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Hacks & Wonks

Dec 8, 2021

Today Crystal is joined by Shasti Conrad, Chair of the King County Democrats, to discuss Shasti's journey from working on progressive national campaigns to immersing herself in political organizing with the local Democratic Party. In 2018, Shasti became the first woman of color chair of the King County Democrats and set out to re-make the local party into a place where everyone can belong and make an impact in their community. Come listen in on the conversation and learn how to be part of a vision that both recruits and retains passionate volunteers.

As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at

Find the host, Crystal Fincher, on Twitter at @finchfrii and Shasti Conrad @ShastiConrad. More info is available at

King County Democrats:
[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 and in our episode notes. 

Today, I'm thrilled to be joined by Shasti Conrad, a friend of mine, the Chair of the King County Democrats, and someone who's done a lot of work in the electoral space, campaign space, both locally and nationally. Thank you for joining us.

[00:00:57] Shasti Conrad: Hey, Crystal, it's so great to be here.

[00:00:59] Crystal Fincher: Well, I wanted to start off and just talk about who you are and how you came to this work. How did you first get started in politics?

[00:01:09] Shasti Conrad: Well, in some ways, I feel like I never had a choice not to, in some ways. I felt called into this work even as a little kid. My family were - they treated politics as though it was a part of your civic duty. My grandmother was from Britain and got her citizenship in her 50s and I'm adopted from India. And so it was one of the hot topics at the dinner table - was just being on the issues of the day - what was happening, what elected officials were doing. And then my grandmother would take me to go vote - every year she would go and would make a big deal out of it. And so I was just like the kid on the playground that was constantly talking about politics. I would school my preschool teachers on why they were supporting Ronald Reagan and telling them that they were making bad choices. 

So, yeah - and then I worked on my first campaign when I was in high school. It was a school bond levy campaign. And then when I moved up to Seattle University to go to college, I reached out and started working for the Washington State Democrats as an intern and just kind of fell into all of this work and it became a huge part of my life.

[00:02:26] Crystal Fincher: So what was your path between just that very beginning and winding up in the White House?

[00:02:32] Shasti Conrad: Yeah. So I went to Seattle University for college and it was during the Bush administration. And so I was spending a lot of time protesting, and I was really active in the anti-war movement and was really trying to rail against the system. And then in my senior year, a guy named Barack Obama decided to announce that he was going to run for president. And I had been working on my senior thesis, which was on hiphop and politics and this cultural connection between political activism and community organizing. And then Barack Obama entered the scene and I read his book, Dreams from My Father. And he talked about being this cultural ambassador between white society and his white family, and then into communities of color. And as an adopted kid by a white mom in a small white town, that really spoke to me. And so I just believed in him. I just wanted to help him. And so I jumped on that campaign - I was an Obama organizing fellow and out of the Everett Labor Temple actually. 

And I always like to remind people - we weren't supposed to win. We were not the chosen candidate back in 2008. And so when he became the nominee and then when we won, it was such a huge deal - just felt like such a chance for America to deliver on its promise. And a friend of mine had been working on the campaign and went to the White House to go set up their internship program. And she asked me to apply for the internship program. And that's how I was in the first class of Obama White House interns in the summer of 2009. There was 100 people chosen out of, I think, 6,000 applications. And that was what set me off on the trajectory that's led me to today.

[00:04:27] Crystal Fincher: Thanks for the reminder about Barack Obama - not supposed to win. A lot of people are - I mean, you're certainly younger than I am - a lot of people are a lot younger than I am. And after Barack Obama had been president for eight years, it seems it's really easy to assume that he would've been pretty standard Democratic nominee, but everything was geared to go the Hillary Clinton route. And certainly the establishment was largely in favor of her, so that was an uphill battle that did not at all look like it was going to happen until much later in the game. So yeah, you found your dark horse candidate.

[00:05:15] Shasti Conrad: Yeah - I remind people - he was the progressive in that race. He was the left candidate that people thought like, "Oh, cute, he'll try, but there's no way he'll actually win." I mean, there was also all of the first Black president. I mean, I think so many of us - particularly older people of color - had Jesse Jackson. They'd seen how this stuff had played out previously and they're like, "There's no way in hell. America is not going to allow this Black man to win." And so I always go back to that - it was a real moment of hope and it was a real - say what you want about how the administration ended up - that was a really special time in American history. And improbable.

[00:06:06] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. I mean, I think we've seen in the time since then a significant backlash against that happening and a concerted effort to not allow something like that to happen again, because they just didn't think it was going to happen at that time. Kind of snuck in under the gun before they realized what was happening. But anyway, so you landed at the White House and you wound up working for Valerie Jarrett, which a lot of people certainly look at that and are just like, "My goodness, that's a big deal, really big deal." What was your time like there? And I guess how did it shape the work that you've done since then?

[00:06:46] Shasti Conrad: Yeah. I mean, when I look back, that arc is so crazy even for me to be like, "How the hell did I end up there?" So when I was an intern, I was in the Office of Urban Affairs. And the plan was it was a summer internship - I was going to go to graduate school that fall. And I did really well in my internship - I worked so hard. My goal was basically to be the person that it was - people just knew they could rely on me. It was like anything that needed to get done, it was like, "We have Shasti. We know we can trust her. We know that she's a value here." And so at the end of my internship, I talked to Valerie's chief of staff, Michael Strautmanis, who had been an intern for Michelle Obama back when they were lawyers in Chicago. And I sort of said to him like, "Hey, I'm supposed to go to graduate school, but I feel called to do this work. I want to stay, I want to build." And he said, "Dream big." He's like, "Okay, put it on the line." And I decided to defer graduate school for a year - I gave myself a year to try to see if I could get a job in the administration. 

And in a couple of months, Michael Strautmanis came back to me and he said, "We've got something for you." And so I ended up in the Office of Public Engagement, working for the special assistant to the president on disability policy. He was a blind civil rights lawyer. And I worked with him for about seven months and then was promoted to Valerie's office. And that was such an incredible honor. For people who don't know, Valerie Jarrett was basically the President's best friend - had been the kingmaker in Chicago, met Michelle Obama who - Michelle Robinson - who introduced Valerie to her fiancé, Barack Obama, and they became fast friends.

And so I was able to work in her office, which meant that I had an office in the West Wing. And it was intense - there was a lot of crises at that time - it was in the first term. So we were trying to get the Affordable Care Act passed, we were dealing with "Don't ask, Don't tell," there was the BP oil spill - there was just so many things that were happening over and over. There were crises all over the time. But I learned a lot about the toughness and trying to hold onto your compassion and humanity while dealing with deep serious issues where people's lives are at stake. So that balance was a good thing for me to learn - it was in my early 20s.

[00:09:33] Crystal Fincher: So what was the path from there to then becoming involved with the King County Democrats?

[00:09:41] Shasti Conrad: Well, I'll try to give you the short version. The short version is - so I left the White House to go work on the re-election campaign. Because I loved DC, it was really intense experience, it was all kinds of special opportunities and getting to really - you feel like you're making a difference - but I missed the people part of the work. So I went back on the campaign and we won again, and that was great. And by that point, I felt like, "Okay, we did it." And I was kind of ready to take a little bit of a break. And for me, that break meant going to graduate school. And so I did that and then I went and worked for the Malala Fund and did a couple of other international development foundation projects.

Then you speed all the way up to 2016, and I worked on the Bernie Sanders campaign. I did advance for Bernie. And then I came home. And Trump won and folks were in shock and traumatized and there was such a sort of like, "What are we going to do?" And I came back and decided that the best thing that I could do was to try to rebuild, here in the Seattle area in King County, because so many people look to us as this like Blue paradise. And if we couldn't get it together in Seattle, then I was like, "What hope do we have for the rest of this country? We've got to try to build a really strong Democratic Party. We need to..." And you remember, in 2016 - the infighting that was happening because in part, we lost. We turned on each other to say, "Well, it's because you guys messed this up because you messed it up. You pulled the party in these ways," and everybody was fighting. And it was like I just wanted the fighting to stop so that we could pull together to be able to fight back against what Trump was - I knew the Trump types and the GOP - what they were going to go after and we needed a strong front. So that's what brought me back into this work.

[00:11:58] Crystal Fincher: Well, and at that time - you talk about fighting and discord nationally. And the local party here in the King County Democrats - there was a chair at the time who had been found to be involved in a variety of different types of misconduct and unethical practices - from harassment to financial mismanagement, in addition to a lot of issues before that and subsequently - come to turned out. But you were taking over - were elected to become the Chair of the King County Democrats - and were taking over an organization that was almost an organization in name only. There was so much that had been either dismantled or was not cared for under the previous chair - there was very little infrastructure. How did you, I guess, go into - thinking about, looking around - what were you seeing as the state of the party then? And what was the vision you had for what it could be?

[00:13:12] Shasti Conrad: Yeah. The Democratic Party, both at the county level and some of - not all of the LDs - but in a number of the LDs, there was all of that in-fighting and there was a history of this type of fighting and jockeying for power. And really, I do want to say that there have been a lot of incredible volunteers who have held the line for the Democratic Party. I am appreciative of their work, but there were leaders who were using the party as basically their own power base. It was just about what they could do for themselves, who they could intimidate, who they could - all this kind of quid pro quo stuff behind the scenes. And it just wasn't serving the community. It wasn't doing the work - like sure, we were getting Democrats elected, but it was leaving so many people out.

And so - I had no plans. I was not planning to be a leader in the Democratic Party. That wasn't what I was like, "Yes, that's my dream." But I just kept seeing all of this pain. I just kept meeting people who were like, "I got hurt this way when I got involved in the Democratic Party, and I dealt with this type of racism and sexism, and this leader harassed me." And I just was like, "I just want the pain to stop." And so the vision, and I think you helped us back when we were running as Vision 2020, was really that we wanted to create a healthy professional organization that was about the old ethos of Obama - it was like respect, empower, and include. And we really recognized that the party needed to be more diverse and needed to be more inclusive. And we needed to have a team that was going to - who believed in those values.

One of the things that I had recognized when I looked back at the history of the different iterations of leadership at King County Democrats, is that in the elected officers, you would have people who had run on different teams who didn't like each other. There was no consensus in, "This is what we want to do. This is what we stand for. These are our values. And so we are going to do this together." And so we ran as a slate because I needed to know that I had a solid team who bought into this belief of, "We want to create an inclusive, welcoming organization that has a culture of accountability, transparency, and is about electing Democrats - people with our values - and not just gate-keeping, not just about power maintenance for a small group." That's what the other team does. That's not what we were going to do.

And so we won back in December of 2018 and we set forth on doing the work to try to restructure this organization and bring in new people, bring in more young people, more people of color, more women - and create a space where people felt like they could do good work and they could make a difference in their communities through being involved with us.

[00:16:33] Crystal Fincher: This local party apparatus is really what determines whether you have strong, competent elected officials at the local level - and that's the bench that then proceeds on to the national level. So it really does take competent, intentional organizing at the local level. And the local party is ideally supposed to be that. What it actually was was pretty far from that. And I think one of the things that you brought with your vision was to be influential and consequential in local government - and looking at what's happening with city councils, and playing a role in advocacy, and making sure the right people are in the right positions to make the right decisions. And to lead and push those decisions.

I know, certainly from my perspective as a Black woman, and we've had conversations about this before, but similar to a lot of us - where we've experienced from party sources - racism and sexism, and viewed harassment and bullying, and things that we fight against. And I had grown quite frustrated with the party quite frankly because of watching those things persist in the local level and not feeling like it was very relevant. I definitely felt that when you came aboard, you were seeking to really completely change that direction and make it relevant again. What have you been working on to help the average person in Seattle, regardless of whether they have a partisan affiliation or not, know that there's a local party, see that it's influential, and trying to help them in the issues that they're dealing with on an everyday basis?

[00:18:29] Shasti Conrad: I mean, so much of it is it's basic - it's education, it's connection, it's building authentic relationships, and it's showing up. I think that there had often been this idea that people had to come to the party and that it wasn't that the party was showing up. And there's so much expectation a lot of times that when it comes time to vote, everyone should just get on board with what the Democrats are doing. But if we're not there for the community, if we're not there for other community partners for the rest of the year, we lose our ability to have any leverage to say like, "Hey, remember August primary? Remember November general? Hey, in February, did you know there's special elections for King Conservation District, or there's this or that?" People - they didn't know - and we didn't do a great job of communicating what the value is. 

We certainly have benefited for the last couple of years of a much more heightened spotlight on politics, I think, because of 2016. You have people who are paying attention who weren't paying attention previously. But yeah, we have tried to demonstrate how important it is to focus on the local. Now, my career, I have worked on four national presidential campaigns. I was like so many other Democrats where it was like my energy and excitement would be in a presidential year. I'd be all about the national. I love my national politics, but I know that the place where I can make the biggest difference is in helping to flip the city council in Sammamish, it is helping to make sure that on our school boards across King County that we are fighting back against these people who are pushing anti-Critical Race Theory nonsense. We've got real white supremacists that are getting onto Black Diamond City Council - that's happening right here.

And so I can drive 10 minutes, 20 minutes, an hour across the county, and I can make a difference in people's lives in a way that - when I was on Obama's campaign, I'm one of several thousand staffers - when you are part of - and it's great, it's exciting, but we have to remember that you have to guard the cast every single election. And in some ways, I find that these odd-year elections - often have way lower turnout than the even years - are the most important. And Seattle - we'll have Democrats - there is a battle between the type of Democrat that we want leading the City. But in places across the County, you really are fighting against people who don't believe in democracy.

My counterpart, King County GOP Chair, Joshua Freed, has totally thrown in with the insurrectionists. He says that wearing masks is child abuse. These are not people who fully believe in what we consider American values. That's what we're fighting against. So I think that's really important for us to continue to keep the spotlight on. And then we've been pushing for getting Precinct Committee Officers - which you helped us with that project - where we have found that, in 2019, in precincts where we had Precinct Committee Officers, there was a 5% higher voter turnout and that those numbers matter. We found that if we'd had full coverage of PCOs in every precinct in King County, we would've passed I-1000. It makes a difference here in King County, but it's also for statewide elections and statewide initiatives. Those progressive votes are going to come out of King County. So if we're not solid here, it impacts the entire state and that impacts the region. So all of this work really, really matters.

[00:22:29] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, it does matter. And one of the reasons why I decided to say, "Okay, let me go ahead and try and help," was seeing that someone was willing to do the work even when it got uncomfortable and even when you were facing some pushback to say, "No, it is important to have a local party that looks like the communities that it serves. It's not okay to make people feel unwelcome, to pass off racism and misogyny as casual, let people get bullied out of the organization," and really moving to have the party truly represent and serve people in communities. Which a lot of people have come into meetings, seen that they - especially for someone taking some free time in their evening to come into a meeting - if they see people in-fighting, or if they hear things that are like, "This is not a welcoming or inclusive place for me, I don't feel like this is a space for me," they're just going to peace out, and they had been in droves.

And in my view, there's such a potential - and clearly in yours, right? Such a potential for the party to be impactful in driving some of those key meaningful things where, to your point, there are certainly especially sometimes in Seattle, these extremely passionate but really ultimately nuanced conversations about like, "What is the correct climate policy that we should be pursuing? What is the correct zoning policy where some people are just like, 'No, we don't believe in the concept of climate change, we don't believe in the concept of a minimum wage?'" You would be surprised how many local city council candidates right now in King County are publicly saying they don't believe there should be a minimum wage. Period. Not, "We shouldn't raise it to a living wage," just there shouldn't be. We are going all the way back.

And to your point, just some blatantly talking about violence and being okay with undemocratic processes and just really just being flat-out racist and violent, and it's not cool. So I guess in looking at how people can and should get involved and what the party has in the pipeline here in King County, what are you looking to do, I guess, as we come upon these November elections, how are you involved with that? And overall, just in communities, how are you engaging?

[00:25:14] Shasti Conrad: Well, and let me underline one thing - which is the other thing that we saw over the last couple of years is that the Republicans were doing a much better job than we were at building a bench. They were so much better. So in King County, they'd kind of given up to some degree the State Legislature. But what they were doing was they were back-filling in Hospital District Commissions, on Water Districts, in City Councils, and School Boards. They were doing a much better job fixating and getting people running in those places, which then made these - yes, they're smaller offices - but they had a huge impact. They were more conservative. And it was flying under the radar because we were like, "Oh, good, we've got the governor." Finally in 2017 with Manka like, "We've got the State Legislature - good enough."

And then people were getting deeply hurt in their communities by what was happening there. So that was one of the biggest things for us where we were like, "This is clear." Also, just to put it out there, the King County GOP has 10 times the amount of money that we do at King County Democrats. They are better funded than we are because, again, people know to give to somebody who's running for Congress, they know to give to their candidates, but the regular Democrat wasn't investing in the infrastructure. I often describe the party as candidates and campaigns are the jazz. As a party, we're supposed to be the steady drum beat. Whoever shows up and says, "I'm willing to put my name on the ballot, I'm willing to run, I align with your values," our job is to show up with volunteers, to show up with resources to say like, "We understand the lay of the land, we know the communities here, and we've got your back." That is our job.

[00:27:08] Crystal Fincher: People want to get involved or learn more, where can they contact you or the King County Democrats?

[00:27:14] Shasti Conrad: Our website is And then my email is And I'm always happy to answer questions, or if you folks have ideas in their communities that they want to amplify, get up to me. And there are 17 legislative districts in King County - all of them have Democratic Party organizations. And we love to have people get linked into their Democratic LD organizations as well.

[00:27:43] Crystal Fincher: One thing a lot of people talk about, especially here in King County, is there are Democrats, there are Democratic Socialists, there's the People's Party - there's a lot of people who are on the left politically but may not identify as Democrats either - because just in the City in particular, just kind of everybody's a Democrat, that's kind of taken for granted. But other people on purpose have felt like the Democratic Party is not the place for them and they want another home. How do you view them or candidates running under - who are not officially Democrats, but who may hold values that a lot of Democrats agree with and a lot of people on the left agree with - how do you work through that?

[00:28:29] Shasti Conrad: Well, I think people might know that I worked on Bernie Sanders' campaign both in 2016 and 2020. I consider myself a strong progressive and align with a lot of the values of, like you said, folks who are the Working Families Party, or People's Party, or DSA. And I think for us leftists and progressives, we have to build the coalition. And so I think there's room for those organizations to exist, but what I always like to remind people is - for better, for worse, we are currently a two-party system. That's just the reality of what we have. And sure, I would love to do all kinds of other things, but I recognize that the Democratic Party - that's what we had. That is the most solid party organization that represents the most people. If you believe in democracy, that's what we have.

And so I am an institutionalist in the sense that I believe it is our job to go into these institutions, into the infrastructure, and try to change them from within. I've done the work on the outside, and there's a place and a role for that, but you also - these institutions are what stay. And so I believe that it is valuable to try to work with the party to try to change it, to open it up, to build the coalition so that more people who identify and feel comfort with DSA and People's Party and Working Families Party - that they feel welcomed back into the Democratic Party - because I think that's how we're going to win, is if we build that broad coalition.

And so I'm in full support. I understand why people may not have wanted to work with the Democratic Party before. But I am trying to lead a millennial, Gen Z, woman of color organization. I'm trying to do the work to change it so that it doesn't feel as - it's not as traumatic or painful as it has been previously. And that is what I have - put my stake in the ground, and what I really believe in, and I'm trying to fix.

[00:30:46] Crystal Fincher: Do you see your role as the Chair of the Democrats, or just should the Democrats, in your opinion, be supporting candidates who may not share the label, but who are sharing the values?

[00:31:05] Shasti Conrad: Absolutely. Look, I look at it as it's somewhat of a marketing issue. My job is to understand why someone would not want to choose our brand. It is to understand that and to be able to recognize, what are the ways in which we can change that to be more appealing to a broader base of people - who for the most part, you look at the Venn diagram of it all, for the most part, probably share 90% of our values. And so what is it that we need to fix internally and externally? Sort of an outward facing front, but also internally, what do we need to change that will welcome those people back in? I believe you can hold - two things can be true at once. You can be a proud DSA member, a proud member of the People's Party or Working Families Party, and also work with us in the Democratic Party. I mean, that's how we get things done. That's how we move the needle. At the end of the day, we are the caucus that you're going to have to work with to get things done once you get into office. So that's my hope, is that we can better build something that people want to be a part of, even as they hold these different identities.

[00:32:26] Crystal Fincher: I managed campaigns for a long time, so I went to lots of different LD meetings with several different candidates - that's just a thing that you do. And man, these meetings are oftentimes horrible things to go to. Lots of great people doing great work, lots of great volunteers, but in the past has been the exception and not the rule for the meeting not - the meeting to be relevant. You go in there, you hear people arguing, using Robert's Rules of Order. You see these long marathon hours, multiple hours, long endorsement meetings. You hear people just like yipping and yapping at each other. Sometimes you hear people with microaggressions or macroaggressions. And so a lot of people will dip their toe into their local LD and just not feel like it has been the best use of their time. Like, "Hey, I'd rather watch a movie instead of listening to someone debate one tiny element of one thing for 20 minutes using Robert's Rules of Order." What do you say to people who have looked at the Democratic Party locally and been like, "I tried it before, it didn't quite work out, it may not be a place for me."

[00:33:53] Shasti Conrad: I mean, look, I get it. And I hear them. And I've felt that way. Like we talked about earlier, I came back into the party and into Washington State politics in 2016. And I remember going to these LD meetings where there was like 100+ people. And then I watched over the next few months as those numbers dwindled because people wanted to do something, they wanted to be actively involved. And the Democratic Party offered them nothing. What it offered them was, like you said, Robert's Rules of Order, people getting completely wrapped around the axle on some minutia that didn't really matter. It wasn't open and accessible to the average person by any means. And particularly to people of color and younger people who it's like - I'm trying to survive here. I'm trying-

[00:34:42] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and people with disabilities, parents. Yeah.

[00:34:47] Shasti Conrad: Yes. I mean, in some ways, the pandemic has given us the opportunity of being able to do things in a way that are slightly more accessible in that - before, I would hear parents - it's like you'd have a meeting at 7:00 PM in Renton, that's right in the middle of bedtime and dinner and all of that. And so at least now we are able to do it where it's like, "Hey, hop on online and we'll make it easier." But I would say like, "Look, I get it. And what I am trying to do as the first woman of color chair for this organization is I'm trying to rebuild an organization that is welcoming. That is a safe space for everybody. That it's not about power gate-keeping." I'm like, "Hey, you want to come in and do some work?" Come on in. There's power for you too."

And we have to do this work because we're fighting against fascism, we're fighting against authoritarianism. And I think also come on back - we want to welcome you back in. I want to know how it didn't work and I want to make it better. I had a call with a woman of color who's running for school board up in the northern part of the County two weeks ago. And she was talking about the endorsement process and how awful she had been treated by a couple of these LDs. And I was like, "Tell me, because I want to go and fix it." And like, "Let me go help you hold these folks accountable. Help me demystify the process."

For better or for worse, I feel like I've gotten a PhD in this weird party stuff. And the reason why that matters is because I am here to be a resource to help change the way that it works, but also to help explain it. To help be able to say, "Hey, here's the side door. Let me help show you the way and how you can make this work and get done what you want to get done." And I believe that we're doing that. I mean, you've gotten involved, Crystal, in some ways in helping us. And you said you would never - I remember when we first met - you were like, "I'm done with the party." And you've been helping out here and there because I think we're making those changes and we're doing that work. 

And it's not perfect, by any means, but I can't do it alone. I think that's also what I really want to be clear. When it's just me, I can't make the changes and I can't do the work that needs to get done. And so I need more people who are also committed to these types of changes to come in and help me build an organization that is of value to everyone that is a part of our community and not just for the few. That same way of doing things doesn't work. One of the things I am most proud of is - in 2019, we endorsed and we supported people like Tammy Morales, Shaun Scott. We supported people who - other places weren't. And Shaun didn't win, but he has gone on to do all kinds of amazing work in the community. And last year, with the State Legislature, we replaced Democrats with more progressive Democrats, more Democrats of color, and that shifted and changed the type of legislation we were able to get passed.

[00:38:03] Crystal Fincher: Oh, absolutely. I mean, we don't get capital gains without those changes, we don't get a number of the progressive policies - some of the environmental policy, certainly the police accountability legislation - that doesn't happen without the changes on the Democratic side to more progressive people that were there. And I think you bring up a great point. I mean, you talk about me - and I don't know that I've talked a lot about this on the podcast - but certainly have had major frustrations with the party, consider myself a progressive and continue to have frustrations with the party, particularly on the national level. But when there are people in places, and just FYI, these local Democratic organizations, they're actually all their own organizations. They're part of a master organization, but it actually is not like a company with branches - they have a lot more autonomy than that.

So there's actually a lot that can be done in shaping these local party organizations - how they're composed, the leadership that is in there, and how they can interact with and serve their communities. And the Democratic Party has resources. It's a party of resources and those resources certainly can be helpful in getting people elected. So if we can use those resources in the right way to get the right people to make the right decisions and in the right position with the appropriate power to do so, that's a good thing. And I think what I saw in you was, "Okay, there is someone willing to work and willing to push in the right direction." So if there is a tool available, with resources behind it, that can actually be a force for good, Hey, I'm willing to help have it be a force for good.

Would I do that if - I wasn't doing that - I'd said that I was not going to do that unless I saw that. Had not seen that up to that point and was skeptical that I would, but certainly here at the local level with you being involved and willing to push in the right direction. And a lot of times bend over backwards to make the process more accessible to more people - is helpful. And to help the local LD organizations move in that direction too and be spaces that are inclusive and open enough to even have leadership that understands the ability and the potential and how to be more inclusive and continue walking down that road. So that's how you hooked me in - was my ability to see you doing the work. And so if someone's willing to do that, I am willing to help. I do have some skills and talents that I can use to be helpful. And so I appreciate that.

So if there are other people who are perhaps considering where they are going to be investing their time and talent, this is certainly an option and one that can be consequential in who gets elected, and what decisions are made, and what policies pass. With that said, the accountability piece is also important and holding people accountable - both within the party, within the party organization, and with electeds - and seeing you be serious about that was another reason why I got involved because, man, was I sick of just watching people do ridiculous, buck wild, out of pocket things - and in some instances, unethical things that -

[00:41:57] Shasti Conrad: Yeah. It's not fair to ask someone to come in and be a part of something that you know is going to be traumatizing for them. So we have a recruitment problem and we have a retention problem. And so that is where it is both on the doing the outreach, getting out into the community, but it's also creating a culture of accountability and creating these spaces that are welcoming and conducive for all kinds of people to be able to do work that they find meaningful and can be proud of. And my subversive reasons for being in this role is because I know that the Democratic Party is an organization that has to change from within. It just does. And so we need more people to become members of these LDs who then can vote. And if they become Precinct Committee Officers, they can vote on leadership. They can choose people to lead in a way that backs up their values and is going to take these organizations in a direction that they want. If you're just railing from the outside, nothing changes. That's just where we're at. So that's why I think it's so important to come back in and I'm doing everything I can to try to create a place at King County Democrats where people who want to do good work can do that.

[00:43:14] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. And it's worth pointing out that, to your point, PCOs or Precinct Committee Officers, kind of the most grassroots party position that there is - you're like a neighborhood captain - they vote on appointments of elected officials. When there's a vacancy in the Legislature and on some County Councils, they vote for those replacements. And those votes are pretty well-attended in Seattle, but I will tell you, in many of the LDs here in King County, those votes often don't include more than 30 people.

[00:43:55] Shasti Conrad: Our good friend, Representative Jesse Johnson - that's how he was picked for - down in the 30th LD. And he's wonderful and that's great, but 30 people were able to make that decision. And so it's absolutely an incredibly important role to play. I first got involved when I was running for an appointment to fill Pramila Jayapal's State Senate seat. And so about 100 some odd people voted on who became the State Senator - and that was Rebecca Saldaña, another wonderful elected official. But look, this stuff actually matters. A third of the State Legislature was picked by PCOs. It's not a small number - so it's really important. So if you become a Precinct Committee Officer, you get to vote on leadership within the party, you potentially get to choose elected officials, and you get to volunteer and knock doors in your community and get to be a leader in your neighborhood. That's pretty cool, and I think a really fun way to get to participate in democracy.

[00:44:55] Crystal Fincher: Sounds good. Thank you so much.

[00:44:57] Shasti Conrad: Thank you. This has been fun.

[00:44:58] Crystal Fincher: 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 @finchfrii, spelled F-I-N-C-H-F-R-I-I. Now you 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 and in the episode notes. 

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