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Hacks & Wonks

May 21, 2021

This week on the show political consultant Heather Weiner joins Crystal to talk about former Attorney General Rob McKenna suing to stop Washington’s new capital gains tax, elections heating up as we reach the final deadline for filing to run for office, and the release of letters condemning Mayor Durkan’s intentional disregard and degradation of Black staff members.

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

Find the host, Crystal Fincher on Twitter at @finchfrii and find today’s co-host, Heather Weiner, at @hlweiner. More info is available at



“Former Attorney General Rob McKenna joins lawsuit seeking to invalidate Washington state’s capital gains tax” by Jim Brunner:

Who has filed to run for office: 

King County:

Pierce County:

Snohomish County:

“An early win in a crowded race, González grabs MLK Labor endorsement, talks workers rights in mayor’s office, buses on city streets” by Jake Goldstein-Street:

The full letters detailing how Durkan’s office has been a barrier for Black Brilliance Project and harmful to Black women:

Letter 1:

Letter 2:



Crystal Fincher: [00:00:00] Welcome to Hacks and Wonks. I'm your host, Crystal Fincher. On this show, we talk with policy wonks and political hacks to gather insight into local politics and policy through the lens of those doing the work with behind-the-scenes perspectives on politics in our state. Full transcripts and resources referenced in the show are always available at and in our episode notes. Feel free to leave us a review on iTunes if you're enjoying the show, or any other place where you're getting the podcast. 

Today, we're continuing our Friday almost-live shows where we review the news of the week with a cohost. Welcome back to the program friend of the show and today's co-host: excellent political consultant and urban farmer, Heather Weiner. 

Heather Weiner: [00:00:54] Hi, Crystal. So excited to be here. Good morning, afternoon - 

Crystal Fincher: [00:00:58] So excited to have you here. Yeah, we're in the morning- this is an almost-live show, so people hear this just a few hours after we get done recording. We gotta, you know, transcribe the show and do all that kind of stuff, but we get it out super fast. So we're talking about the news of the day - there are several things that have happened this week. A couple highlights - it is filing week, where everyone is filing for office - lots of different races. Mayor's race in Seattle is hot and heating up, we've had some forums this week, one big one with the King County Labor Council and a big endorsement there. There's a lawsuit filed against capital gains tax, and the exemption for car dealerships. And also, there were two letters shared that had previously been covered - just excerpts of them - in media, but that really detail challenges that people within the City, particularly Black women, have had with Jenny Durkan in her office in reference to the Black Brilliance Project and participatory budgeting.

So why don't we just dive into it - starting, I guess, with the capital gains tax. Let's dive into that. You are intimately familiar with this. What is going on? 

Heather Weiner: [00:02:12] So, our fantastic legislature and governor passed - the first of its kind in the state - a modest capital gains tax on just really the top 1%. These are people who make profits when they sell their stocks, and it gives a modest tax on profits greater than a quarter of a million dollars on the sale of a stock or a bond. So, it sounds like it wouldn't be very much, but we have so many billionaires in the state, and almost billionaires, that it would actually raise half a billion dollars a year for childcare, education, schools - helping our kids and helping parents. 

And yet, you would think that that is very popular, which it is. It gets somewhere between 60% and 80% approval ratings from the Washington public and Washington voters, according to polls. And yet, some people don't like it. They want to sue. So we have two lawsuits that have now been filed against this in court, which I imagine will go right to the - through the process - to the state Supreme Court. And I'm not going to talk about the merits of the lawsuits. Blahbity blahbidy blahbity - they don't like it. They're gonna say it's unconstitutional, they're going to make a whole bunch of arguments - specious arguments - against it. It's really a delay tactic. They're just trying to delay it. It's going to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees from the taxpayers, and capital gains is still going to be law at the end of the day. 

Now, I want to talk about who's filing this. So Rob McKenna - remember him?

Crystal Fincher: [00:03:53] Remember him well - yes, Republican Rob McKenna, branded as your friendly non-threatening moderate neighborhood Republican. And it really was just a sheep in wolf's clothing - or a wolf in sheep's clothing - situation. Just a hot mess - and then I think he was working for Big Oil for a while and yeah - 

Heather Weiner: [00:04:17] Oh yeah - no. He's -.

Crystal Fincher: [00:04:18] - just turned out to be just run-of-the-mill - just defend major billionaires, major corporations to pollute, to run roughshod over residents, and to just reap corporate profits with no responsibility attached to it. 

Heather Weiner: [00:04:34] Oh, yeah, that Rob McKenna. Anyway, so Rob McKenna is now doing a media tour this week, talking about this lawsuit and how bad this is. So the corporate interests and these big millionaire interests are using as their front people - farmers, small business owners - but none of them would really be impacted by this unless they're making enormous profits from the sales of stocks and bonds. So they're using them as front people, but really it's this top 1% who are going to be impacted by this - who are funding all this. So they've just filed a lawsuit - it's making big headlines. 

And at the same time, Jim Brunner from the Seattle Times just came out with an article this morning - talking about how auto dealerships got a special exemption in the capital gain - from the capital gains tax. Which I thought was fascinating - I was intimately involved with what was going on with the capital gains negotiations - and I didn't even know about this. So that just shows how much I don't know - that was a secret.

Crystal Fincher: [00:05:39] Well, there's so much to talk about when it comes to our legislative process. And the process of lawmaking is opaque in many ways. And just to be familiar with it takes a lot of experience - you have to know all the intricacies of the process. It is not logical. It is not reasonable. It's just this weird, non-sensical non-linear thing - writing legislation - and it is really easy to slip in lots of provisions that you find out about after the thing has been signed. It is just really something, so I'm not shocked that that has happened, but it is a problem. 

Heather Weiner: [00:06:21] Yeah. Yeah. Well, look - this is part of the deal making. So as you remember, as you might remember, this bill was passed with just a one vote margin in the state Senate. And I think that this - there's some deal making going back and forth. And it's really funny to watch some of the other business interests, like the Retail Federation, saying, "Well, gosh, I guess they had a good lobbyist." And that lobbyist is going to get a lot of business next year, I bet, from everybody who wants their special carve-outs. 

But look, the big news here though, is that - these are incredibly rich people around the state who have been, are hoarding their wealth. They make money passively when they sell. Note that these are not retirement accounts. Retirement accounts are exempted. This is not your property. Property is exempted. I am talking about people who passively take their massive income, put it into the stock market, that then makes more income by them doing literally nothing. They then cash that stock out and only the profits greater than a quarter of a million dollars are what's taxed. So - Crystal, let's just imagine that you and I just sold some stock for 300 - we made $300,000 in profit. In profit. Right? Only $50,000 of that would actually be taxed. And we would end up paying about $3,000-3,500 in taxes on it. That's nothing for $300,000 profit. Anyway -

Crystal Fincher: [00:07:50] Look, it will prevent someone from buying a couch cushion on their yacht - Heather, let's be serious. That's what we're talking about. I mean, well, and this lawsuit, it's important to understand just what is being alleged and how it's been. This isn't a surprise that this lawsuit is being raised - they've basically said this the whole time. Republicans, especially, have been saying, "This is just an income tax. And well, if we let this through, it'll let everything else through." There've been so many opinions saying that this is not an income tax - it's separate, it's a capital gains tax. But they are challenging it - saying that it's an income tax, which we cannot enact currently in Washington. And so, this capital gains tax - again, you explained it beautifully - it is very different than an income tax that applies to regular income for everyone. So we'll see how this plays out. This is not a surprise. This was passed with the full intention that it would then be defended in court. It's a step that we need to take to reform tax policy in the state. So here we go. 

Heather Weiner: [00:08:57] Here we go. Here we go. And again, for those of you who - I mean, nobody who listens to this podcast thinks that their vote doesn't count - but for those of you who have friends who think that their vote doesn't count. Your vote absolutely makes huge difference because we would not have this, but for the new leadership that we have in the state House and the state Senate, and the new people who are there. So this is just a really remarkable, remarkable year for us in the state legislature.

Crystal Fincher: [00:09:28] This is one those where it only got through because there were changes in the previous election. So they absolutely matter - and that brings us to filing week. This is the week where - for this year in 2021 - last year, we had the legislative races, Congressional, federal races - that kind of stuff. In odd years, we have municipal races, the really local races. So School Boards, King County and County Council races, Port Commissions - all of that stuff are on your ballot. 

Heather Weiner: [00:10:06] Fire districts! 

Crystal Fincher: [00:10:07] Yes! 

Heather Weiner: [00:10:07] I'm saying some sexy words to you right now. School board, fire, public utility districts. Oh yes. I love it. I mean, look - this is, let me put it in terms that other people can understand. This is like NFL draft day. 

Crystal Fincher: [00:10:19] It is. 

Heather Weiner: [00:10:19] This is it, baby. I'm so excited to see who's running, and who's out there, and who's ready.

Okay. All right. Let's talk about filing week. All right, Crystal, what are you excited - what are you excited to see? 

Crystal Fincher: [00:10:33] I am excited about - obviously, these City of Seattle races - I don't know if excited is the word that I have for them, but they're certainly notable and interesting. But beyond that, we have so many races here throughout the state. But focusing on others in King County, looking at the King County Executive race - Dow Constantine, long-time incumbent, who has been comfortably elected and not really challenged this entire time. He's a 12-year incumbent and being challenged by Senator Joe Nguyen who has been quite active in passing policy, who is - established himself as someone known as a progressive voice passing progressive policy - and is challenging Dow Constantine. And that could be a really interesting race. 

Heather Weiner: [00:11:29] And so it's notable that he's being challenged from the left, by Senator Nguyen. What do you think about a challenge from the right?

Crystal Fincher: [00:11:38] You know, it's interesting - that would certainly complicate things for Dow Constantine. I'm sure he's hoping he doesn't get a more credible challenger from the right. Right now, Bill Hirt has also filed in the race, so he's there. There's also Goodspaceguy and Johnathon Crines. We're all familiar - well, people who pay attention to politics familiar - it's not really a race until Goodspaceguy has filed. So here we are and it's official. And then Johnathon Crines, who I'm actually not familiar with, but I'm sure I will be getting more familiar with him in the months to come. But we'll see if there is a - another more well-known, more established challenger to Dow from his right. If so, that makes a primary really interesting - and where are each other's bases? It certainly makes splitting the progressive vote against someone who can consolidate a more conservative vote risky for Dow.

Heather Weiner: [00:12:40] Yeah, it is very interesting. I think I've seen labor really rally behind Dow during this, which is interesting to me - because labor, of course, really loves Joe at the same time. And I'm also seeing Dow being more out there than usual - making big announcements, like a big hotel opened for people who don't have homes right now. So, you know, I know that it's super annoying to the Democratic establishment when people from the left challenge some of these long-time incumbents. But I also - to me, as just a regular voter - I think it's good. I think it's good. I think it makes the incumbents work a little bit harder and pay a little bit more attention when they might've gotten a little complacent. Not saying Dow has gotten complacent - just saying it's really, it's really interesting. And I think it's healthy for the system. 

Crystal Fincher: [00:13:36] I also think it's healthy. It's a system of accountability. No one is entitled to a seat - that is not Dow's seat. It's the people's seat - and the people are often better served when they have choices for who can best represent them. And when - just watching Joe force Dow to be more out there, communicating with the public more, and more in tune with how he's serving the people - we can't, people elected should never take that for granted. And so it's always healthy to see a competitive race. I say this as someone who has someone closely related to me as an incumbent with a competitive race. This is what democracy is about. Here we are.

Heather Weiner: [00:14:18] Yeah. Yeah, here we are. So there's a couple of other council races too, where we're seeing that - we see Shukri, who is challenging Dave Upthegrove. 

Crystal Fincher: [00:14:26] Yeah - Shukri. Shukri Olow. 

Heather Weiner: [00:14:26] Shukri. I'm sorry. Thank you for that. And I'm also really excited to see that Ubax Gardheere is challenging Reagan Dunn. So let's talk about that race for a second in Council District 9. And what region is Council District 9? Remind me -

Crystal Fincher: [00:14:47] So that is east - that's, if you think about like 47th Legislative District - Maple Valley, it kind of wraps up around there - so you're like east King County -

Heather Weiner: [00:15:01] Got it. 

Crystal Fincher: [00:15:04] Central King County. 

Heather Weiner: [00:15:04] So Ubax is an amazing activist and organizer in social justice and economic justice. She's a mom. She is an immigrant from Somalia. She worked for the Durkan administration for a little while, and then actually took a really courageous step and called out the Durkan administration. And we'll get to this in a little bit - for not, for being hostile to people of color, essentially. So, she is now out there challenging long-time Republican incumbent and son of our old Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn, Reagan Dunn. And Reagan Dunn is kind of - I've always wanted to see a serious challenge to him. Sometimes he's rumored to want to run for Governor or King County Council. I think he's a little bit of a punk. I mean, the guy doesn't get very much done. He talks off the cuff. He's got - I dunno - I just feel like he's kind of a, you know, he's just kind of the heir. He thinks he's the heir to a seat because of his mom. I'm sure he's going to sue me for all this that I'm saying right now. So, I'm really excited to see her challenge him and I'm actually going to contribute to her right after this call.

Crystal Fincher: [00:16:20] Yeah. And that is actually a race with a crowded primary full of - there are a couple other progressives in that race - both Chris Franco and Kim-Khanh Van. So, kind of stacked with great candidates. It's really interesting to see how that plays out, and I think people have been wanting a choice there. And the demographic change over the past 10 years has been interesting in that district - it's still very purple, if not red-leaning. But that doesn't mean that, especially in a crowded primary, that a variety of things could happen. And there certainly are a number of issues that people could take with the incumbent's record. So I'm really interested to see how that plays out. That's going to be something - as well as the challenge to Pete von Reichbauer. 

Heather Weiner: [00:17:17] Mmm hmm - tell me a little bit about that.

Crystal Fincher: [00:17:18] So Lydia Assefa-Dawson, who is a Federal Way City Council member, along with Dominique Torgerson and Saudia Abdullah, are challenging Pete von Reichbauer. There are, frankly, rumors that Pete was going to see whether he had a strong or not challenge, go through this, and maybe not serve his full next term. It's interesting - I'm in Federal Way frequently and there is Pete von Reichbauer, like Drive - there's a Drive - where usually you don't drive on streets from currently elected officials. There is one there. 

Heather Weiner: [00:17:55] Or living ones.

Crystal Fincher: [00:17:56] Yes, but there's one in Federal Way. But that's going to be really interesting - really looking at where that district is today. A lot different than where it was 10-15 years ago - both in terms of demographics, in terms of politics - looking at the votes that they've taken, the legislative delegation that they have now. All points away from Pete von Reichbauer. So that's going to be really interesting to see if those candidates can connect with the public - but certainly a lot of people see a big opportunity there.

Heather Weiner: [00:18:30] All right. Can we talk about the mayor's race though - come on, come on, come on.

Crystal Fincher: [00:18:32] Okay. One, I also - I just real quick - in other notable races. Port of Seattle. 

Heather Weiner: [00:18:38] Oh yeah.

Crystal Fincher: [00:18:38] Port of Seattle - big deal. Port is slept on just in terms of its impact, significance, its size. It's one of the biggest districts in the state. It's basically King County. The Port controls so much. Lots of times people just think of the airport. It is so much, so much further beyond that. 

Heather Weiner: [00:18:59] So much more. So the Port of Seattle - I know way too much about the Port of Seattle, and it's unfortunate for you. Talk about a policy wonk. Oh my gosh. I worked on a campaign many years ago to clean up the air pollution that comes - the diesel air pollution that comes from the massive amounts of diesel trucks that move cargo containers around the region from the Port of Seattle. They're driven by basically Uber drivers - gig workers. They have no health insurance. They pay out of their pockets. It's kind of an entry job for a lot of immigrants. And so they're very much exploited by these massively, massively rich international shipping companies. 

Okay. So who has control over that? The Port of Seattle commission. And the Port of Seattle commission is generally, you're right - sleeper. Nobody pays attention to it. People tend to vote for the candidate whose name maybe they recognize, or the picture they like. This year we have a chance to elect two amazing reformers - two amazing women - to the Port of Seattle. Toshiko and Hamdi. And they, I think will bring up - first of all, they'd be the first women of color elected to the Port of Seattle commission. 

Secondly, they would bring a new energy and new accountability to the Port, which I have long said, I think is the most corrupt agency in the state. Because there is so - yeah, I know that's really - look, if you gave me a million dollars today, Crystal, you know what I would do with it? Well, first of all, I would plant more plants. But the second thing I would do is I would create a Port of Seattle watchdog group. Because there is so much money and so many jobs that are being impacted by what happens at the airport, and the port, and by the land that the Port of Seattle controls, even as far out as Bellevue.

Crystal Fincher: [00:20:52] So much land. 

Heather Weiner: [00:20:53] So much land that they control and they have - they can have such great impact on our communities and help our communities - and they just do not do anything except provide a vehicle for the shipping companies and these massive airlines to make more money off of us. So - 

Crystal Fincher: [00:21:11] I would say - certainly the Port had that reputation. I think there have been some members who have done some good work and are working on pushing in a new direction, but that they need allies on the Port. And I think Toshiko and Hamdi would be excellent allies. And also another major thing - there is currently no South King County representation on the Port - 

Heather Weiner: [00:21:36] None. None, even though the airport is in South King County.

Crystal Fincher: [00:21:41] Where are the impacts of the airport being felt in terms of workers, pollution, land management, coordination with immigration authorities and just law enforcement authorities. That's all South King County. And we currently have no one from South King County on there. Hamdi would be the first person - the only person on the Port from South King County. And then Toshiko - I think she's in Skyway? You know, there's lots of debate on whether Skyway is - I've had this conversation with multiple people. To me - if you don't have two bus transfers to get into Seattle, you really can't qualify yourself as South King County, but we'll see. But you know, and I don't know how much - certainly her father, Senator Hasegawa from the 11th Legislative District, is in South King County. So, there's certainly a familiarity there, but there is an opportunity to move in a different direction, and to give some of the people who are pushing in the right direction some allies to really make sure that we're serving all of the residents in King County with the Port Commission 

Heather Weiner: [00:22:58] Well, let me just say one more thing about the Port Commission. One of their most important jobs is to hire, review, and hold accountable the Port Executive, the Port CEO. And we currently have a Port CEO that has done a good job of remaining below the radar screen. But prior to that, we had three extremely controversial CEOs. We had Mic Dinsmore, who ended up having to resign after some financial - some huge financial issues that were going on. We had the next one whose name - the next two, whose names I've all of a sudden blanked out on.

Crystal Fincher: [00:23:33] Tay wasn't one of them? Wasn't he one of them? 

Heather Weiner: [00:23:35] Oh, Yoshitani. Yeah. Tay Yoshitani - who. Yeah. Wow. I'm really impressed with you.

Oh yeah. Who also sat on the board of the very companies - sat on one - on the boards of the very shippers who he was getting good lease agreements for. I mean, there was all kinds of improprieties going on there. We then had another one who came from the trucking industry, and ended up he had to leave. So the fact that we currently have a Port CEO that I don't even know the name of is probably - you're right. Probably progress. 

Crystal Fincher: [00:24:07] Progress. Yeah, yeah - absolutely. 

Heather Weiner: [00:24:09] Can we talk about the mayor's race, Crystal, now?

Crystal Fincher: [00:24:12] Let's talk about the mayor's race. And actually there was a forum that the MLK Labor Council held earlier this week that was really interesting - that had the top six candidates on there. Hosted, moderated by Erica Barnett. That was really interesting. A big labor endorsement. And you know, you - every time you're on here, we do a full disclosure where - who you are working with. 

Heather Weiner: [00:24:37] I am working with my friend, Lorena González. I do a little bit of work with her on this campaign, but as you know, and as I've said, even if I wasn't officially working with her, I would be volunteering my butt off for her because she is the champion for working people. And that is why she got the MLK Labor Council full endorsement. She won the vote - 80% to 20%, which is just amazing. It's usually very controversial within the labor council, and she -

Crystal Fincher: [00:25:09] That was surprising. That was really - that was surprising to me. I was expecting it to be a lot closer than that. 

Heather Weiner: [00:25:15] Well, she's pulling in endorsements from the full spectrum of the labor community here. So, you know, her first endorsements were from Unite Here and UFCW 21, which are considered to be kind of more the left wing of the labor movement. Then she got an endorsement from the Teamsters Joint Council. Teamsters Joint Council actually represents garbage truck drivers, construction drivers, cement truck drivers, as well as City employees, too. So that was pretty - I would say moderate group. And then she got the Laborers, LIUNA. So she's really pulling them in. She's got some more big labor announcements coming, I hear. It's very exciting. She got this big labor endorsement after kicking it at the forum. She did an amazing job. <coughing> Sorry.

Crystal Fincher: [00:26:01] And I want to talk about that forum for a little bit. I found it interesting - and we have not had many opportunities yet, to see everyone together. We're just at the beginning of this forum season. And so I thought a number of the questions were interesting. From the conversation about defunding - and I think Andrew Grant Houston was the only one who, there was a question asked, do you support 50% defunding? He said yes. But most everybody said that they definitely prefer some significant changes, structural changes within SPD. So it seems like no matter who's onboard almost, that we can expect to see changes. And it was also interesting - well, I think that's too broad of a statement. Several of the major candidates - we can expect to see changes.

I think that hearing directly from Colleen Echohawk was interesting and she acquitted herself well. I think Bruce Harrell explained some of his prior gaffes pretty well, and clarifying some statements and - there were some statements from before where you where, "Hey, I'm going to have everyone sign a, basically a pledge, saying that they won't beat people," which we need to do. But he was like, "Well, if they can't do that, then like we can't even begin with them. And we have to know that they're starting from there to be able to work with them from now on." He seemed to not be quite comfortable with - there was a question, "Do you favor sweeps?" And everyone said No, with the exception of, well - Bruce Harrell said No, but he seemed very uncomfortable with saying No and asking if he could clarify his comments, whatever. And he stuck with No, but man, that seemed like a No that was not really a No, that he didn't want to be a No, but he felt like he had to say No. 

And then, Casey Sixkiller said that he did favor sweeps of encampments of the unhoused. Everyone else was a firm No. That was comforting. So that was - there were certainly some interesting moments and beginning to see some contrast. I think certainly it's fair to say that Deputy Mayor Sixkiller, and former City Council member and former briefly Interim Mayor Bruce Harrell are competing for a lot of the same base. And so it was really interesting to see how they were positioning each other, and positioning against each other. And so we'll see how that plays out. What were your takeaways? 

Heather Weiner: [00:28:59] My takeaways were - well, first, you know, Lorena had just had a family tragedy. Her own house is uninhabitable for the next 6-8 months. And so, she and her husband are currently couch surfing until they find a place to live with their baby. And her mother-in-law was killed in the fire. So despite that she still is showing up to these forums and that shows a remarkable amount of personal strength and commitment. So I was very impressed with that, of course. Again, disclaimer. 

I thought that Casey Sixkiller - I expected him to do better than he did. Here's a guy who is a DC guy, has had a ton of experience in DC, despite the fact that he's calling himself an outsider. 

Crystal Fincher: [00:29:50] Yeah, I don't know - 

Heather Weiner: [00:29:51] After being a deputy mayor. Yeah, that was a little odd. So I expected him to do a lot better. And boy, is Colleen Echohawk likable. I just think she is obviously a very smart person. Very likable, and really easy to connect with. And she had to answer some really tough questions about not hiring union workers on a lot of the projects that she is overseeing, building housing. And - so she had to answer some tough questions there. So yeah, I thought it was fascinating. I thought it was a great forum. 

We've got a couple of big LD, Democratic Legislative District endorsements coming up in the next week. Tomorrow is my home district, the 11th LD, where there's - I mean, how long is that meeting gonna be, Crystal? 'Cause there's so many municipal races there.

Crystal Fincher: [00:30:37] I mean, I have been at 11th LD meetings that have gone past 11:00 PM. 

Heather Weiner: [00:30:42] It starts at 10:00 AM. Oh my gosh - 

Crystal Fincher: [00:30:46] Oh, tomorrow's Saturday. Saturday. I'm thinking of regular weekday LD meetings, but that would be like on the order of 5-6 hours. 

Heather Weiner: [00:30:54] Oh my gosh. I'm just - 

Crystal Fincher: [00:30:55] I hope it's not that long. There's a lot to get through, but yeah, those meetings can last. Let's, let's hope it's three. 

Heather Weiner: [00:31:02] How important are the Democratic LDs really to candidates?

Crystal Fincher: [00:31:09] Having this conversation with someone yesterday. So I would say - endorsements - there's the inside game and there's the outside game, right? And a lot of the inside game establishes early momentum, helps with early fundraising - there's a saying - EMILY's List is - EMILY stands for Early Money Is Like Yeast. And that's really the thing. So, does the public - I think, now more than ever, quite frankly, I think that the public does not rely on endorsements. But I think that early on - when people are looking to their close contacts, people who are their allies, people who pay attention to politics all the time, and this is what they do - before normal people pay attention in July and August for a primary. That they're trying to establish who is credible, and that they're trying to fundraise also from those same people. So they count in terms of resources for campaigns. 

Do they automatically bring - if an LD endorses, does that mean all of the LD members are going to vote for someone? No. If a union endorses, does that mean all of that union's members are going to vote for that person? No. Can people take it as a sign? If they see two people who they don't know at all, then they can then say, "Okay, well maybe - this person is endorsed by all the groups that I support. I don't know a thing about them, but I know that someone I like likes them." And in the absence of other information, that can be helpful.

But if you can define yourself in addition to that, then endorsements become less impactful for the general public when they're making their voting decisions. But it certainly helps with resources to communicate with the general public because that costs money. And so, I guess my shorthand is - it matters in the inside game, but ultimately voters make decisions based on what they think of the candidate and not what other people do. If they don't know anything about the candidate, then other factors come into play. 

Heather Weiner: [00:33:18] I think there's also an expectation that some LDs do have a really good volunteer base. PCOs who will go out there - and I'm a PCO in the 11th District, so I would go out if I agreed with their endorsements, and knock on doors, and tell people about it. But some LDs, some Democratic districts are not yet there - don't quite have their volunteer bases up. You did an amazing job last year, helping the King County Democrats start recruiting PCOs. Thank you for that. You recruited me. So I think that really helps and that'll actually make these endorsements a lot more important to candidates over the years as that volunteer base keeps growing.

Crystal Fincher: [00:33:59] Well, and that's a big thing. And I think that a number of organizations have realized that endorsements were losing some of their credibility, or some of their punch. Because candidates are going, "Well, what am I actually getting for this endorsement?" Because a lot of it is the resources - and those boots on the ground, as people call them - labor is notorious for when they do endorse - for having people show up for volunteer doorbelling, doorbell blitzes. But other organizations weren't. And so I know that there is a definitely concerted effort by the King County Democrats to say, "You know what? We want our endorsements to matter. We're going to show up for candidates who we endorse. We're going to make sure that we make a difference in those races where we do endorse." so I think people are  realizing we can do more and we can do better. And there are certainly some organizations like those. 

And then King County Democrats attempting to help their LDs to be more impactful in their local elections, especially in these municipal years, where these municipal races are mostly nonpartisan. It's not like legislative ones where you have a D and an R by the name. And if you don't know anyone, people just look to the D & R and generally make a decision off of that. They're just names. And people are trying to figure out who they are. And so that can really make some endorsements more impactful in the off-years, and volunteers more powerful to get word out to voters who just - they don't know anything about the candidates. 

Heather Weiner: [00:35:27] Yeah, that's a great point. I think we're almost up with time and I want to make sure that we get to these letters from Tammy Morales.

Crystal Fincher: [00:35:35] Well, yeah, and we'll be talking about them more in an upcoming show, but we're going to link them in the show notes. But these letters were - almost briefly referenced and excerpted very briefly - before in coverage. And I think people have heard the line from a letter from Ubax and from Bo Zhang saying, "We're done working for a dictator posturing as mayor. We're done feeling increasingly out of touch with communities of color. And we're done being women of color bearing a disproportionate emotional labor in our civilization's collective reckoning with our midlife (or is it our end of life?) crisis." 

But they go in and talking about the toll - literally a quote - "For years, the two of us have witnessed firsthand the toll it takes inside City Hall when a Mayor is elected for - more for their conviction than for their curiosity. We might call this 'trickle-down politics': this mindset that if we just get a leader who believes what a majority of voters believe, the institution can do great things." But it takes more than that. It does more than that.

So we'll link these letters, but they are certainly a lot to digest - making it very clear. There also is a letter talking about - an open letter to the people of Seattle from the participatory budgeting, Interdepartmental Team, or IDT. This is the team from within the City of Seattle that was working on this participatory budgeting process. Now we've heard a lot about - why is this delayed, what's going on? And, and the Council has been saying, the mayor is a problem here. And the mayor has been saying, I don't know, everything is fine. I don't know what the Council is talking about. It's probably their problem. 

Meanwhile, turns out the mayor was prohibiting anyone else, from inside the City, including this team doing this work, from speaking to anyone except the mayor's office. And then what happened was the mayor's office - what they're saying - lied on the work that they did, misrepresented the work that they did, made it seem like they weren't doing much work. And it seemed like they were trying to torpedo the work of participatory budgeting. Obviously, we've heard about the role that the mayor's office has taken in trying to investigate the Black Brilliance Project - oddly, out of all the contracts in the City. But they said clearly - "As the employee of these departments, we're writing this letter for three reasons. One - to clarify that the contents of that letter - meaning the letter that the mayor's office sent - do not represent or reflect the work of the staff. Two - to call attention to the ways in which this process has harmed BIPOC and particularly the Black community and staff. And three - set forth terms in which we will be willing to continue supporting the participatory budgeting work so that it upholds race and social justice principles and begins to correct the harm that this process has caused." So it is really an indictment of the mayor's office, of the process that they've taken with this, of what seems like, you know, certainly misleading representation of the work that these teams have done - while publicly trying to act, trying to take credit for a process to bring more equity into budgeting and in the City and trying to harm past wrongs.

So I hope people read these and understand these - and that there is accountability for this. Because, man, we take the word of other people really easily. Hey, if someone who we're used to seeing in power says, no, no, everything's fine. People generally parrot - hey, everything's fine. But you know, we have professionals whose job it is to do this work, who know what this is. Black women saying, this is a problem. We're coming together and risking ourselves to say this is a problem. And elsewhere there - it was reported that they were afraid of retaliation for their jobs. And certainly what looks like retaliation in the mayor's office right now for the whistleblowers who blew the whistle on the possible felonies committed in withholding the texts from being disclosed, and the deletion of texts from the mayor's office - that seems like a legitimate concern. So we'll include this. I hope people include them. I also thank you, everyone, for joining us in Hacks and Wonks today. I am just so thankful to Heather Weiner for joining us and being here. 

Heather Weiner: [00:40:14] Thank you, Crystal, for including me. I love, love chatting with you. I wish we could do it for hours. And I just want to give a big shout out to City Councilwoman, Tammy Morales, for advocating on behalf of participatory budgeting. As she has said to me recently, this is about ceding power that has been hoarded within the top parts of government. And it's about ceding that power back to the community and letting the community decide where their own taxpayer money should go. And so participa - that is what participatory budgeting really means. Boy, that's hard to say 

Crystal Fincher: [00:40:50] Yeah, it's a mouthful. 

Heather Weiner: [00:40:52] Patici - pati - participatory. 

Crystal Fincher: [00:40:55] Thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks on this Friday, May 21, 2021. The producer of Hacks and Wonks is Lisl Stadler, and our wonderful co-host today was Seattle political consultant and urban farmer, Heather Weiner. You can find Heather on Twitter @hlweiner. You can find me on Twitter @finchfrii [spelled f-i-n-c-h-f-r-i-i] and now you can follow Hacks and Wonks on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts, just type “Hacks and Wonks” into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to get our Friday almost-live shows and our mid-week show delivered to your podcast feed. While you’re there, leave a review! It really helps us out. You can also get a full transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced in the show at, and in the podcast episode notes.

Thanks for tuning in - talk to you soon.