Jun 4, 2021
On today’s Week in Review, Crystal is joined by Seattle Times political reporter Jim Brunner. They discuss congressional races across Washington State, how the GOP’s shift to Trumpism may impact Republican incumbents, how redistricting might change the calculus of political races, and the González and Farrell campaigns touting internal polling in the Seattle mayoral race.
Stay tuned at the end of the episode for an update on police accountability and participatory budgeting from Shannon Cheng, Chair of People Power Washington - Police Accountability and member of the Hacks & Wonks team (and U.S. Mixed Veteran Rogaining Champion)!
As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at officialhacksandwonks.com.
“Republicans target Washington state to help flip U.S. House as Matt Larkin challenges Rep. Kim Schrier” by Jim Brunner: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/republican-matt-larkin-to-challenge-rep-kim-schrier-as-gop-looks-to-flip-house-in-2022-midterms/
“An earthquake warning for politics? Not yet, but you can feel some tremors.” by Danny Westneat: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/an-earthquake-warning-for-politics-not-yet-but-you-can-feel-some-tremors/
“What’s next for the two WA Republicans who voted to impeach Trump?” by Melissa Santos: https://crosscut.com/politics/2021/01/whats-next-two-wa-republicans-who-voted-impeach-trump
“Redistricting shows how far incumbents go” by Peter Callaghan: https://www.thenewstribune.com/news/politics-government/article125095439.html
“Gonzalez and Harrell Essentially Tied for Top Spots for Mayor” polling results: https://www.thenewstribune.com/news/politics-government/article125095439.html
Participatory Budgeting Advances from the Office of Civil Rights: https://council.seattle.gov/2021/06/01/participatory-budgeting-advances/
“Seattle City Council Votes Against ‘Tough Compromise’ Bill to Trim SPD Budget” by Nathalie Graham: https://www.thestranger.com/slog/2021/06/02/57933742/seattle-city-council-votes-against-tough-compromise-bill-to-trim-spd-budget
Crystal Fincher: [00:00:00] 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. And stay tuned at the end of this episode for a quick update with Shannon Cheng, the Chair of People Power Washington, for updates on Participatory Budgeting and a bill to trim the SPD budget.
Today, we're continuing our Friday almost-live shows, where we review the news of the week with a co-host. Welcome to the program, Seattle Times political reporter, Jim Brunner.
Jim Brunner: [00:00:58] Hello! Good to be here. I always enjoy talking with you about politics.
Crystal Fincher: [00:01:02] Always, and I've just followed you for years, decades - long time, long time - here in Seattle. So, you know, I wanted to start off - you've been covering the congressional candidates and we have not yet talked about congressional candidates. Certainly a lot has happened this week - including the banning of police from the Pride Fest and parade, Democracy Vouchers - new news and a rule change that's going to be moving forward, King County banning use of facial recognition technology, a study about civilians potentially being able to take over police work in Tacoma, and new vaccination news including incentives.
But also there's been news in these congressional races and challengers that have presented themselves, and these races are really shaping up. So I guess starting with the eighth congressional district with Kim Schrier, who is a Democratic incumbent - the first Democrat to hold that seat in the eighth district and now tasked with defending that seat against Republicans who are really eager and excited to take that on, and especially looking at redistricting to potentially help them. What is going on in that race and how's it shaping up, Jim?
Jim Brunner: [00:02:24] Well, yeah, like you said, this was a Republican seat up until about four years ago when Dave Reichert decided to step down or retire - I think he was not super eager to remain in the party and the Trump era, frankly. And when he stepped out - Dino Rossi, who everyone in Washington politics knows - is a very well-known Republican figure, but has not had much success winning statewide or high-profile elections. He was their candidate and Kim Schrier emerged - she's a pediatrician. She emerged from a pretty crowded primary and then beat Dino Rossi. And so that was a big deal - it helped the Democrats flip that seat, and help the Democrats flip the House.
And I was a little surprised - in 2020, the Republicans didn't really make a big push to flip it back. You'd think that in that first go round, maybe there, they would take a big shot. They had a candidate I think was - had some merit. His resume had some good qualities on paper - Jesse Jensen. He was a decorated combat veteran and a tech administrator, but he just could never get his fundraising going, and there was no evidence that the GOP was really going to back him. But this time around, we're coming up on midterms next year, and there's usually a backlash against the party in the White House. And so Republicans, I think, sense an opportunity. And so I wrote about recently this guy, Matt Larkin, who ran for Attorney General as a Republican in 2020. He's set his sights on the eighth district now and announced, and it looks like the national Republicans are actually going to make a play this time. And then Jesse Jensen, who I mentioned, might also run again, but my sense now is that Larkin might be the guy that they're going to coalesce behind.
So - potential for another big money race. The race in 2018 was like a $30 million race. It was crazy, you know - you might remember the ads blanketing TV screens, so we could see a redux of that. And I'll say quickly about Matt Larkin - his campaign, much as his Attorney General campaign did - this district does not cover Seattle. It's East King County, Pierce County exurbs, and then it goes over the mountains to Chelan County, Kittitas County - but Larkin has made his early campaign entirely about scenes of violence and protests in Seattle, which, you know, I've pressed him on that and I understand why he's doing it. It is very much a play for the Fox News audience. In fact, he, I think, did his exclusive announcement on Fox News and then he had a pretty friendly interview on Fox and Friends. And so that's where he's going, you know, in the early going.
Crystal Fincher: [00:05:16] Yeah, certainly and you - we certainly have noticed and you've talked and written about, as you said, him citing the issues in Seattle, which is not included in his district, and taking those on - including homelessness and the Republican whole shtick of Seattle is Dying, and it's being overrun by lawlessness, and crime-riddled - this caricature of homeless people that's like violent and vagrancy and often not true. But we've talked before on this program about that being - it's not ringing true in Seattle, but it is being used in suburbs and suburban areas around the country as really a symbol to run off of and kind of really a totem of the culture wars, basically. And citing - what they love to cite is - Democratically-run metropolitan cities and increases in crime, which in fact that whether it's a Democratic or Republican-led city - crime is rising uniformly across the board. But it's really interesting to see if that works. The law and order message seemed to fall pretty flat in 2020. Do you see that gaining any speed or traction?
Jim Brunner: [00:06:40] I don't know like you - and I've watched it, and you're right. . It hasn't - the Republicans have tried that in multiple cycles in this state - running against Seattle is a super common thing and it really just has not worked for them, generally speaking. However, I do think that there is a possibility that nationally and in certain areas in districts, including in Washington, that this kind of sentiment can be stirred up and that there are people who, you know, you see these things on TV, on local TV news, for example, or on Fox news or whatever - burning police cars, attempts to burn police precincts. And there's a reaction to it. And I think there is a danger if Democrats are perceived as being indifferent to it. I mean, I've asked Kim Schrier about this before - last year when she was running for reelection - because her opponent then, Jesse Jensen, also raised some of these same issues. And she said, Look, I don't want to be drawn into the trap of having to respond to everything that happens in Seattle, but she pointed to - I think some statement she made where - she's not endorsing attacks on police. She hasn't - I don't think isn't personally endorsing the defunding of police in Seattle. It's not in her district. But she - she's supportive and Democrats are supportive of reforms to policing. And so I think it'll be interesting to see how that goes.
I will say that my sense is that the scenes of chaos in Portland, for example, I feel like may have had an impact on the challenge to Jamie Herrera Beutler this last cycle from Carolyn Long. She'd also run two years earlier and didn't make it, so there's - it's not necessarily like she was going to win, but given the nightly chaos there in that media market, I think that you could make an argument that it did have some impact. So we'll see, but I think it's important to, like you said, fact check things, like, is it true? You know, is the violence the responsibility of this politician or that politician, or is it going up uniformly? And what is actually behind this and what is your actual solution other than to say Kim Schrier should be speaking out about this more, which is right as of this point, and again, it's an early stage - that's been kind of the extent of the argument right now.
Crystal Fincher: [00:09:09] Yeah, it'll be interesting to see and as you also mentioned in the article about this - redistricting could potentially play a role in this race. How is that looking?
Jim Brunner: [00:09:20] Yeah, it's interesting. Nationally, you've seen a lot of stories about redistricting helping Republicans in a lot of states' legislatures, whoever has the majority controls it. And they'll do gerrymandering and they'll draw all kinds of weird districts. And then sometimes they get struck down in court. We've seen states where the Republicans have internally literally admitted, We're doing this because we want to break up the vote of people of color, for example, or Democratic constituencies. And they've gotten - some of those maps have been thrown out because they're violating the Constitution, essentially.
In Washington, of course, we have our Redistricting Commission. It's a bipartisan commission, I always like to say. It's not non-partisan - you got two Democrats, two Republicans, and then a fifth non-voting chair. And so here - they have to hash out a map by November, and the changes probably won't be as dramatic as last time around because we got a new congressional district then. But, unlike other states, there's not a chance - I don't think - for Republicans to just redraw the district, the eighth district, for example, to their advantage. But I think the Democrats - what usually goes on is each party tries to protect their incumbents. So when Dave Reichert still had the eighth district seat, it got redrawn to make it safer for him, but politics shifted so much that once he was gone, the Democrats were able to take it. If I'm the Democratic redistricting commissioners, I'm probably looking at shaving off some of the more conservative parts of the district, if you can, and try to shore up Kim Schrier's support. And the Republicans will probably try to not let that happen. So yeah, this race isn't until next year, so we'll know the real map that they're running for by the end of the year.
Crystal Fincher: [00:11:18] Yeah, it's really interesting with that - and politics has shifted, and also demographics in many of the areas have shifted. There's been a lot of population growth and diversification, certainly in the western area of the eighth district. And so it'll be interesting to see who's district that winds up in and what they do. And then there's also just an interesting effect of drawing districts to protect incumbents and making them more Democratic or more Republican. Does that then make those districts safe and the Republican's one redder and more extreme? And if it's a safe Democratic seat, does it get more progressive? Sometimes that happens, sometimes it doesn't - but it's also interesting to consider the consequences of districting around incumbents - and how that sometimes has some short-term benefits, but long-term drawbacks.
Jim Brunner: [00:12:22] ] Yeah. I think there's people who have advocated - and I think some other states have moved this way way - to really take the parties completely out of the redistricting. And just have it be a more independent citizen-led panel. I haven't seen that move here, but you can make an argument - why should you consider the incumbents when you're redistricting? It's supposed to be about equalizing the number of votes in each district, trying to adhere to political boundaries, natural county/city boundaries, to the extent you can. And so maybe where the incumbent lives shouldn't, maybe in an ideal world, be part of the calculation. On the other hand, I've heard people say, Well, look, the people have voted for this person. There has been a democratic sort of endorsement of this incumbent, so maybe they should have some deference. And then, you know, politics, I mean, it's just - the incumbents are all going to be lobbying the commission and the parties who control the commissioners, basically, to take them into consideration.
Crystal Fincher: [00:13:28] Yeah well, certainly a party with the majority wants to try and lock that in as much as possible. Other states, especially as you cited - the Republican states - definitely do all they can to make sure that they lock that in. States like ours, where both parties do have to agree - things usually don't turn out quite as lopsided as they do in those other states, but it'll be really interesting to see - including in a race like the one we have with Adam Smith, who's drawn at least three challengers to his left, in the ninth congressional district. Which is interesting and Danny Westneat wrote about earlier this week in the Seattle Times - have you looked much at that race?
Jim Brunner: [00:14:12] I haven't really dived in, and Danny wrote an interesting column about it. It sort of - he framed it right - it's not evidence that the Democrats are tearing themselves apart, necessarily. But it is evidence of this just continuing debate - tension, if you want to call it - between progressives and the more - I don't know if you want to call it mainstream or what do you want to call it - moderate wing, or just the incumbent? You know, Adam Smith has been there for a long time now in the ninth district and it's funny - in redistricting - he is the Chair of the House Armed Services Committee and his district used to include the military base down in Pierce County. And in redistricting, he no longer has that in his district, but he has this vestigial influence in that realm that he's continued to hold, but because that's where he came up. And it's been interesting - his district is more liberal than it was when it - before the last round of redistricting. And I think he has signaled to voters that he's trying to be progressive too on issues like immigration. I mean, it's very apparent that he is trying to make it known that he's with them, but these progressive challengers saying, You know, it's not enough. You're part of the old guard. It's time for new voices.
Crystal Fincher: [00:15:42] Yeah, absolutely. And one thing that I think also influences some of the further left-leaning candidates and constituency - that is the fact that Pramila Jayapal is also right there, and so visible and so vocal on many issues that are important to several areas of the district in a way that they didn't see her predecessor or Adam Smith before. And a lot of people going, Okay, well, comparing to that - Adam looks real moderate. And as you said, he's certainly been trying to signal that - and say things in some areas - that seem to be more progressive than they were before. And another is he's maintained, so it's going to be interesting to see how that race shapes up - how the incumbents gain traction, but it seems like - from some institutional forces that they aren't uniformly aligned necessarily with Adam Smith. So he certainly is going to have a bottomless war chest with his donors, and it really is going to be about - do people see him as the leader that they want moving forward, or is it time for a change as has been in so many other areas?
Jim Brunner: [00:17:02] And will he lobby the Redistricting Commission to shift around his district again - maybe get rid of some of the Seattle portions or something. The former, great Tacoma News Tribune columnist and reporter, Pete Callaghan, who's in Minnesota - he wrote a really good story after the last round of redistricting that I was kind of jealous of - where he got all the emails that went to the Redistricting Commission and wrote a story about how Adam Smith was the most active lobbyer - he wanted his district to get moved. He wanted to have, I think, Mercer Island and Bellevue, where he lives now, and that happened. So there's a varying level of people - politicians - keeping an eye on it and being active in it. So it'll be interesting to see if he moves in that direction this time, or if he feels sort of content in - with the boundaries where they are.
Crystal Fincher: [00:17:59] Yeah, it'll be interesting. I live near the border of the eighth and ninth congressional district, so we'll see where I end up.
Jim Brunner: [00:18:06] You might get shifted. Yeah, absolutely.
Crystal Fincher: [00:18:09] It'll be interesting to see. Now this is really - these races are really important, particularly races in - like that one in the eighth congressional district, with Kim Schrier, because the majority is narrow in the House right now. The Democrats only lead by five - is it five seats?
Jim Brunner: [00:18:26] I think that - yeah, I think the Republicans need to flip five seats. And people are projecting that, just given their advantages in legislatures for redistricting around the country and some of the population shifts, they may already be on their way to taking the majority back in 2022 - like they're favored.
Crystal Fincher: [00:18:49] They're definitely favored. It's going to be a fight and Democrats are going to have to win competitive seats - and some competitive seats that are currently held by Republicans to hold on to the House. And the Senate. So it'll be really interesting to see what Democrats do right now, just in terms of voter protections and making sure people have fair and equitable access to the vote and the ballot. And whether they take action or not now - with Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin saying that they are not in favor of ending the filibuster - that's not looking likely unless that changes. So this is going to be interesting.
And then - you've been covering races on the Eastern side of the state, where some more moderate Republicans have held seats, but they're being challenged by people further to the right - challengers who publicly will not say whether Joe Biden really won the presidency, they're major Trump supporters, they're into conspiracy theories and at least not refuting them publicly. That's a very different place than we were 10 years ago. What do those races look like?
Jim Brunner: [00:20:12] Yeah. So of course, Dan Newhouse, in the fourth district - a Republican incumbent - and Jaime Herrera Beutler, incumbent in the third district, voted for the Trump impeachment, the last, the latest Trump impeachment. And then they supported the January 6th commission. And so - but their impeachment vote immediately set off a lot of anger among the Republican base, who - a lot of people in the Republican base think that's a betrayal. And say it was kind of extraordinary - the only member of Congress in Washington who didn't vote for impeachment was Cathy McMorris Rodgers, out of Spokane. So it was 9 out of 10 of our House members - it's kind of extraordinary and bipartisan in that sense. And so, yeah, both Jamie Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse have some pretty, you know, fair to say, Trumpy challengers who are running because they made those votes. And people might remember Loren Culp, who ran for governor - he's declared against Newhouse. And he's definitely somebody who has even tried to claim - just falsely without evidence - that his own 500,000+ loss to Jay Inslee in 2020 was somehow - might not have happened, or in some cases I think he said, Well, I don't know if you know - I could have got all that back. But he's tried to raise doubts about the electoral process - even though, of course, it's Secretary of State Kim Wyman here, who's our top elected official, or elections official, who's Republican. And then in - I think State Rep Brad Klippert, very conservative, also running against Newhouse. And there's a third guy who is kind of along the same vein.
And then against Jamie Herrera Beutler you've got three, at least three, very pro-Trump challengers. I would say two of them are really fighting it out to be the one. I think it's most likely that Joe Kent, who is on a daily basis still saying, Yes, we should audit - we should examine, Congress should examine - the 2020 election as though it's still up in the air. He's an ex-special forces veteran. His wife was actually killed by a terrorist bombing. She was in the military and in intelligence too, and she was killed overseas - so it's a pretty interesting background story that he has. And he definitely has been outspoken about endless wars. And so he thinks he's aligned with Trump on that sort of isolationist, you might call it, foreign policy. And then he has just bought into some of the conspiracy theories too. But he has been - he was out in Florida, I think he did a rally with Marjorie Taylor Greene, he's met with Donald Trump. I think he might get the full-on Trump endorsement. Billionaire Peter Thiel, I think, has indicated he might back him. And so that'll be interesting if they marshal a bunch of forces against Jamie Herrera Beutler, who not only voted for impeachment, but then offered to be like a star witness. And really kind of ignited the end of the impeachment proceedings. And then really quickly, the other main competitor there, is a woman named Heidi St. John, who's a kind of a Christian self-help author, homeschooler, very anti-mask, very dismissive of the coronavirus pandemic - is calling masks "face diapers" and things like that. And she's out there organizing, and has some support too. So again, it'll be really interesting to see how that race plays out and where the Democrats fit in, because Democrats haven't been able to compete there, but, you know, I just don't know - it's a very chaotic situation that's going to play out.
Crystal Fincher: [00:24:19] Yeah. I think it's going to be a chaotic situation. I still think - out there, Republicans have the advantage. And I think there's a lot of wishing and hoping, especially from people in Seattle on the west side of the mountains, that like logic and reason will prevail. Surely it has to - this is Washington state. We've had, you know, moderate Republicans and that's just not who we are. And I think that we are far past the point of recognizing that this is where the Republican party is now. The Republican party is the party of Trump. If there is someone self identifying as a Republican, that's more than likely what they're identifying as - as a supporter of Trump, and what you've seen from him, and all of that. And that's what we're close to. And we haven't just seen these challengers rise up and have support - but also the censure from Republican local parties and the state party of people who took the impeachment vote and who wanted to do that. And we just saw the January 6 commission be not voted and supported - and those challengers saying - some of them are saying, "I don't know if I would have voted yes or no on that. Others are just like, no, it's a witch hunt." That is where we're at. And really, it's hard to see how that doesn't take over in 2022, just based on redistricting. So I hope people get involved and get engaged with these - hopefully there is real engagement and activism on the Democratic side, just to not have that conversation be so focused on that element of the conversation. But it'll be a show to watch - it will be interesting to see.
Jim Brunner: [00:26:19] Yeah. I think another thing that's interesting is, I dunno - I find it kind of funny sometimes - Democrats in places like Seattle will get excited about, Oh, you know, we're gonna, you know, take off, take out, Ted Cruz or something. Or Mitch McConnell. And they'll spend a whole bunch of money and send checks out there, which I understand - I mean, Republicans are doing the same things if they think that, you know, they could take out Nancy Pelosi or whatever. But it is kind of interesting to see how just, I don't know, everything is so nationalized. And I think sometimes people aren't paying attention to what's in their backyards necessarily. It's interesting - Dan Newhouse - you do see kind of this cross-party admiration among people who are alarmed by Trump - that they're like, Thank you, Dan Newhouse. Thank you, Jamie Herrera Beutler. But you know, Dan Newhouse is very conservative and he's not a Democrat. I mean, he has his ideals and he's - I think he's been very consistent actually, whether you agree with him or not. And he voted - he's voted like, you know, 90+ percent with the Trump agenda - which is in Congress was mainly just a pretty standard low taxes and cut back regulation agenda. So to see him potentially get ousted, just because he said this insurrection was a step too far is pretty interesting. I still think he can probably get re-elected, but we'll see.
Crystal Fincher: [00:27:51] I still think they have the advantage, but that could change. I think that we - we don't yet know what's gonna come from the Trump camp, leading up here through the summer and into next year. I think these conversations may move and the ground may continue to shift under them. I think that the pressure is also on them to move further to the right. So I think where we've seen people be consistent before, there may be a challenge with that in the future. And in the same way that Adam Smith is trying to signal that he's moving further to the left, we may see these once, you know, people who were considered moderate Republicans start to take on a different tone.
The one thing I wanted it to touch on before we head out was, speaking of local races - there were a couple of polls that some of the Seattle mayoral candidates referenced - specifically Jessyn Farrell and Lorena González. Now they did some polling - they were internal polls, they were pollsters hired by their campaigns. They did not release the full polls, which is standard in polling, and so we don't know what all the questions were, how they were all asked, or anything in that. So when that happens, automatically, you're taking the polls with a grain of salt because you don't know what they're really saying. But there were some consistencies between them and the biggest consistency was that Bruce Harrell appears to be in first place. And Lorena González appears to be in second place. Is that how you read them, Jim?
Jim Brunner: [00:29:32] I mean, from what I've seen, I think that was the common thread. I, like you, I'm pretty skeptical about internal polls, candidate polls - because they usually don't release the whole thing. And even when they do - generally I won't, I don't write articles on them - just based on internal polling, but I do love to consume them, and I'm fascinated by them - and how, not only what the results are, but how they're deployed to try to move the campaign. So from what I've seen - yeah, I think Harrell appears to be in first place in this race. And as we're getting closer to the August primary and the - people like Lorena González and a few others are competing for second. But you know, this is - this could all shift. The messaging is just starting to happen. People are trying to carve out their identities. People like Jessyn Farrell, Andrew Grant Houston - who's in - really raised his profile because of his Democracy Voucher haul.
Crystal Fincher: [00:30:37] Absolutely. And it is early on. And the third common thread between them is that - both of them, I think, had at least 40% and above of the electorate is undecided. It is early in a City race, which doesn't get all the nightly attention on the news. The campaigns really haven't started, people haven't gotten mailers yet, they aren't seeing commercials, they aren't hearing radio ads or anything like that yet. And that can certainly change the dynamics of the race. And as more forums happen and some of the contrast between the candidates are known, we will see that.
Also Casey Sixkiller was a late entrance into the race - seems to be more - closer to Bruce Harrell, who a lot of people consider to be the most moderate candidate in this field. And so is drawing support there and people are wondering, Okay, so in terms of the Times endorsement - the Chamber itself is not going to be doing endorsements or supporting candidates, but all of the entities will be supporting in the same way, just through different means. So where does that support go? And I think Casey Sixkiller is looking to see if he can put a dent into that, and we'll see how that turns out.
Jim Brunner: [00:31:57] Yeah. I think it's interesting. There's some candidates fighting through the sort of - within the Seattle sort of bubble, to be on the more progressive side. And then there's people like Harrell who are still, I think, liberal Democrats basically, but are talking to businesses. And I think Harrell has a - and they're trying just to talk about the City's homeless encampments in a way that attracts support. And that's going to be a big issue in this race. And to what extent are people going to talk about encampments in a way that - where they're trying to attract support from people who were just alarmed by seeing them, and versus trying to get people housing and how we can solve the problem. And it's a mix, it's a balance - I think for everybody. It's going to be interesting to see how that goes.
I think with Harrell and the - if you call it like the business support side or the moderate support side of the equation - you mentioned Sixkiller who is a well-known name in Seattle. And there was another guy who jumped in that I wrote a short story on, Art Langlie, also has a well-known name in Seattle - never really been involved in politics, but he's the son or grandson of Arthur Langlie, who was Seattle mayor long ago and the governor long ago. And I don't really see a path for him, but I could see him taking a few points out of Bruce Harrell's totals, just as I can Sixkiller.
The other dynamic, I think - I'd be curious to hear what you say, think about this - there's a whole inside-outside game here. You know, you had people like Sixkiller declare and he's been a Deputy Mayor under Jenny Durkan, but he's saying I'm a fresh outside voice or I can bring fresh, independent outside voices. And I think that's kind of gonna cause some eyebrow rolling or whatever. And then you've got like Bruce Harrell - he was at City Hall for a long time, but then he stepped away. So now, you know, to what extent can he credibly say, I am sort of an outsider, but with also some insider knowledge - in a way, that's a good position to be in. And then you've got Lorena González, who's City Council president, also has expressed ambitions to run for Attorney General. So, it's going to be interesting to see her honing her message. And all of them - like you said, it's going to be kind of a scramble. I'm curious what your take on that is too.
Crystal Fincher: [00:34:32] You know, it's going to be interesting. I think that - I think people kind of uniformly reacted with raised eyebrows to Casey Sixkiller saying, You know, I'm an outsider. It was just like, you're the Deputy Mayor right now - for homelessness actually - the number one issue in the City for a lot of people. And I think there has been a challenge in him trying to independently define who he is, then there's - I don't know if he's going to wind up ensnared in this text controversy or not. There are a lot of people in the mayor's office - I don't know if Casey Sixkiller has been pressed on that, but it seems like a relevant question. I also think that there - I don't know that it was wise for him to say, No, we absolutely have spent all that FEMA money. I think that - we certainly saw Colleen Echohawk take exception to that online and dedicate an entire Twitter thread to debunking that with a variety of independent reporting. And in a forum, Andrew Grant Houston saying, Hey dude, you're lying about that, and I personally worked on it - because even Andrew Grant Houston works in the office of a Seattle City Councilmember. So this whole conversation about insiders and outsiders is interesting and unique - and a lot of insiders who are claiming to be outsiders, and outsiders who are insiders and -
I think it's really gonna come down to how people are talking about the issues. I think one thing that's going to be telling, and that's going to be used kind of as a proxy and dividing line is whether or not they support the Compassion Seattle initiative, which Casey Sixkiller and Jessyn Farrell have said that they do. Bruce Harrell has signaled mixed support - I'm not exactly sure. I feel like he said yes before, but he definitely said no in a forum, but then asked to explain himself and, you know, seemed like he wanted to hedge that. So I'm not sure, but that'll be, I think, what helps to separate and define where people look to see where they are on homelessness - is where are you at on the Compassion Seattle initiative. Which is viewed very differently by people.
Jim Brunner: [00:36:51] And that's why people talk about defining yourself. I mean, that initiative campaign is trying to define itself - for the charter amendment, I guess.
Crystal Fincher: [00:36:59] Yes.
Jim Brunner: [00:37:01] Yeah, and we're at Seattle Times - we're trying to press the candidates, trying to get some clear answers on where they stand on issues like that, doing some voter guides and things like that. But yeah, there've been some forums out there where people are starting to get to see the candidates answer those questions. And I sort of feel like people know the field here, of the top candidates, even though there's more than - like there's 15 people that will be on the ballot. You know, we can name the 5 or 6 who are really being invited to the big forums and are part of the conversation. So it's good - it's good to have, to be able to winnow it a little bit, because realistically there's not that many who have much of a shot - that they should all have a chance to make their case, but we should focus on the ones who have demonstrated some support.
Crystal Fincher: [00:37:52] Yeah, some minimum viability. I also think that now there are two people who have communicated polls that show Bruce and Lorena as the frontrunners - that that in effect put a target on their backs for other candidates in the forums who are now saying, Okay, I have to take one of them out and leapfrog them in order to be, in order to make it through the primary. So I think we're going to start to see where a lot of people were making their case. Some people feel like someone has got to do the work of drawing some direct contrasts on some other issues and that'll be a new dynamic.
Jim Brunner: [00:38:28] Yeah. It kind of reminds me of the presidential, Democratic presidential debates, when you had so many, and then it got winnowed and then it became clear that at one point - well, I mean, at some point, of course, Biden was the frontrunner and had a big target on his back. People came at him and he just kinda, amiably sort of, not always excelling in the debate, but got through it. So I've had somebody - I can't remember who I was talking to - claim that they think they see sort of a Biden-esque position or quality in Bruce Harrell in a weird way, you know. I don't know. What do you think?
Crystal Fincher: [00:39:13] Uhhhh -
Jim Brunner: [00:39:13] In terms of his positioning.
Crystal Fincher: [00:39:14] You don't see the look on my face right now, but you know -
Jim Brunner: [00:39:17] In terms of his positioning in the field is all -
Crystal Fincher: [00:39:19] You know, I guess - especially, I think for - I think that could be fair to say. Especially if you think back to how that was viewed during the campaign. I think that Biden has actually governed a bit more progressively than people expected so far. Partly because bipartisanship isn't really a thing at this point, certainly not as people think about it 20 years ago. So potentially, I think that just in terms of - Biden was certainly viewed as one of the most viable moderates. And Bruce is viewed as a viable moderate. I don't know that I would go much further down that road, personally. You know -
Jim Brunner: [00:40:08] And then there's no Trump to run against at the end of the primary, which is different. Although, I believe there - I've heard some mayoral candidates continue to talk about Trump.
Crystal Fincher: [00:40:19] Yeah. I don't know how much that helps or not in Seattle. I don't think that's really relevant to the City race. I think it's going to be interesting as candidates look at, especially the last election in 2019 and the backlash to some of the Amazon control and corporate control, income inequality, workers' rights and conditions - that candidates who have been more closely aligned with those corporations may take some heat coming up. I don't know if that's going to come up in these races or not, and certainly some candidates have more of a vulnerability on that than others, but who knows.
Jim Brunner: [00:40:58] Yeah. And I'm sure that that will be part of the conversation. Absolutely.
Crystal Fincher: [00:41:03] Yeah.
Jim Brunner: [00:41:04] You know, it feels like Amazon and the Chamber kind of got stung by playing their big money hand too extremely a couple of years ago. Of course, I know that they resent that to some extent, because they point out that unions and others spent a lot of money too, but it was a big splashy - a million dollar push - and it arguably backfired. So they're trying to be much more strategic -
Crystal Fincher: [00:41:33] Covert.
Jim Brunner: [00:41:33] Or covert - yes - this time, but they clearly will have a preference, like everybody who's watching this race, every interest that is.
Crystal Fincher: [00:41:44] Yes. And a handy PAC to support Bruce Harrell is already in existence. So, he certainly looks like he will have support.
Jim Brunner: [00:41:52] I asked him about that - he said, you know, like candidates always say when you bring this up, Well, I didn't start it. You know, it's people like me so much. You know, what can I do? You know? So we'll see others - it's not going to be the only one.
Crystal Fincher: [00:42:05] Yeah. Yeah. It'll be - this will be an interesting race. And certainly just because a poll said this today does not mean it's going to stay that way. Polls are snapshots. We don't even know if those were legit polls and followed the standards of regular polling, or more just a marketing project. So -
Jim Brunner: [00:42:26] I mean, I think the campaigns - they want good data, they want good polling - but is that what they're releasing to us? Yeah. I don't know.
Crystal Fincher: [00:42:36] Yeah. So we - there's a lot of conversation we could have about that, especially how they released it, and what they were telling about those candidates. Which was interesting and not necessarily what you would expect, particularly from one of them. But they did tell the same top line story, so I found that interesting. But we have talked for a while today - we'll spare you more conversation, but I do want to thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks on KVRU 105.7 FM this Friday, June 4th, 2021. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Lisl Stadler and assisted by Shannon Cheng and Lexi Morritt. And our wonderful co-host today was Seattle Times political reporter, Jim Brunner. You can find Jim on Twitter @Jim_Brunner. That's B-R-U-N-N-E-R. 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 mid-week show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, leave a review whenever you listen to Hacks & Wonks. You can also get a full transcript of this episode and links to resources referenced in the show at officialhacksandwonks.com and in the episode notes. Thank you so much for joining us today, Jim - appreciate having you and your perspective and enlightening us about the congressional races.
Jim Brunner: [00:43:57] Thank you. It was a lot of fun - we could keep going.
Crystal Fincher: [00:44:00] Yeah, absolutely. And we'll talk to you all next time.
And now, I'm super excited to have Shannon Cheng, who not only works with me at Fincher Consulting, but is the Chair of People Power Washington - Police Accountability. And is - really has been involved for years in all things police accountability, including in the city of Seattle. And so I just wanted to have her on real quick to talk about two big items this week. One, the Seattle City Council voting against the tough compromise bill to trim the SPD budget. And then two, the Council unanimously passing the Participatory Budgeting bill. So starting with that bill to trim the SPD budget, Shannon - what happened?
Shannon Cheng: [00:44:49] Yeah, that bill has been "tortured", I think, is the word I've seen used to describe it. So it started - all the protests that broke out last summer and people seeing how SPD treated peaceful protesters egregiously - there was a lot of call for wanting accountability for SPD and kind of their overspending. And so what happened is that at the end of last year, SPD came to City Council and said, "We need $5.4 million extra dollars for our 2020 budget" - because basically they had spent too much on overtime. And this angered both City Council and a lot of community activists, who had been spending the whole budget cycle wanting to cut back funding for SPD. And so what City Council ended up doing was - they needed to give them the money last year, but they said, "What we're going to do is take that same amount of money away from your 2021 budget. And so you need to do better next year and make sure to not overspend."
But then what has happened is that that money has - then the federal monitor who oversees the consent decree got involved and expressed concern that the Council was taking money away from the department. And so it's just gotten very complicated. There's been a lot of arguments with people wanting to take the money and the intent being about accountability, whereas other people are saying, "Hey, you can't take that money away because we need the police to provide a certain level of service." So the bill has gone through many, many different amendments and in the end - nothing happened.
They ended up voting against it - and it was interesting because some councilmembers voted on the same side, but for very different reasons. So for example, Alex Pedersen voted against it because he doesn't believe in defunding at all, whereas Councilmembers Mosqueda, Morales, Sawant voted against it because it wasn't defunding enough.
Crystal Fincher: [00:46:49] Interesting. And where was Lorena González on that?
Shannon Cheng: [00:46:52] She was kind of on the fence. She did vote against it, but she said something more along the lines of that we need to wait and see. And maybe this needs to get taken up during the normal budget cycle in terms of seeing how things play out with budget questions. So a less clear statement, but she did vote against it.
Crystal Fincher: [00:47:14] Okay. So nothing happened. So does this mean that there were basically no penalties for SPD intentionally overspending on their overtime budget?
Shannon Cheng: [00:47:26] I think that is still TBD because they don't - so basically nobody gets the money still. I think the money is still under proviso - so originally the intent was to take the money away from SPD and put it into Participatory Budgeting. And now it's just still on hold. So the bill that had been addressed had talked about a compromise where - okay, maybe only $2 million was going to be taken away and given to Participatory Budgeting, whereas the rest was going to go to other SPD priorities, such as community service officers and funding public disclosure request office budget needs. But - yeah, basically nothing is happening and they're tabling it for later.
Crystal Fincher: [00:48:12] So it may be taken up in the regular budgeting process. It may not be taken up at all. We'll just have to stay tuned and see, basically?
Shannon Cheng: [00:48:20] Yeah. Yep.
Crystal Fincher: [00:48:22] All right. So you also mentioned the Participatory Budgeting, and some of that money might have gone to it if it would have passed, but it did not. But what did pass unanimously with the Council was the entire Participatory Budgeting bill. What happened with that?
Shannon Cheng: [00:48:38] Yeah! So that was huge and exciting - you know, community activists have been working towards that for a very long time. And so last year, $30 million got promised for Participatory Budgeting that was going to be centering community. And it had been held up for a long time. I think that's been talked about on this show previously - there had been kind of tension between the mayor's office and City Council - and in the middle of all that were just the City staff trying to work on this problem and figuring out, Okay, how do we actually implement the program? And so what finally happened is Councilmember Morales introduced a bill where the Office of Civil Rights is going to be given money to hire some full-time employees to run the Request For Proposal process to find somebody, who will then run the Participatory Budgeting program.
So, it's not like an immediate step. We're not going to get Participatory Budgeting happening tomorrow, but it is at least a step forward in direction of something where we had been kind of spinning in circles for basically six months.
Crystal Fincher: [00:49:48] Well, this is big news. And what does this do then, or how does this affect the Black Brilliance Project?
Shannon Cheng: [00:49:57] So the Black Brilliance Project had put in the time and the research to propose a plan for how the implementation could happen and they submitted their proposal, so that was one of the things on the table. But one of the big things that came out of their report and that they mentioned was that they - there are certain City departments they don't necessarily trust - that have not done the best job of kind of truly representing community voices before. And so one of those was the Department of Neighborhoods. And so they had specifically asked that the Participatory Budgeting not be handled by that department. When the mayor's office released their counter proposal of how this should be handled, that was their suggestion - was that Department of Neighborhoods had already handled a much smaller Participatory Budgeting project in the past, so they said that we should just let them have it. It will save a lot of money because you know, they already have expertise there. But the problem is they don't have the trust. So this is kind of why things are being handed to the Office of Civil Rights instead, where that was the preferred office from the Black Brilliance Project to handle setting up the implementation.
Crystal Fincher: [00:51:13] All right. Well, we will stay tuned to developments on this, but thank you so much for the expertise and information. Those, you know, were one big development and one big non-development, but important, especially as we consider these Council and mayoral races moving forward, but also in just how we consider public safety and how we're treating each other as community members in Seattle and beyond. So thanks so much, Shannon.
Shannon Cheng: [00:51:43] Yeah - thank you!
Crystal Fincher: [00:51:44] And if people want to get more information about People Power Washington, where can they go?
Shannon Cheng: [00:51:51] So our website is wethepeoplepower.org - it will get updated soon. We're going to be doing a voter guide for local elections coming up. So stay tuned - that will be updated in the next couple months.
Crystal Fincher: [00:52:05] Perfect. Thanks so much.