a little bit to all of them to try to keep them on the sidelines. But there's a really fundamental decision then that people have to make is, what's the better play here? Is it to unite and hold accountable what's going on and then run? And my experience as an advocate was - I never got kicked out of a room as an advocate because I ran good - when I did good accountability. I got invited back because I did good accountability and they didn't want me to do that again. So I don't think you give up power when you do good accountability, but I think a lot of progressives somehow or another feel they lose access and that's just the wrong way to approach it. I'm sorry - go ahead, Crystal. Take it away.
[00:30:55] Crystal Fincher: Oh no - I agree with that and appreciate that point and think that's as necessary now as it's ever been - is that accountability piece for all of them. And that voting is one tool that people have to utilize. But also using all of the tools of accountability and understanding that, especially from the advocacy perspective, loyalty to issues is the thing, not to politicians. You're there to represent your members or your own - for all of the web of organizations in Seattle, their own segment of the progressive agenda. And that that carries the day - being willing to be a partner, but not - sometimes I think as we've seen over the years, putting that agenda aside in order to gain more access never turns out well. And so, being willing to understand what the electeds have promised, to hold them accountable to what they've said, and to operate based on that. To try and be a partner if things are moving in a positive direction and to call it out when they're not.
[00:32:11] Bill Broadhead: Let me give you an example of what the permanent effort could do, or a coordinated effort could do. And I actually have to give credit to my wife, Julie McCoy, for coming up with this. But early in the Harrell administration, there should be a push to have him go to his business supporters and have them drop the lawsuits to the JumpStart Tax. I mean, you can't solve homelessness and have the corporate titans in Seattle continue to press, and God forbid, they defeat the JumpStart Tax. So if he's serious about solving homelessness and he's serious about what he said about not being controlled by the people that funded his campaign, well then there's a very easy way to show that. Go to them and have them drop that lawsuit right now. That'd be a really good test, early on, and it'd be a smart move for Bruce to do that. It could be a - I hate to give the advice, but it could be a way to really shake the stain of his funders, and show that he's going to be a mayor for all of Seattle. But it'd be a good early test and a good coordinated push to have him do that - well, that would be really smart for the left to do.
[00:33:30] Crystal Fincher: I certainly agree that that's at the top of the agenda to defend and advance on. What do you think, Mike?
[00:33:42] Mike McGinn: I think that's a great idea from Bill.
[00:33:46] Bill Broadhead: Well, Julie.
[00:33:46] Mike McGinn: Well, from Julie then. It's a great idea from Julie. We're going to need the JumpStart Tax - it exists. Let's show that the business side, as a sign of good faith and more than that, that I, Bruce Harrell, will defend a revenue source that is really meaningful to solving this problem. And I'll just get in there and I'm going to call on my supporters to get rid of it. And I'd like to point out that Bruce - it was when Bruce decided to vote against the anti panhandling statute, that was the point at which it was possible to get to a veto proof vote. Where I could veto it, and they couldn't overdo it. I'm sorry - I mixed up the words there. But it meant that I could veto it and I wouldn't be overturned. And in fact, when Bruce did that, it actually put all the pressure on my buddy Mike O'Brien, and Mike did the right thing. And so, it only passed with five votes and Bruce bucked the powerful one. I'll point out that Bruce led on making it so that if a felon is - somebody has returned to the community, a returning member of the community from jail, is applying for a rental unit, he doesn't have to answer a question about whether he was in jail, which is used to push these folks who've done their time and are trying to contribute. And he stood up for them, not for the landlords. He stood up for them.
So I know that Bruce has a beating heart - and I've been pretty hard on him because I liked the other candidate more, and I think that Bruce can and should have done more on the Council, and could have done more on the Council. But I know he has a beating heart and this would be a great way to show it right now. I know - and so, I'll add that to it. So Bruce, if you're listening, show that same leadership and you'll have this former mayor coming out and applauding for you the instant you do it. And honestly, you should have a lot of other people applauding for you too.
[00:35:46] Crystal Fincher: When it comes to the City Attorney, in terms of accountability, this is going to be a very interesting situation with Republican Ann Davison coming into this office. What does accountability look like and what should be on the top of the agenda in terms of - what Ann Davison should be moving on and what progressives should be demanding from that office?
[00:36:16] Bill Broadhead: I'd like to say something just on that point. The City Attorney in some ways is the most unaccountable office in the City Charter. And it's the dumbest office. I mean, the City Attorney as an elected position doesn't make sense. The City Attorney's job is to defend the City of Seattle in large part. But having an elected person defend the City of Seattle then means they think they have their own power base and their own constituency. So you have a client, in the City, whose lawyer is like, Well, yeah, no. I don't really represent you. I represent myself. This is a really bad idea.
[00:37:03] Crystal Fincher: Yes. This happened during the McGinn administration.
[00:37:07] Mike McGinn: And it happened with other folks too.
[00:37:10] Crystal Fincher: Yeah.
[00:37:11] Mike McGinn: Uhlman told me a fascinating story about a showdown he had to have with his City Attorney. Now I could see there's something about maybe the prosecutorial discretion, wanting to have somebody independent on prosecutorial discretion. The idea, however, that the lawyer for the City as a municipality, which makes policy decisions through its Council and mayor - the idea that somehow or another - and boy, was this huge with Pete. His playing both sides. The City was actually kicked out of the tunnel lawsuit in the first instance because the judge said, Well, who authorized you to come here and sue to stop the vote on the tunnel? And his answer was, nobody. The City was moved from plaintiff to defendant and the WSDOT was moved to a plaintiff on the matter. And that was just Pete. That was just Pete acting on his own and that was really nutty.
So I think it's really - maybe it's time to look at a Charter change here as to, what is the role of the City Attorney. For any of those who are a little bit nervous that maybe a Republican thinks that she should drop the defense of the JumpStart Tax, because that's a tax on corporations, and that she doesn't agree with that ideologically. Or she runs a bad defense. Or she settles it on her terms. We really want to invest that in one person and then end up with an argument that somehow or another, a Charter argument over who gets to set City policy?
Here's another one - I don't even know - I'll stop with that one. I'll stop with that one. But that's just a great example. I mean, City passed it, she should defend it. And if she chooses not to defend it, where's the accountability? Really hard to get in this system.
[00:39:07] Bill Broadhead: Well, if Ann Davison decides to substitute her values or her judgment for the elected policy decisions of the Council and mayor, it's time to get rid of the office. It really is. I mean, it's time to push through the Charter Amendment and get rid of the independently elected City Attorney, because it hasn't made sense for a long time and maybe this will be the final flash point that will make it obvious how little sense it makes.
Joe Nguyen did better than I thought he would.
[00:39:41] Crystal Fincher: Yeah.
[00:39:42] Bill Broadhead: I mean, I was really surprised - and I think to your point, Crystal, the progressive performance outside of Seattle and King County - much stronger than inside Seattle. But Joe Nguyen in particular - I mean, that campaign disappeared in the last few months. I mean, somebody actually mentioned him and I had to remind myself he was still running. I mean, I just didn't see anything. And I was really impressed with how he ended up showing.
[00:40:13] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. He showed up strong and I actually think - the point Michael Charles made earlier - the progressive message is carrying the day. The progressive message has been connecting with voters throughout King County, throughout the state. I think Joe Nguyen did a really good job of executing - I think that he came into the race with a significant name ID disadvantage than four term incumbent Dow Constantine. And they had a primary. And there just wasn't enough time for him to effectively communicate with the County by early August. But given more time, certainly found some footing there. And also, I think pushed Dow further to the left. And we saw Dow getting very active and announcing -
[00:41:09] Bill Broadhead: The hotels.
[00:41:10] Crystal Fincher: Right. So I think there are a lot of good signs. I think, especially in some of the suburban and rural cities where we have seen conservative chokeholds on those councils and certainly mayoral positions, that those are starting to loosen. And as we see more people get pushed out of Seattle and into other places in the County, that that's also impacting how these races are turning too. So I am optimistic by a lot of these races. I'm optimistic to figure out collectively how to more effectively communicate within Seattle and continue the progress outside of Seattle. But we'll see how this continues to unfold and continue to talk about it weekly on Hacks & Wonks. Go ahead, Mike.
[00:42:03] Mike McGinn: Okay, I got one more point.
[00:42:05] Crystal Fincher: Go ahead.
[00:42:05] Mike McGinn: One more point - I can't believe I haven't raised it already. Even year elections, folks - that we're holding these local elections in odd years. And if you haven't heard me on this before, it's intentional. This is not an accident. 80% of the country holds local elections in odd years. And it was brought in to try to reduce the votes from what the elites thought were the riff raff, the people who didn't know enough to make good decisions. That these were decisions better left to the folks that would show up for every election. And talk about an underlying dynamic that makes it hard to elect good people. Now, we'll see a 50% turnout here - presidential year, we'd see 80-85% turnout. And that's a lot of young people, that's a lot of immigrant and refugee communities, it's a lot of BIPOC voters. And that would really change the dynamic a lot in these races. It would just move the entire thing to the left. And that's why you see in cities like Kent and SeaTac, these places which have become where whites are no longer more than 50% of the population or the voters, but they're still more than 50% of the voters in an off-year election. So it's our little version of the Electoral College. It's a rule that's built in that's designed to give power to certain people over other people, and we just need to change it.
Mia Gregerson has a bill in the Legislature and let's just move them to even years. Let's get rid of all of those ridiculous Tim Eyman vote to affirm a vote of the Legislature, which is never - it takes up all that space on the ballot. Let's put some local races on there. Let's tie the national issues. Let's talk about all the issues in a year, and let's get local leaders that represent the public, not represent half the public.
[00:44:05] Bill Broadhead: And this is a change - just to echo that. This is a change that Democrats, that Labor - we can push this through. This is all on us.
[00:44:12] Mike McGinn: Absolutely.
[00:44:12] Bill Broadhead: We don't need the Republicans. This is Inslee and this is the Democrats in the Legislature. We can make this happen. We don't need anybody. We don't need anybody else's permission.
[00:44:24] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, it also gets at this political industrial complex that we have. And I'm saying this as a political consultant who is going to get dinged financially - certainly there are others who are going to be dinged, who are making a lot more money and going to get dinged more than I am. But there is no need to spend millions of dollars every single year on these elections. It makes so much more sense, for so many different reasons, including that it drives down the average cost of every election. It makes it more accessible for more people to run and to be able to win. There are so many reasons to make this move to even years. And also, let's help our electeds focus on governing and not on running all of the time, which so many are. So I am completely in favor of that - would love to see that bill advance and appreciate you bringing that up. And you've been a proponent of this for years, I know, Mike.
[00:45:27] Mike McGinn: Hey, even, yeah, absolutely - we'd have different mayors in this City. We absolutely would have different mayors and we'd have different City Councilmembers and we'd have different policies. There's just no two ways about it. That's why the establishment will fight it because they know it too.
[00:45:41] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. Well, I thank you both for your time. Thank Michael Charles for joining us, as he did - appreciate everything that they've going on. Any parting words from either one of you?
[00:45:52] Mike McGinn: Thanks for doing it, Crystal.
[00:45:54] Bill Broadhead: Yeah. Thank you, Crystal - you run the smartest show in Seattle. I really appreciate it - it's a public service you do.
[00:46:02] Crystal Fincher: Well, I appreciate that.
[00:46:03] Mike McGinn: And to everyone out there, elections aren't the whole game. They're just the scorecard. We got - the game continues. Get out there. Make a difference and let's have us running up the score the next time.
[00:46:16] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. Let's get to the work of accountability.
I thank you all for listening to Hacks & Wonks on KVRU 105.7 FM. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Lisl Stadler with assistance from Shannon Cheng. You can find me on Twitter at @finchfrii, spelled F-I-N-C-H-F-R-I-I. Now can follow Hacks & Wonks on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts. Just type "Hacks & Wonks" into the search bar, be sure to subscribe to get our Friday almost-live shows and our midweek show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, leave a review wherever you listen to Hacks & Wonks. You can also get a full transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced in the show at officialhacksandwonks.com and in the episode notes.
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