Oct 22, 2021
Today Hacks & Wonks Week in Review is back after a brief hiatus! Crystal is joined by Co-founder of the Mercury Group and previous Chief of Staff to Mike McGinn, Julie McCoy to discuss the charges filed against Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer by Attorney General Bob Ferguson for falsely accusing his Black newspaper carrier of threatening his life leading to an overwhelming police response, the case for the Attorney General conducting an investigation into Jenny Durkan’s deleted text messages, and analysis of new polling out this week of the election coming up on November 2nd and what the campaigns should be doing to reach the voters they need to win.
As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at officialhacksandwonks.com.
“Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer charged with false reporting in January confrontation with newspaper carrier” by Jim Brunner and Christine Clarridge from The Seattle Times: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/crime/pierce-county-sheriff-ed-troyer-charged-with-false-statements-in-january-confrontation-with-newspaper-carrier/
“Criminal charges filed against Pierce County sheriff” from the Washington State Office of the Attorney General: https://www.atg.wa.gov/news/news-releases/criminal-charges-filed-against-pierce-county-sheriff
“Durkan Destroys 10 Months of Text Messages in Apparent Coverup” by Doug Trumm from The Urbanist: https://www.theurbanist.org/2021/05/13/durkan-destroys-10-months-of-text-messages-in-apparent-coverup/
Polling results from the Northwest Progressive Institute, via The Cascadia Advocate: https://www.nwprogressive.org/weblog/category/elections
Previously Recorded: Seattle Mayoral Public Safety Forum conducted by the ACLU of Washington: https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?ref=watch_permalink&v=1228402674346629
Upcoming on Saturday, October 23rd: The Great Debate 2021 conducted by Urbvote, Rainier Arts Center, and The Emperors Group: https://www.facebook.com/events/529623018366265/
[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. Today, we are continuing, after a bit of a hiatus, with our Friday almost-live shows where we review the news of the week with a co-host. Welcome to the program, for the first time, today's co-host, co-founder of The Mercury Group and previous chief of staff to Mike McGinn, Julie McCoy.
[00:00:55] Julie McCoy: Thank you so much for having me - I'm excited.
[00:00:58] Crystal Fincher: I am excited for you to be here. Again, you have just so much knowledge and context about what's gone on in the City - a previous chief of staff in the mayor's office and instrumental to both the McGinn win and administration, which realistically, after the past two and a half administrations has been vindicated on a whole lot. You were chief of staff with a more conservative Council and a more progressive mayor's office. Now those dynamics are flipped and we'll talk about some of them and the mayor's race in a minute.
But I wanted to start off today talking about a story that - some news broke earlier in the week - in that Pierce County Sheriff, Ed Troyer, was charged with two misdemeanors because he was, for some reason, chilling, I guess, in his driveway or something in the wee hours of the morning, saw a Black man in his neighborhood - Black man just doing his job delivering newspapers - and was so uncomfortable with that, he decided to tail him, follow him, not saying anything, but did it for quite some time. And then ended up, with no provocation from the man just doing his job, called in a report saying that the man threatened his life and called in - and a police response ensued. That was completely false. It was made up. He quickly stopped repeating it, but we all know how scenarios like that can happen and that news carrier is lucky to be alive. It was just really an egregious abuse of power - he harassed and intimidated that man and then took action that certainly violated his civil liberties and could have gotten him killed. What did you see in that process, Julie?
[00:03:00] Julie McCoy: Yeah. It was, as you said, just an absolute egregious abuse of power, first and foremost. I mean, people like to pretend that we know our neighbors, we know what's happening in our community - especially police officers. And how he - first to start with - how he didn't know that this was his newspaper carrier in his own neighborhood just is unfathomable to start with. Then the abuse of power in making that call and then the over-response - the number of police officers that showed up was insane. I mean, I don't even know what to say. To have - I think it was 14 patrol cars show up - that is just incredibly lucky that nothing bad happened. I mean, nothing worse happened. It could have been deadly. It's shocking that he continues to hold this position - that this is a "political witch hunt," I think, is what he's calling it.
[00:03:58] Crystal Fincher: Yeah - he is certainly playing the victim. There is an op-ed today by Matt Driscoll in the News Tribune that's talking about - he's saying that this is just an anti-police hit job, and this is all just trumped-up charges to prove a political point - when he's acting like he's not on tape accusing a man of threatening to kill him, trapping him in a location - he said his vehicle was blocked in - and which of course created a humongous police response. And thank goodness that this man kept his composure, did his part to try and de-escalate and get out of the situation, and didn't respond - as he would've been justified to when someone is just harassing you and lying to you - but unfortunately, probably would've ended with the loss of his life. We continue to rely on civilians to have the professionalism that people in public safety are lacking. And the consequence for not being more disciplined, more respectful, more controlled than the person in the position of power is death or incarceration. It is just egregious.
I think it is definitely a step in the right direction that the Attorney General chose to look into these charges. Certainly the Pierce County Sheriff's Office is no stranger to problems and controversy, and so having someone outside of that department looking into this was positive. I'm sure lots of people, including myself, can talk about our feelings about two misdemeanors for falsely reporting on these, but you were talking about earlier, before we were on, about the precedent this sets of the Attorney General looking into issues like this, which I think we have seen just off-the-top increases the amount of accountability. Whether it's enough, we'll see, but certainly is an improvement in the litany of cases we've seen where, "Hey, we investigated ourselves and turns out we think we did nothing wrong." - when everyone can see what happened. Do you think that is a trend that should continue?
[00:06:28] Julie McCoy: A hundred percent. I really hope it does. I think Ferguson stepping in and doing the investigation, alone, just provides so much more accountability than if this had been done in-house. I mean, regardless of what they said in-house, they just don't have the credibility to make sure that the public believes it anymore. There's just been too many examples of cover-ups and sweeping under the rug and diminishing charges that we're at that point, especially when these charges are leveled at the top of these police forces - police chiefs, captains - we need somebody else to step in like a Bob Ferguson. I think it's really important that we lead with accountability and not just say we're leading with accountability - that means an investigation.
We've got a long track record of dishonesty being a charge that can result in firing. That's been proven over and over again - Seattle Police Department, Tacoma - police departments have flat out said, "If you lie, that is grounds for dismissal." I'm not sure how you can say the police chief of Tacoma [sic: Pierce County Sheriff] - he lied. He flat out lied about what he did. Now, obviously he's elected so you can't really fire him, but these are accountability issues that need to be taken very seriously. I would love it if Bob Ferguson would come into Seattle and take a look at some of the issues that we've had in the Seattle Police Department.
[00:08:09] Crystal Fincher: Amen.
[00:08:11] Julie McCoy: The OPA and OIG - it's not getting done at the local level, and we have not established that we can trust those investigations anymore. Paramount to public safety is trust in your police department, and until that is re-established, we're not going to get anywhere.
[00:08:33] Crystal Fincher: One, and interesting situations - police department and issues where you are dealing with some high-powered executives and electeds - we have a situation where the current mayor, Jenny Durkan is - texts are gone. It looks like they were gone through willful intentional action, and if that's the case, then that's illegal - and we are not talking about any kind of accountability for that. Is that a situation that you see the Attorney General could be useful?
[00:09:08] Julie McCoy: Absolutely. Absolutely. When you've got a mayor, the fire chief, the police chief, and four members of the command staff for the chief of police - all having mysterious deleted texts - which nobody in their right mind can say that this was a technology issue across the board. I mean, NPR did the most - I think - I think NPR's done the most deep dive in this investigation. It's ludicrous to pretend like there is not a significant issue here - both from a public safety perspective, as well as an accountability perspective. And if it's the mayor and the chief of police and the chief of fire - who's going to investigate that? Who's really going to investigate to get to the bottom of it? NPR did a great job. But this is a situation, I think, where absolutely the Attorney General should come in. I mean, this is not just a matter of public records. There's something that happened that they won't tell us, and that's a huge problem. You cannot have true public safety if we do not have accountability.
[00:10:18] Crystal Fincher: I agree. That's an absolute fact. And I am confused as to why Seattle Ethics and Elections has not taken action to refer that - that is certainly within their sphere of responsibility. They can do that, so it just - and agreeing with Jenny Durkan's politics or not - in a similar situation with Obama was decent on some things, not decent on some others - and it's okay when they're not decent to say they're not decent on some others. Whistleblower protections and press freedoms were not the best thing in the Obama administration - talked about that quite a bit at that point in time. And the reason why you hold even people in your party, or your allies, or people on your "side" accountable - is because that sets a precedent for what other people can do. The last thing we want is people being like, "Okay. Game has changed. Now we're just going to communicate privately and delete it all. It doesn't matter." And the fact that this was so pervasive at the highest levels of administration in our public safety departments and in the mayor's office, is just really concerning. So we'll see how that unfolds, but right now, Ed Troyer, Pierce County Sheriff - Ed Troyer's charged with two criminal offenses, two misdemeanors, and we will continue to follow and see how that goes.
Now I want to talk about the little elections that are coming up here in a little less than two weeks. This week we saw some polling that came out from NPI Advocate in a number of races. I'll start off by saying - we don't have all the information on these polls. As we've talked about before, if we don't have all of the poll information, you have to take it with a grain of salt. We don't know a lot of information about the sample, we don't have cross tabs, we don't have the source data that is standard to release with polls that are up for public consumption. With that in mind, there were some interesting races.
And I guess just starting out, looking at what they were showing in the race with Teresa Mosqueda and her opponent, Kenneth Wilson - certainly raised a lot of eyebrows - because it had Teresa Mosqueda at 39%, Kenneth Wilson at 31%, and those who were Undecided at 26% - which seems off. How did you read that?
[00:13:09] Julie McCoy: It does. Yeah, to have - I mean, it's probably not surprising to have that high of a number of undecideds at this point, but like I said earlier, I probably couldn't have told you the name of who was running against Teresa Mosqueda before I even saw the poll. It is surprising that somebody's polling that high. And one thing - polling is in a difficult situation nationally, right? I mean, there are so many issues with polling. And one thing that I would put out there with this poll in particular is I think that there's definitely a bias in who is answering the poll. Obviously, a pollster's going to go out there and they're going to try to hit all the demographics they need to hit. They're going to make it statistically viable. Who picks up and answers though, I think tends to be a certain kind of person. I think they tend to be madder at the status quo. I think they've got a reason to kind of let their opinion be heard, so I think you could see some skewing that way in some of these results. It would be surprising to me that a third of the folks that they polled actually knew who this guy was, so it could also be a proxy for how mad people are at the status quo and the Council, which I think we probably see overrepresented in this poll - if I had to guess.
[00:14:38] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. That would also be my guess. I mean, I notoriously do not like making predictions on races before they happen. I don't necessarily think that's helpful in the general discourse, but this winding up being an eight point race at the end of the day would definitely surprise me. To be fair, I mean, polls are a snapshot in time. This is not claiming - the poll itself - to be, "Hey, this is how things are going to wind up." It is, "This is how people responded at this point in time." It was done early in the week or the week before the ballots.
[00:15:22] Julie McCoy: The 13th to the 15th, somewhere in between.
[00:15:25] Crystal Fincher: So shortly before ballots dropped. One of the things - paying attention to all of the mailers and commercials and videos - I mean, certainly it seems like there's a lot of money at play in these races, and those candidates with a lot of money have been up and communicating with everyone early and often - and potentially that had time to saturate and other candidates' messages have not had time to saturate at that time, but we'll see how this turns out.
There were some other results in this poll. Ann Davison was shown - again, we just talked about some of the challenges with this poll - but it had Ann Davison at 43%, Nicole Thomas-Kennedy at 24%, and those Undecided at 30%. It had a race that was at a 4% difference with Nikkita Oliver and Sara Nelson, which I think was right at the margin of error. It had Bruce and Lorena González separated by - it was over 10 points in this poll, again with a large number of undecided candidates. I mean, in this, it's just challenging to say - given some of the challenges in that we don't have all the information with it yet - but I would say that I definitely agree that I would not look at this as indicative or determining of a final result. I would look at it - there's a lot of people still, even in this scenario where probably more people are saying they're decided than actually are in real life. There's a whole lot of undecided votes and the undecided votes in every single race, more than outweigh any margin that there is between the candidates that was polled. Really, at this point in time - I mean, you are a veteran of campaigns - have consulted for races on the local and national level. As you're looking at the campaigns, what are they looking to do now? What should they be focusing on more than anything else?
[00:17:37] Julie McCoy: Yeah, and you're exactly right. This is just a snapshot in time - of where voters were in that moment. We know a couple things - we know people are voting later and later and later in these elections, and so there is a lot of time to move undecided voters at this point. If I were out there helping a campaign right now, I would be looking to connect with people as soon as possible. We know people tend to vote over the weekends. It's a great time be flooding messages out there. I think this weekend and next weekend will be extremely important for these campaigns to really connect with their voters, figure out who they are trying to talk to, and deliver. These are two huge weekends for these campaigns. I think there's a ton of time left, but these campaigns have got to break through the noise out there that's happening right now. There's a lot of noise.
And I think one thing that we do know from all the polling, that's shown over and over again, is dealing with the crisis of homelessness is the number one issue and public safety is coming up right behind it. Honestly, I think public safety is a little bit of a proxy in this election, and I really think the homelessness crisis is what voters want to talk about right now.
[00:19:09] Crystal Fincher: One of the things that - one, your point that people are voting later and later - absolutely the case. There are fewer ballots that came in this time than we've seen in the recent past here in these local elections. Most of the ballots are still out. An overwhelming majority of the ballots have not been returned yet, and so people are still making decisions. And even in those polls - those polls that were done kind of asked a two-stage question. Kind of started off saying, "Who do you prefer?" And they gave a preference or they said that they didn't know. And after that answer, they then pushed the people who said they didn't know even harder, "Okay. If you had to choose, who would you choose?" And then they chose after that, so those aren't people who are like, "I've got my candidate, I'm here." Those are people who are like, "What do I know about either one of them?" What I think is also a fact, just in general and that polling certainly bears it out, is that not only are people undecided, they're unfamiliar with candidates. I think it's really easy for a lot of people to overestimate the amount of people who are plugged in to campaigns, and especially if you're very online or engaged in campaign worlds - everyone around you is talking about this and living and breathing it all day long. It has been a months-long slog - you're looking at all the forums. I mean, some of this stuff sounds tired and redundant to you and you know what everyone is saying and all that. And now you're reacting to things that have happened in the past, and it's a very different conversation than literally the majority of the voting public who is just tuning into these races right now.
Most people can't name a City Council person at all - anyone. Many people, if not most, can't name the mayor of the City. There's a big divide between the circles of people who are very tuned in and the amount of people who are just generally tuned out for a lot of different reasons. I think it does campaigns well and the general public to understand that there's a lot of people who kind of figure out that there's an election when they see their ballot in their mailbox. And so everything before then, they haven't quite seen yet or they're just starting to hear and see the litany of mailers and commercials and digital ads, but this is all new information to them, and they are not familiar with the candidates. And if so, it's just in the briefest of references or introductions, so there's just a lot of people who don't even really know the candidates yet. It's not that they're weighing all the issues and they know both candidates and they can't make up their mind. A lot of them just don't know yet - want to vote, will get around to it, but they don't know.
And so to your point, talking to voters as early and as often as possible - it's talking to that 100,000 people who are just now tuning in. I mean, the last mayoral race - 215,000 people voted - and so it becomes really easy when you have hundreds and literally thousands of people being like, "Hey, things are great. I'm familiar. I'm tuned in." I mean, you may get that 50,000 who's like, "I know you. I got you." Okay. What are you doing with the other 150,000? Of those voters that you think you can realistically get, how are you communicating with them? How are you making your message understandable and something that they can connect to if they don't have all of the context of the past several months? If you're just introducing yourself to them today, which is happening - how are you communicating in a way that they understand who you are and what your vision is for Seattle? I think that's the biggest charter that these campaigns have, and their biggest job is really connecting with those voters.
[00:23:20] Julie McCoy: I think that's exactly right. Again, to your point earlier, a lot of people are reporting 18% Undecided, but that was a second-push question. Really the Undecided - in my opinion - really the Undecided number is probably the first number - 28% and probably higher than that, because like I said earlier, I really believe people who take polls have a predominance to know what they want to say. And so I think that number is probably even higher than 28%, in terms of Undecided, and they have not voted yet for the most part. There's a lot of clock left and there's a lot of opportunity here for candidates to go out and connect, and I think it's really important that candidates make that move now because they're voting - they want to know, they want to make an informed decision - and there's been so much upheaval. The pandemic, last summer - it's been terrible, right? We've been living under this dark cloud for so long and people want to be reassured. They want to know where you're going to go. They want to know what your vision is, and they want you to connect emotionally, I think. I think so often we get hung up on policies and plans and being exactly right about an issue - when yes, that's important, but when you're talking to a voter, they need to connect emotionally with the candidate.
And I feel like across the board, with maybe the exception of Oliver, I think across the board people are not connecting emotionally yet with the voter. I think it's really important that they hear the frustration, they hear the fear. There's a lot of fear out there with the electorate, and I don't blame them, right? We've come out of this horrific pandemic, we've had so much inequality, so much injustice - that people want to be reassured - are you going to fix things? I think that that's a place where a lot of these candidates could make a lot of hay right now, if they'd step into that space.
[00:25:28] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. I mean, certainly I'm sure they are attempting to do that, but I mean, it sounds so simple, but it is a tall order and everything kind of culminates to now - all the money that you raise is so that you can push out paid communications and connect with voters directly. Sometimes you're doing that partially at the doors - it's hard in a citywide election to account for 200,000 people at the doors. So basically the need for paid communication, whether it's mailers or digital ads or videos, or whatever it is - the need for paid communications is necessary in a citywide election.
[00:26:17] Julie McCoy: Absolutely.
[00:26:17] Crystal Fincher: That's just a thing - because voters do need to see something about you beyond the voter guide statement. Again, as much as people who are plugged in have seen tons of stuff - I mean, we're looking at all the mailers, looking at all the ads, we're dissecting all the forums and what everyone is saying and their histories - but the 100,000 people that are not doing that - that are going to vote, but have just been busy with everything - they don't. How do you get to them? And especially when you know your opposition is talking to them - how do you make sure that they understand what you stand for? And most importantly is what you stand for. I mean, there certainly is a place to draw contrasts with your opponent, but they need to know who you are first, before they know how you are different than the opponent. If you only focus on that contrast, that still doesn't tell people who you are and what you're going to do. Fundamentally, people need that to connect. I think to your point, people need that to connect.
[00:27:27] Julie McCoy: Absolutely.
[00:27:28] Crystal Fincher: I think the campaigns are going to be spending a lot of time focusing on just that and talking to as many voters as they possibly can. I mean, there's still a lot of time. Lots of people are timing their - campaigns are timing mailers to come out before the last weekend. Kind of last big push in communication usually happens before the first weekend and right before the last weekend of balloting, so there's still a lot of time and a lot of communication to be done. Given the closeness of some of these races, it's going to make a difference. It's going to matter.
[00:28:05] Julie McCoy: Yeah. We sure have made it difficult - I'm not defending Facebook by any stretch of the imagination, but you know this, Crystal. I mean, how difficult it is to get advertising up for a lot of these races because it's so expensive. It's so expensive. And we are so restricted now from social media advertising, which was - for better or for worse - a really good platform to talk to voters on. You can't really buy any advertising now on social media, I don't think. I mean, you can't buy YouTube pre-roll. It's really hard to connect with voters in this environment. I feel for the campaigns, man, because short of going up on TV or going over the top with Hulu ads, it's hard. It's really hard to connect on a mass communications basis right now. It's hard.
[00:28:58] Crystal Fincher: It's a challenge. We will continue to stay tuned and take a look at what is happening in those races - a lot to come. And I hope we will link in the show notes - a number of forums that have happened recently and get an understanding of what we have there. And with that, we are about at our time for the day, so I thank you all for listening to Hacks & Wonks on KVRU 105.7 FM this Friday, October 22nd - it's October 22nd, this time is flying - 2021. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Lisl Stadler with assistance from Shannon Cheng. Our wonderful co-host today was co-founder of The Mercury Group, Julie McCoy. You can find Julie on Twitter @mcjulie87. 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, wherever else you get your podcast - 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. Thanks for tuning in - we'll talk to you next time.