Consultant Roundtable: Part 1

Consultant Roundtable: Part 1

Missed the Hacks & Wonks consultant roundtable? Never fear! On today’s show you’ll catch up on the first half of it. Consultants Riall Johnson of Prism Consulting, Michael Charles of Upper Left Strategies, and Heather Weiner join Crystal to discuss the results of the primary elections earlier this month, and what we can expect from the rest of election season. On today’s show they discuss the mayoral primary election results, Charter Amendment 29 / Compassion Seattle, and the primary results for City Council Position 9 (City Wide).

About the Guests

Find Michael Charles on Twitter/X at @mikeychuck, Heather Weiner at @hlweiner, and Riall Johnson at @RiallJohnson.

Podcast Transcript

[00:00:00] Crystal Fincher: Welcome to Hacks & Wonks. I'm your host, Crystal Fincher. On this show, we talk to political hacks and policy wonks to gather insight into local politics and policy through the lens of those doing the work and provide 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.

Hello, welcome to the Hacks & Wonks Post-Primary Consultant Roundtable. I'm Crystal Fincher, the host of Hacks & Wonks and a political consultant. And today, I'm thrilled to be joined by three of my favorite political consultants to break down what happened in last week's primary election. First, I want to introduce Riall Johnson. Hey, Riall, thank you for joining us. Also, Heather Weiner - hello. And, Michael Charles. So, I just wanted to start off by letting you give a quick synopsis of what you've been doing, what you're working on this cycle, and the types of races that you work on. So, I will start with Riall.

[00:01:35] Riall Johnson: Hi, thanks for having me. Riall Johnson, manager of Prism Washington. We work on a lot of progressive campaigns around the region. We had about 16 candidates running this year for office - 12 of them were people of color. 15 of them ended up making it through the primary or didn't have a primary. So, we count those going through. So, hopefully, all 15 of them can win the general, but a lot of - just really focused on helping candidates that usually don't have the institutional support getting that leg up, especially at the beginning of the campaign, to make it to overcome those hurdles, and making more people from the community run for office.

[00:02:21] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. And, Michael Charles.

[00:02:25] Michael Charles: Great. My name is Michael Charles. I'm the managing partner of Upper Left Strategies. We have about 8 candidates this cycle - which I did 15 before, Riall, that's why I don't have any hair anymore. But yeah, we're excited. But we're similar to Riall - we work with progressive folks, we really like challenging the establishment and taking on tough races that people don't expect our folks to win. And we really like to do good job and get out there and win. So, we're excited this cycle to have a lot of good candidates countywide and citywide, and we're just excited about the work we're doing. And, thanks for having me here today.

[00:03:09] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. And, Heather Weiner.

[00:03:12] Heather Weiner: I am so honored to be here with you, Crystal, and also with Riall and Michael, who have just been kicking some serious butt over the last few years, and particularly, in this cycle. In contrast, I'm only working as a consultant with Lorena González, who's running for mayor in Seattle. And most of the campaigns that I'm working on - are not on the ballot this year - they're mostly issue and legislative campaigns.

[00:03:39] Crystal Fincher: You said that super all modest - only working on Lorena González. Basically, if you want to win a ballot initiative, you call Heather Weiner, is basically where we're at. Well-known for so many big progressive wins. So, thrilled to have you, along with Riall and Michael Charles here.

I'm Crystal Fincher with Fincher Consulting. I have worked with a lot of candidates - now mostly focusing on ballot initiatives and independent expenditures. But I wanted to kick off this conversation - starting off looking at the Seattle mayoral race. Heather, you just mentioned that you're working with Lorena González, who was one of the two candidates who made it through, along with Bruce Harrell. So, starting off, what do you think of the results? Was this what you were expecting? And what do you think this says about the voters in Seattle?

[00:04:33] Heather Weiner: Well, let me give you, first, my spin answer. Oh, yeah. We knew that Lorena was definitely going to be in the top two, and come within two points. That seems totally natural and we just totally thought that that was what's going to happen. Okay. Now, let me give you the real answer. Oh, my God. We were blown away. We knew we were going to be in the top two, but we thought that Bruce Harrell would have a larger lead at this point - that he would have coalesced some of the Republicans/more conservative elements. And, particularly with the results that we saw in some of the other races, we definitely thought that Lorena would be in the 20s. So, we were very surprised at her great showing there. And, I do have to say a lot of that had to do with name recognition, of course. Also, the amazing amount of support that she got from labor. And also, I think the people who are informed voters in the primary being concerned about Bruce Harrell making it through. So, I was very excited. And in fact, I think, made a fool out of myself in the party - some bloggers and reporters reported on somebody running around cheering and making an ass out of herself. And that, I will 100% admit, was me.

[00:05:51] Crystal Fincher: So, for Michael and Riall - we all saw the public polling that was done in this. So, I'm sure we all heard about some of the internal polling from the campaigns that showed a lot of voters - the majority of the voters undecided - heading into the final stages of the primary campaign. But I think it's fair to characterize the polling as showing Bruce and Lorena González in the lead. Bruce, usually leading - those, as Heather mentioned, by a wider margin than we saw in the actual results. But, we also saw that Colleen Echohawk seemed to have more traction in polling than resulted in the final election tally, that Jessyn Farrell was talking about different stuff. So what do you think accounts for the polling that we saw and the difference in the results that we got?

[00:06:51] Michael Charles: I do think that these folks were really independent, or they were undecided at the time, but as I've stated many times on your show, that I think there's two parties in Seattle now - it's the Seattle Times and it's The Stranger. And those two make up the bulk of voters in Seattle now. And if you get The Stranger vote, you're going to make up the mind to a lot of those undecided voters that were deciding between Colleen - and I thought that The Stranger actually, devastatingly for Colleen, made a pretty good argument for why you wouldn't want to vote for her.

[00:07:29] Crystal Fincher: What do you think, Riall?

[00:07:29] Riall Johnson: Yeah. The Stranger and The Times are really big forces in terms of the primary vote and who else gets through. One thing I know is - I worked with Andrew Grant Houston [Ace]. We had a lot of people that gave vouchers to Andrew, but they still voted for Lorena - basically, out of a lot of fear - for someone, they figured that Lorena was the person that could beat Bruce. And, it's a valid argument - that you're afraid of - giving us money and then voting for someone else, because they didn't - probably didn’t feel Ace had the name recognition to get to the general.

Well, like I said, it's disappointing. And of course, on my end, but also, you see why it happened. And I think what's like other candidates, people always talk about wanting change and new, but also experience and name recognition still hold strong in a lot of things. And I think that's what Lorena did. She did a great job of wrapping up a lot of the union support, I think - coalescing in progressive organizations, show that she built a good coalition of progressive establishment support, which I think really carried her through. And that's what The Stranger saw. I think with Colleen - I was actually even - when we first heard about Colleen running here excited, but I think you saw who was supporting her and the policies. There was really a lot lining a lot with Bruce, I think, which made people fall off in the end. And when people - primary voters do look at platforms and they see Lorena's platform was more on the progressive side than they were with Colleen. And I think that's what helped, in the end - probably steer people away from Colleen towards Lorena.

[00:09:10] Heather Weiner: I really wanted to find out from you two - what you thought about some of the negative messaging that was out there - from people on the right who were sending out the "Seattle is Dying" type mail. "Seattle - have you had enough?", was a mailer that I saw. Did you think that that would depress votes, do you think that's motivating to voters? What do you think is the interaction with that kind of campaigning?

[00:09:37] Riall Johnson: It probably depresses you because voter turnout was low. Way lower than I expected. I was hoping there would be some residual voter turnout increase from the 2020 election, where 75%-85% of Seattle voted. And now it's down to - it's at 36% right now, something like that, but we're going to probably crack 40% hopefully by the end maybe? So it's lower than it was two years ago, I think, it looks like so far. The "Seattle is Dying" message has been going on for 100 years - as we've seen it. It's like, if it's not dead by now, then Seattle is just immortal. And, I think that the whole point is people are catching on that it's just right-wing propaganda to say the fastest growing city in the country is dying.

And it's just like, if it's dying so much, how come there's so much economic boom here? The only thing that I'll say is, Seattle is actually choking - and it's choking the poor, and it's choking the working-class - because people are getting priced out because the rich here are thriving so much in this booming city. And that's why we see people just - if anything is dying, it's like, we're getting pushed out because of just the unfair - if anything it's a right wing haven, I always joke about Seattle - just because there's no income tax, billionaires live here for a reason. They get to crap on the poor - I'm not allowed to cuss in here, I mean I will. And the police get to get away with anything they want. It's just like, this is not the progressive city we live in. And I think that narrative of Seattle dying, it's just more just demonizing homeless and demonizing poor people to make it feel like - people feel like just because they see homeless as icky, and they want to just sweep them away with police. One thing that resonate is that, I think-

[00:11:30] Michael Charles: Yeah. That's what I was going to say too, Riall, around the homelessness. And I think that - this election is so much about homelessness, it's the top issue. Everybody wants to talk about homelessness. And I think if anything, that messaging drove people to think who has the vision that's in line with me about how I think homelessness can be solved in the region. And I think that, especially considering that I feel like this electorate is probably the most conservative electorate you'll see every four years, which is post presidential election primary in a city. It's going to be the most conservative electorate we can see, which I also think speaks to how powerful, or what strong positioning Lorena's in - in that that was literally the most conservative electorate we're going to see. And if she's only two points behind, that really makes me feel like she's connecting, clearly, on some issues with some folks that otherwise wouldn't feel the same. And if anything, I think that actually helped Lorena in that case, to be honest, where a lot of the people that are tired of this messaging of "Seattle's Dying" or like - I'm just tired of hearing it. So, they're going to vote for somebody that they think, actually, is the opposite of that. And so-

[00:12:51] Heather Weiner: It's so interesting, because we know we did some polling about public safety issues - because we saw some of the polling that was coming out of other outlets and the public polling that was talking about, "Oh, people are really scared. There's a big safety issue going on. People are really scared about crime." And certainly, you would think so, in seeing KIRO, KOMO, Q13, some of the mainstream media coverage of this, but when we actually ask people, "Well, how safe do you feel in your neighborhood?" 83% said they felt very safe. So, in terms of our own - we feel scared about what's happening somewhere else because that's what we're being told to feel. But, what we see with our own eyes in our own neighborhoods is - yeah, there are people who are living on the street and they are human beings and they are my neighbors, and I feel compassion and empathy to them. And we can also talk about Compassion Seattle. I hope that's on the agenda.

[00:13:49] Crystal Fincher: It is on the agenda.

[00:13:50] Heather Weiner: Before I give up the mic, let me just say, shout out to Riall, who helped his candidate max out on vouchers. He was the first one to help his candidate max out on vouchers in the mayoral campaign, which is mind boggling hard, particularly for a candidate that most people haven't heard of. And then the second thing is, your candidate, Andrew, was so smart, so on-message, so unapologetic about the positions that he was taking. I think he did drive the narrative and drive the message and drive the debate on it. And so, I'm going to be able to say sorry - I'm sorry to not have him at those - the upcoming forums. I really enjoyed having him there. I was totally into his headbands.

[00:14:34] Michael Charles: And, Riall is unquestionable GOAT at getting vouchers at this point. I just think everybody needs to know that - that is undoubtedly the case.

[00:14:44] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. There is not anyone who is in the same tier as Riall and Prism, when it comes to voucher game - extends into regular signature gathering - just fantastic, incredible job. And you just set a new bar throughout this cycle. The other thing-

[00:15:05] Michael Charles: You know when you're making the establishment mad, you're doing something right.

[00:15:08] Crystal Fincher: Yes.

[00:15:09] Riall Johnson: They only had a few hearings about it, you know -

[00:15:13] Crystal Fincher: Change some rules in the middle of the cycle.

One thing I wanted to just circle back on a little bit was talking about the whole "Seattle is Dying" narrative, which clearly didn't carry like people thought it would carry. And I think we've talked about this on the show before, but that is such a narrative - I think people confuse that narrative. I think sometimes, there are some entities when you look at historically like their cost per vote are very bad. A lot of times the more, business focused Chamber candidatesque - those IEs - a lot of times are not the most efficient at driving out votes. And it takes all that money that they throw at candidates to drag them across the finish line.

But that "Seattle is Dying" narrative does not work in Seattle. And I think, sometimes, people have some blinders on within Seattle, thinking that that's an effective thing - when really that narrative works for people who are not familiar with Seattle, who don't live in Seattle, who are outside of Seattle. That's where that's gaining traction. But as you mentioned, Heather, that polling matches up with everything that we've seen before. And that people who live in Seattle, don't feel that. They don't feel that as they're walking through their neighborhood, that they feel like they're in danger. They don't feel like, "Oh, the city that we thought we knew - that this was utopia is now this barren wasteland. And there's lawlessness and anarchy and seeing the..."

[00:16:44] Heather Weiner: Well, let's be honest - there are a lot more people who are living on the street. And with people living on the street - we are seeing, we are visually experiencing more trash or seeing people who are suffering more, we're seeing more drug use. And as a result, we all feel very uncomfortable. But let's go back to what Riall was saying, which is, when you're talking about who's to blame here and what really the problem is, the problem is that the money that was taken out of housing, out of mental health, out of treatment services back in 2011 by the State Legislature was never put back into those budgets. And the cities and counties have then been left with the bill. And they are the ones who are now responsible for taking care of people who are being evicted, who can no longer pay the rent because of the recession, for the expansion of substance use disorder because of trauma. And as a result, who's got to pay? And let me just go here and channel Andrew Grant Houston and say, "Big corporations are the ones who have got to pay, because they are the ones who are hoarding the wealth." Okay. I'm not running for office.

[00:17:53] Crystal Fincher: Well, so I guess that - that is an interesting conversation. And looking at some of the other candidates - I guess a couple things. One, it appears that candidates who did favor the Compassion Seattle amendment got more votes than candidates who did not favor the Compassion Seattle amendment - with the caveat that this is a primary election that we-

[00:18:17] Michael Charles: But it was only Jessyn and Bruce, right? That really were in favor of it, right?

[00:18:22] Crystal Fincher: And Casey Sixkiller.

[00:18:22] Michael Charles: And Sixkiller.

[00:18:25] Crystal Fincher: Yeah.

[00:18:25] Heather Weiner: Oh, yeah. Okay. That's right. That's probably true.

[00:18:30] Riall Johnson: Colleen was, and then she wasn't.

[00:18:32] Heather Weiner: And then she wasn't.

[00:18:33] Michael Charles: Yeah. She's like half.

[00:18:34] Heather Weiner: Yeah, yeah. Pretty close. Somebody who's listening, do the math.

[00:18:38] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. It was there, but it was a primary electorate. There is not much messaging about Compassion Seattle. To your point, Heather, we're just getting started with the citywide conversation on Compassion Seattle. And I think part of the challenge of it, as someone who - people who listen to Hacks & Wonks are not going to be surprised that I oppose the Compassion Seattle Charter Amendment 29 - because it's codifying sweeps and doesn't do much to actually solve the root problems that cause homelessness. But the messaging on it - the name, Compassion Seattle, the headlines that you hear on the evening news - it guarantees money to be spent on services and provides a humane, compassionate way to address the problem. Those are all things that people want, and we haven't really gotten into a wide discussion city-wide or communication to people who don't pay attention to politics that much on what the details of this actually are and how it might differ from the rhetoric there. So candidates like Jessyn Farrell and Bruce Harrell supported it. Do you think that is going to help or hinder them in the general election?

[00:20:02] Riall Johnson: I think it's going to hinder them - I hope so because it's a *** initiative. We had to contend with these people on the streets and it was just a horrible initiative there. One night on the streets - and it was just like, they would try to take over turfs on where my people gathering vouchers were - Heather experienced it. So, you just use people. The way they did about that, they were just trying to bully their way into this initiative, and then bully their way on the ballot. And it was really easy to get someone to see the side of things, if you pitched things right - because that messaging - they would just say, "It's going to help the homeless." Anything you can say can help the homeless - it's all subjective. And everyone wants to help the homeless, but the question is, what are they going to do about it?

This whole thing about guaranteeing money, we've already been spending money on the homeless. Question is, what we do with it. People keep trying to blame the Council for the problems - at this point, I can blame the Council for, or get mad at them. But the thing is that Council is only like 20% of power in the City. The rest of it resides in the mayor. And we have had a corporate conservative mayor for the last three decades. Maybe with the exception of Mike McGinn, but even he had his issues. But like with Ed Murray and Jenny Durkan, Tim Burgess and Bruce Harrell, who was also there - the last four ... five mayors, and any before that. It's just been corporate supported, backed mayors who have just done what the corporations want them to do in Seattle - and always giving police more money, giving corporations whatever they want, and then stripped funding. Even if when they get funding, they just don't spend it on housing or homeless situations. They just spend it on sweeping them, and sweeping them out the other way. So it's like, we say we'll put money in it - we've been throwing money at the sweeps, not even throwing money at actual housing. And the mayor is to blame for all that, because Council has given the mayor money for this and mayor just doesn't choose to use it.

And people need to realize the power resides in the mayor's office. That's why Andrew ran in the first place. He's like, "We can be the most progressive City Council ever. We can be 9 out of 9 progressive City Council. But unless the mayor actually does what we ask them to do, which they have the choice not to - and Durkan has been declining these choices - misusing this money. There's not much a Council can really do in the City." And the thing is, unless they got 9 they can do more to approve both, but we don't have a full progressive council. It's funny how they always try and blame Kshama or Tammy or the three actual progressives on the Council, or four progressives - but they don't have the full power. Lorena has given money and shepherded a lot of bills - it just doesn't get spent right. And even to that, I don't want to blame Bruce for everything the Council did either, because the Council can only do so much.

[00:23:00] Heather Weiner: Yeah, it's not a weak mayor government that we have - it's a very strong mayor form of government that we have here. On C29, one of the things that's in the news, I don't know if you guys have seen - is that ACLU and some homelessness advocates and Transit Riders Union just filed a lawsuit yesterday, challenging C29. And, I am a lawyer - I don't play one on TV, but I think they have a good chance. And I don't want to bore your listeners by telling them why they have a good chance, but actually, I think they have a good chance. And, I think it also helps - by ACLU getting their name into the press, talking about how they oppose this - I think that also weakens that unofficial backdoor IE that the Downtown Seattle Association and the Chamber have going right now.

[00:23:53] Michael Charles: Well, polling has backed up that people are actually like - when they hear this on the surface, it's actually not a bad idea. And so, it's - I'm worried that with no official - we have a small amount of opposition, but I think Heather's right. I think that there's a good chance this gets through right now. And without the right information, without people really understanding what's in the bill here, it's a really good chance it's going to pass. People are looking for a plan. People are looking for a vision. People want just something done on homelessness.

[00:24:32] Heather Weiner: Right. And, if you look at their messaging, it's very much about the Council, the Council, the Council. So, pointing the finger at them. So, yeah, I think C29 is going to be really interesting. I know you guys don't want to talk about Seattle politics the whole time, so I'll be quiet.

[00:24:52] Riall Johnson: Isn't that what we're here for?

[00:24:53] Crystal Fincher: Yeah.

[00:24:53] Heather Weiner: Well, there are actually, other cities in King County.

[00:24:55] Crystal Fincher: There are, and we will get to them.

[00:24:57] Michael Charles: Crystal lives in one of them - just throwing that out there.

[00:25:00] Crystal Fincher: I live in one of them, and I'm excited. We had one primary race. And the candidate shares the same last name with me in Kent, and her results as the local paper of record said - she dominated her two opponents. So, pleased with that, but-

[00:25:24] Michael Charles: With minimal spend, mind you.

[00:25:26] Crystal Fincher: Minimal spend - that cost per vote. It's pretty impressive. Nice work on that, Michael Charles.

But, I do want to just put a bow on Charter Amendment 29. I'm looking forward to that lawsuit. I agree with the panel here - that the anti-campaign has a tough road, just because of the simplicity of the message favoring the pro-campaign. The devil really is in the details - significant devil in the details, but you have to get to the details. And that's really hard without a concerted communication effort, which takes a lot of resources. And the pro-campaign clearly has the resource advantage. Doesn't mean it's impossible. Just means that the work is cut out for the anti-Charter Amendment 29 campaign ahead, but I'm sure they're going to have a lot of eager and talented people willing to put in that work.

[00:26:28] Riall Johnson: Yeah. All you gotta do is tell people, "Just follow the money - look at who's funding it."

[00:26:31] Crystal Fincher: Seriously. And there was a story, I think, by Jim Brunner this past week in the Seattle Times talking about Trump's number one booster in the state giving to both the Bruce Harrell campaign and the Charter Amendment 29 campaign.

[00:27:01] Heather Weiner: Yeah. And Bruce Harrell's IE. Let's make sure to give credit where credit's due - that was Danny Westneat, of all people.

[00:27:02] Crystal Fincher: It was Danny Westneat.

[00:27:02] Heather Weiner: Yes. Danny Westneat published that, just when I think I broke up with him.

[00:27:03] Michael Charles: George Petrie is also one of the people that are fighting the eviction moratorium the most - that wants to end that. So I would just throw that out there as well.

[00:27:13] Heather Weiner: Yeah. The landlord.

[00:27:13] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. I hope to see covered in the general election - the story of campaign spending. It's an undertold story. And so many, especially Seattle campaigns and mayoral campaigns - I think that we have ignored to our detriment, the story of donors. Certainly, during the past two with Durkan and with Ed Murray - their rhetoric said one thing, their donor list said something completely different.

[00:27:41] Michael Charles: I would add Dow Constantine to that list as well, as somebody who takes money from Amazon and lots of other places as well -

[00:27:51] Crystal Fincher: It's something I think is a fair question to ask candidates. These are investments for access and policy from businesses - and you just have to ask them, why do they feel it's a good investment in that candidate? What return do they think they're getting? It's fair to ask that, for a lot of different ones. But, I think that one lesson we need to learn in politics is that - it's not that candidates are bought and sold, but organizations, companies know where a candidate stands, and they're giving with an expected result. And usually, that turns out to be correct. When you look at how someone governs - usually, there are no surprises when you look at their donors. That's something that Seattle voters have a history of ignoring. I hope they pay attention this time. And I hope the media pays attention this time - that story by Danny Westneat, I thought was excellent. I hope to see more.

[00:28:46] Heather Weiner: Yeah, don't say that too loud. If he hears you, he's going to write something completely opposite of it.

[00:28:51] Michael Charles: And shout out to like Erica - Erica Barnett normally does a really good piece every year. I don't know - I didn't pay attention as close this year if she did one on the mayor's race or City Council, but she normally does an excellent job on this every year.

[00:29:06] Crystal Fincher: She's been on top of it in covering that, in addition with Charter Amendment 29 also. So PubliCola has been on that. The Urbanist has been doing more coverage of that and has had a lot of great stories throughout that, in addition to the South Seattle Emerald. So, a hat tip to local Seattle media for being engaged in helping to hold candidates accountable and help to inform voter.

[00:29:31] Heather Weiner: And to City Hall reporters - it is a thankless job, but there's new people coming out. New people you're seeing on Twitter who are following what's happening in City Hall. And I really appreciate that - it's a thankless job. I want to hear what you guys have to think about Council race 9.

[00:29:52] Crystal Fincher: Yeah.

[00:29:52] Riall Johnson: So first off, shout out to Carolyn Bick, as well for - in South Seattle Emerald, especially [their] police reporting.

[00:30:09] Crystal Fincher: Excellent.

[00:30:09] Riall Johnson: Council race 9 is - this is like a lot of hopes and dreams you've been thinking about - in that someone that doesn't have to follow the party establishment framework can actually win. And so, Nikkita getting through the primary gives hope that we could actually break free of this two party system. And, that's my biggest joy from seeing Nikkita get through. It's just like - not only is that seeing someone from the community that's put in so much workin leading movements, leading marches, leading protests - showing that and seeing that reflect in the electorate - without party support, without party politics - started their own party and getting through and leading is just hugely exciting to watch the potential of that.

It's not the first person, obviously, Kshama did as well - but city-wide was getting that much support. It's a testament to the community organizer that Nikkita is. And of course, I'm really good friends with the campaign manager, Shaun Scott, who's an amazing organizer. He just knows how to get people out - you see their posts - you see 100 people coming out to canvass, because they're just that excited for that person. And that resonates with voters regardless of party. I think just the excitement of that campaign has been very contagious.

[00:31:35] Heather Weiner: I love - just to see some of the volunteer art around town. I had my two nieces visiting here from Florida, and all they could talk about was Nikkita. They're both 14 and 16, and they saw the art around town, and they were starting to tell me about this candidate named Nikkita. It was really inspiring and really interesting.

I want to hear the tea though - tell me about - let's say, I'm not involved with either DSA or the People's Party. What is going to happen if we have Nikkita and Kshama both on the City Council? What do you think will happen? Will they work together? Do you think there's going to be tension? What's happening there?

[00:32:10] Riall Johnson: I wish I could tell you. I don't know.

[00:32:14] Michael Charles: Well, I think they represent two different things, right? DSA is not the same as People's Party. I feel like there's a big separation in their approach and how they're going to go - or not even DSA, but what is it? What's Kshama's -?

[00:32:32] Riall Johnson: Socialist Alternative.

[00:32:32] Michael Charles: Socialist Alternative. Yeah. I feel like they're totally different approaches - the way they go about problem solving is a lot differently. And I say that in the way that, I think Kshama's approach is to throw bombs, right? And I don't know that Nikkita's approach is necessarily to throw bombs, but to speak truth to power. And I think those are two different things. And I know that Kshama's approach is about speaking truth to power, for sure. But it's through the lens of capitalism versus everything else. And Nikkita's is more around equity, and how are we genuinely pushing equity in government?

Not to throw too much, but I want to step back just from the D9 race itself, and I felt like that was like - two things. One thing being, the day after punditry needs to be dead. We need to just stop doing the day after the campaign punditry. This is ridiculous. I can't tell you how many posts we read that was like, Nikkita underperformed - she should have won. Sara Nelson was up by all these numbers. And then, here we are - Nikkita's clearly in the lead and it's switched. But secondly, there's no room for middle politics right here. And I think the mayor's race proved that. I think this race was the clearest example of - there's no room for anything, but you got to pick a team at this point. The voters have no room for nuance. You are either on the side that's going to fight what's going on in this City, or you're cool with everything that's going on - you want more of the same. So, there's just no room for nuance. There's no room for - if they think you're the policy person or that you work for them. That's just not important in these races any longer. It's about, are you on our side or not? And, I think we're really clear.

[00:34:27] Heather Weiner: Now Michael, you worked for a candidate in this race, right? For Brianna Thomas, who was very much in that lane, and wasn't able to break through both of those. And I am a huge fan of Brianna Thomas. I voted for Brianna Thomas, and I know she's a friend of the show. Tell me how it would have been different if either Nikkita or Sara was not in the race. I'm sorry. Am I sounding like I'm trying to host right now? Crystal, feel free to kick me-

[00:34:56] Crystal Fincher: No, you're fine. This is a conversation.

[00:34:58] Heather Weiner: All right. Sorry. I'm just really interested. Yeah.

[00:35:00] Michael Charles: No. The thing is that Brianna has integrity, and what she needed to do once Nikkita got in the race, was not like - if she wanted to get through, you had to pick a team. And the fact is, Brianna's also really progressive, has progressive ideas. But if what you were looking for was that, you chose the person that had more history with that lane, that clearly was less intellectual about explaining - you need to know this about city politics, and you need to know this about city politics in order to get things done. And I think voters really resonated with that of like - I don't care about the insider ball game. I just don't care. What I want is people that are going to stand up for these issues.

And I think that for Brianna, it was hard. If Sara Nelson wasn't in the race, Brianna would have gotten through. If Nikkita wasn't in the race, Brianna would have gotten through. Traditionally, we look at Lisa Herbold. We look at Andrew Lewis. She's in the mold of a lot of the candidates or a lot of the current Councilmembers of a former staffer. She is what traditionally we have done in Seattle for politics. And so, I just think that it was a repudiation of the idea of more of the same. And they said, we want somebody that's more extreme to get done what we want done.

[00:36:25] Riall Johnson: Also, I think it came down to name recognition. Nikkita has just been doing a lot of work, been out in the spotlight, led a lot of things, and people recognize. And also, you don't have D next to your name on the ballot - that also makes it - so, it was a nonpartisan race. People saw the progressive candidate that - voter's pamphlets, all that stuff added up. And Brianna has been just doing a lot of great work for years. And I hope people come away recognizing the stuff that she's done behind the scenes. She's been that person behind the scenes, that workhorse that has just got things done - like, the minimal wage. Even the very first minimum wage - organized the SeaTac one, not just the statewide, but the SeaTac minimum wage. A lot of policies that we are thankful that we pat ourselves on the back for, the progressive policy in City Council, Brianna got done.

So, I think you've got to give credit where credit's due. And hopefully - I don't think Brianna is done with Seattle, because she's just someone who - when we actually do turn this place into the progressive ****hole that Fox News thinks it is, we're going to need people like Brianna to get things done. So hopefully, we see more of her and her career, one way or another. She's sharp as they come. Hopefully, she's not done with Seattle.

[00:37:49] Michael Charles: Brianna is not done with Seattle politics. In my opinion, I think that she's going to be an important part moving forward.

[00:37:54] Heather Weiner: There's so few women of color who were running for office in the City of Seattle, and there's so many who are starting to run now, thanks to the three of you, in all of these other cities and in King County. But to have two women of color running against each other in that race was painful to watch, right? Because we want to raise up women of color as much as we can everywhere.

[00:38:20] Crystal Fincher: I mean - go ahead, Michael.

[00:38:21] Michael Charles: I was just going to say, I think it's good that we have multiple women of color running for office. I'm excited about that. I get mad when - I don't think we have to coalesce around the one or anything ever. Actually, I wish we had four women of color running in every race, always. That would be amazing. We would feel we're doing something right, if that's point.

[00:38:45] Heather Weiner: And that's a good point. We had two women of color running in this mayor's race, with Lorena and Colleen Echohawk, which was fantastic. Yeah.

[00:38:55] Michael Charles: And to have two Black women running is almost even cooler.

[00:39:00] Crystal Fincher: It's really cool. And I think it impacts the quality of the discourse. I've heard from several journalists who commented on the quality of the policy discussions in that Position 9 race, and the detail of Nikkita's policy, Brianna's policy. I don't know that Sara Nelson brought a lot of detail in policy to the table. But certainly, between Brianna and Nikkita, really talking about - not just a vision, but the plans to get there. I think in the mayoral race - multiple women of color running and having more nuanced conversations and better conversations - I think that's a positive thing. I'm with Michael in that I don't think that there can only be one.

And I also appreciate it, because I think there's a tendency to - because we don't have enough women of color running yet, we're still excited when it happens because it happens too infrequently. But there's this tendency to be like, well, there can only be one - who is the true and authentic person of color who can speak for all of the people of color, right? And we're definitely not a monolith. We have a lot of different perspectives. And I think the more people of color, women of color, more Black women that run - we get to see the richness of how varied we are, how many different perspectives and solutions we can bring to the table. So, I like seeing people run. It's never - do I wish that we could be able to elect great people, and not have to choose between two, if it would be great if they both could wind up in office? Sure. But when they end up running against each other, is it okay? And, do I think it is necessarily unfortunate? No. I think that it's good to see those perspectives. And I agree that we have not seen the last of Brianna Thomas and will be better for it if she stays engaged.

Thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks. Our chief audio engineer at KVRU is Maurice Jones Jr. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Lisl Stadler. You can find me on Twitter @finchfrii, spelled F-I-N-C-H-F-R-I-I, and now you can follow Hacks & Wonks on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts. Just type in "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. You can also get a full text transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced during the show at and in the podcast episode notes.

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