Week in Review: February 12, 2021 - with Michael Charles

Week in Review: February 12, 2021 - with Michael Charles

Today on the show  co-host (and new dad!) Michael Charles of Upper Left Strategies joins  Crystal to discuss the appointment of accused sexual assailant Joe Fain  by Republicans to the redistricting commission, what may happen as we  jump into mayoral and county council election season, and the kind of  leadership Seattle and King County need right now.

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

Find the host, Crystal Fincher on Twitter at @finchfrii and find today’s co-host, Michael Charles, at @mikeychuck. More info is available at officialhacksandwonks.com.

Articles Referenced:

Read about responses to Joe Fain’s appointment to the redistricting commission here: https://crosscut.com/politics/2021/02/groups-denounce-selection-joe-fain-redistricting-commission

Learn more about the redistricting of Washington State here:   https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/washington-unlikely-to-gain-congressional-seat-but-2021-redistricting-may-still-bring-drama/

Follow the South Seattle Emerald’s coverage of the mayoral race here: https://southseattleemerald.com/?s=mayor

Learn how to testify remotely before the legislature, and how to follow bills here: https://crosscut.com/politics/2021/01/how-follow-and-participate-washington-state-legislature


Crystal Fincher: [00:00:00]  Welcome to Hacks and Wonks. I'm your host Crystal Fincher. On this  show, we talk with policy wonks and political hacks to gather insight  into local politics and policy through the lens of those doing the work  with behind-the-scenes perspectives on politics in our state. And just a  heads up this episode does include discussion of a public figure being  accused of sexual assault. Full transcripts and resources referenced in  the show are always available at officialhacksandwonks.com and in our  episode notes. Today, we're continuing our Friday almost-live shows  where we review the news of the week with a cohost. Welcome back to the  program friend of the show and today's co-host political consulting and  managing partner of Upper Left Strategies, Michael Charles.

Michael Charles: [00:00:53] And brand new father, I might add now.

Crystal Fincher: [00:00:56] And brand new father! Congratulations!

Michael Charles: [00:00:59] Thank you. It's exciting to be back and get away for a little bit to come share in gossip a little bit with you.

Crystal Fincher: [00:01:07]  Yes. And I've seen the baby and she is adorable. So yeah.  Congratulations. Good job. I'm sure you're short on sleep and all that  kind of stuff, but how fun.

Michael Charles: [00:01:20] Aw, thank you - Team Girl Dad, enjoying every minute.

Crystal Fincher: [00:01:23]  Yes. Wonderful. Well, I just wanted to dive in and I guess we will  start with one of the big stories we saw this week and, and kind of was  surprising to hear it and not surprised to see how the state GOP has  acted in the wake of it - but the story that Republicans decided to  appoint Joe Fain, ex-Senator of the 47th Legislative District, who lost  election in a seat that he was originally presumed to be safe in  following allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman several years  back.

The allegation by  all accounts seems very credible and thorough. This was not something  that was just heard of right now - she told other people at the time and  the recounts of what she said then versus now, you know, completely  match up. There is not a reason to doubt her and of course, as we know  that women don't come forward - almost never come forward with sexual  assault allegations falsely. The percentage of false allegations are so  minute. Meanwhile, the number of women who are sexually assaulted, 1 in 6  is the estimate, and the overwhelming majority don't even come forward  at all because of the stigma and blowback and social, professional and  mental health, and sometimes legal consequences attached to that. So  just always doesn't help - to lay that out upfront.

But  wanted to talk about it in that vein and that these were credible  allegations against him that were basically addressed by him being voted  out and that you know, for all intents and purposes from Republicans'  standpoint - they kind of tanked the investigation and brought that to a  close in the Legislature because he was already gone. And so they  decided and said, Hey, out of all the names that we had to choose from -  Joe Fain is the one that we want to head our redistricting effort. And  that was shocking and appalling to so many people across the state,  including a number of organizations who wrote public letters condemning  the action and asking that he be removed. The other Democrats on the  commission have asked that he be removed. And that we don't provide  platforms and promote people who have been credibly accused without a  full and thorough investigation. What's your take on this, Michael?

Michael Charles: [00:04:12]  I mean, in short, it feels like it's trolling from the GOP and it feels  like a reflection of kind of what's happening on the, you know, the  national scale here with Marjorie Taylor Greene and some of this idea of  cancel culture, and what role do we have in public life, and who gets  canceled and why? And you know, I think seems like it's a weird cross to  begin to have your discussion based on, but I feel like it was a move  towards politics and not move toward that they thought was best for  people. It was a very political decision that led - that's leading to a  discussion. There's something about trolling the libs that conservatives  get pleasure out of, I honestly feel . And it's unfortunate they don't  have the same values and standards in their leadership and they don't  hold their leadership to the same standards that we hold ours to.

You  know, I think it's unfortunate that they chose that path. I think it's  really good that we can continue to have these discussions about the  values that we hold important to us as a community, as a party, as a  region, like we should, we should not want this in our leadership and we  should denounce and speak loudly against the party, the interests -  that don't find this to be a problem.

Crystal Fincher: [00:05:43]  Yeah, absolutely. And I also want to, you know, Republicans have  clearly invited this, but this is opposition to people being promoted  and platformed who have been credibly accused of sexual assault without  there being a full investigation and accounting for what happened.  That's not partisan - the desire to want that is not partisan. And also a  reminder - Joe Fain was known as one of the most, I guess, centrist and  bipartisan legislators out there. He had actually enjoyed the  endorsement of a number of Democrats in addition to Republicans on a  local level. And had worked in a variety of ways, had voted against some  of the more egregious social policies. And so, one - suggesting that  the opposition against him was solely partisan and Democrats just trying  to get rid of a Republican flies in the face of him actually  having  more Democratic support than almost every other Republican in the state  at the time. And that the opposition to him is a reflection of our  values collectively as a society. This isn't political - many of the  people, including myself , have taken the same stance, whether someone  is a Democrat or a Republican accused of sexual assault. That is not  okay to just act like that's not a thing and to move on like it's not an  issue or a problem.

And  then as we saw in the articles this week, Republican leadership getting  very upset just because they were asked - you know, getting irate and   insulting and belligerent in response to reporters inquiring about this.  To have the audacity to think that no one was going to notice, care, or  follow up - how detached do you have to be? How detached is Republican  leadership that they thought it was cool enough to just be like, Oh,  they're, they're going to get real mad about this and that was  entertaining, as opposed to people being fundamentally offended at how  brazenly they seem to be able to disregard the suffering and  victimization of women by their own. And even if they want to stand on  the side of, Hey, this is an accusation - let's let due process take its  course. Then let it take its course and don't move preemptively, or  work around the process, or prevent an investigation and then say, Well,  no investigation happened - one wasn't warranted and we can move on  like it, wasn't a thing that doesn't exist. Real accountability is  needed and demanded, and people are not going to be quiet because they  feel it's inconvenient or the one person who they felt tolerable was  there. And my goodness, what does it say about the quality of people  they have available if this was the best they could choose? Which is  what they said. They had a long list of names and Joe Fain was who they  felt was the best. I don't think that is being heard like they intended  it to be heard, but we hear what they're actually saying. And maybe it's  kind of in line with what happened with Loren Culp - man, if that's the  best you have to offer, you are in trouble. And if Joe Fain is the best  you can do in this capacity, they're hurting.

Michael Charles: [00:09:17]  Yeah, I think you're spot on. It's indicative of a party that's dying. I  think we're seeing the early stages of what took place in California in  the Democratic.. err.. the Republican party dying essentially and no  longer being even a player in statewide issues. So, I mean, we're just  watching the same thing where a party that's trying to reflect itself of  a national party and the values of a national party that just don't  reflect the values of the state and people in our state. And they do,  but to such a almost radical extent at this point, it's hard to even  take them seriously.

Although  when it comes to something like redistricting, it's harder to dismiss  the importance and the reality of the role that putting those boundaries  in place play in representing our communities. So it just shows that we  need to rethink a process of redistricting ultimately, too, if we're  going to think about how - if we're giving a party that does this kind  of things fair shot at determining what our state boundaries look like? I  mean, I think that just gives greater credence to the case we should be  moving to an even more neutral source of establishing these boundaries.  Because if we can just put anybody in there with absolutely no  recourse, then I mean, if we haven't noticed anything from the Trump  era, it's - we should identify these holes in our democracy and our  Constitutions and begin to plug them so that we don't continue to just  allow people that don't share our values, the stated values, to make big  decisions so that, you know, we're in a once in a decade opportunity  here and there's nothing we can do about somebody being in there. I  think that that's a - again, a reflection of a system that's broken.

Crystal Fincher: [00:11:05]  I agree with that and I'm concerned about the re-districting - the  redistricting process. You know, it is extremely consequential in the  drawing of all of our political boundaries. We hear about terms like  gerrymandering and basically drawing boundaries in a way that protects  your own folks. And you know, in many cases - in cases that we've seen  here, disenfranchises votes that you don't want to count and they do  that in a variety of ways. They, you know - and we see it, frankly,  right now in South King County. We see it in Yakima County where instead  of keeping communities whole, cities whole, and political subdivisions,  like cities and counties and different things like that intact - they  will divide up these cities and these districts in ways that, you know,  include some communities here and excluded there, and they're shaped  really weird, and they don't seem to follow any rhyme or reason. And the  result is that instead of communities being able to vote together in  favor of their interests, they're all split apart into neighboring  districts. And instead of being , you know, cohesive in one area,  they're split among other areas. So for example, cities of Kent and  Renton , Auburn , SeaTac are - Burien - split between several districts.  I think Kent has four legislative districts. Renton has several, Burien  has several.

And so the  city of Kent, which I'm very familiar with - a city of over 120,000  people , a large population of people of color, immigrants, Black  people, lots of people call it the Kent-ral District because this is  where a lot of people have been displaced to, who used to live in the  Central District. And, but it is hard to have anyone pay attention to  what's going on here - you rarely hear about this area, this economy,  the people here, the needs, because they aren't represented by a  Senator, a legislator - there's four or five in the districts and the  needs get covered up and overshadowed by several other cities, several  other agendas. And it just makes it harder for people to organize and  advocate for the issues that affect them and their neighbors because  they're in effect separated.

Michael Charles: [00:13:38]  And on top of that, it feels like they - especially in these  communities, like you mentioned, that are so diverse, made up of so many  different groups of people, communities - they'll make it so that the  people of color are there enough so that you can't win without getting  some of that white population that may or may not agree with your  community at all, but they're dependent upon that population in order to  get a representative that even agrees with your interests. And so  they're in effect like falsely moderating a lot of these districts that  would otherwise be, you know, a lot stronger voices, especially around  progressive change that actually impacts the communities that live in  these districts, you know?

Crystal Fincher: [00:14:22]  And so I know I have concerns about these issues being surfaced in the  redistricting process and hope that they are, hope that they do follow  through on promises to make the process more inclusive. Hopefully,  people's comfort with remote technology and remote testimony and  outreach now because of the pandemic helps them in reaching out to more  people in more locations to get an understanding of how redistricting  has impacted them. You know, another example, city of Yakima is not a  big city geographically, and in the middle of a very rural area. There  is no reason why the city of Yakima needs to be cut in half and one half  in one legislative district and another in another half. The only  result of that is diluting the power of the vote that people in Yakima  have. And when we look at the majority of the population who is Latino  or Hispanic in that area and the push to remove and, I guess, destroy  the power that they have been working to build - that's one way to do  it. And that has been an effect. It makes it harder to advocate for a  community, and everyone in that community, and no one should be left  behind. And those kinds of tactics that are used to dilute power of  people who oftentimes have the least - it's not fair, it's not right,  and it has no place in the redistricting process. And it shouldn't be  used as a negotiating tool either. This should be a fundamental value  that the Democratic party, certainly, and that everyone should stand up  for - for the good of democracy and to not allow communities to be  separated and torn apart in this redistricting process. Because that's  going to continue to have an impact for the next decade and the policy  that is passed, and the people that we are able to put into office and  whether they reflect us or they don't.

Michael Charles: [00:16:35] Agreed. Amazing.

Crystal Fincher: [00:16:38]  So we will stay tuned to see what continues to happen with  redistricting and also keep an eye on ways that people can get involved  and make their own voices heard as those come around. I guess we will  move on to talking about the state of Seattle elections. We are in an  election year. We have had a number of people announce for mayor so far.  We've had a couple , I think - I guess I will say one official  announcement for a re-election on the council side. But how , starting  with the race for mayor, how do you see it shaping up? How do you see  the positioning and I guess strength and the case that Lorena González  and, you know, coming from the council and other candidates have made so  far.

Michael Charles: [00:17:30]  Yeah, I think we've seen in the past few weeks a couple of the first,  what I would call high quality rollouts from some candidates. And I  think we saw Colleen Echohawk, and then we saw Lorena González. And I  think with those two now in the race, it's kind of beginning to see some  lanes kind of take shape and see where people are kind of trying to  jockey for position. And it's really interesting to see Lorena come in  and kind of, you know , be what I would assume at this point, just due  to her experience and position as a statewide - citywide council member,  that's been elected twice as the favorite to - currently in the race .  You know, Colleen Echohawk had a good rollout for a first time candidate  - seemed to be - have a stance that was a little less clear, I guess,  as far as policy points, but still strong and having lots of coverage  and just like in excitement levels.

And  so it's kind of cool to see this is the first - the mayor's race that  we've seen that has democracy vouchers. And I think that makes this  situation unique relative to all the other races we've seen in the past.  And it'll be interesting to see what role money plays in this process  now that, you know, there's a little more strategy involved around  getting direct contact to voters and you know, candidates that maybe  traditionally wouldn't have been as strong of contenders now have an  opportunity. I'm still interested to see - do we see somebody from the  DSA/People's Party/Leftist part of Seattle run? I think that shakes a  lot of things up , you know - with rumors of like Bruce Harrell getting  in or Tim Burgess. I think that that also begins to kind of shake things  up as well.

So , one of  the interesting observations from the last council races that we saw a  couple of years ago was that there wasn't a lot of room in the middle  for folks post-primary. And what we saw in the primaries was the most  ideological candidates ended up getting through, or perceived  ideological candidates, due to endorsements, et cetera. Specifically  Stranger versus Seattle Times endorsements - kind of seemed like that  was the factor. And so there's only two of those lanes to pick. And so  it's somebody kind of making it not as clear what those two moderate  candidates, or seemingly moderate, relative to a Tim Burgess or a DSA,  or, you know, whatever - Socialist Alternative People's Party candidate.  I think that if that gets in, then we, I mean, the dynamics of the race  change tremendously and the arithmetic to getting through a primary  changes what the race looks like.

Crystal Fincher: [00:20:24]  Yeah. You know, and that primary math is going to be interesting and  does completely depend on who's in the race and how they're trying to  position themselves. And what I always find interesting is to look at  what candidates say as they're coming in and to see if and how that  changes as they continue to run. And see, Okay, maybe I'm not getting as  much traction with the supporters and base that I thought when I  started. Let me just change my tune a little bit and modify these couple  positions and, you know, pick up some support from these other  interests that say they're interested and, you know, donating  significantly to my campaign.

There  have - in every Seattle election that I've seen in the past 12 years.  It's been a long time. I - there has been at least one candidate who has  done that. And, and there often isn't much coverage that - certainly  not that people continue to refer to. And so lots of times they get away  with that changing of their positions and policies, but it is going to  be interesting to see who does that, who is leading , you know, in  saying things they actually believe and will be consistent with. And to  see what candidates are willing to fight for.

I  talked about it a little bit in an article this week, but I do think  that this whole idea of, you know - a lot of times the candidate for who  is supported by the Chamber and those interests, will come in and  they'll be talking about, you know, we're going to find consensus and  we're going to bring everyone to the table. And we're gonna make sure  that we don't move forward unless we have agreement and my feedback to  that is consensus is not a policy. And consensus is not a benefit in and  of itself. And we have seen two prior mayors, frankly, with Mayor  Durkan and Ed Murray before her, who ran hard on this idea of consensus,  and being a bridge builder and just someone who can bring people  together - as if that was the goal. And as if that is the benefit and  that's a virtue - and it seems to be a recipe for inaction based on what  we've seen for them. That they are trying to please so many people and  to wait for everyone to agree, which just isn't going to happen, that  they wind up doing a lot of nothing and contradicting themselves and  announcing big plans that aren't really executed and implemented well,  because keeping people together and everyone in agreement is a  challenging thing to do. So I think -

Michael Charles: [00:23:17]  Yeah, totally. And we saw some of this with like, just even more  recently with Reagan Dunn and his comments on homelessness and the fact  this guy is serving on the lived experiences council making policy  around how to solve homelessness in the region. And people say, Well, we  need to have a Republican at the table. I mean, you ask, Well, how is  that productive to helping achieve what we want which is ending  homelessness if what they want is in direct competition to the very  facts and policy discussions - in direct conflict with that, what is the  point to having that? Like, how is moral leadership being exhibited if  it's more about having somebody have a seat at the table, rather than it  is actually solving the problem at hand?

Crystal Fincher: [00:24:03]  Exactly. And I think people are so frustrated and so fed up at seeing  problems not get solved. Yet, seeing some elected officials acting like,  Well, we did get everyone together. Look at this wonderful task force.  Look at, you know, all these people smiling in the picture that I have  announcing this policy. Or, Oh, we passed a bill, but then don't see  that it's implemented correctly. They're tired of seeing people act like  things are okay and like they are doing a good job when they are seeing  things around them not change one bit. And if anything, just get  worse.

Someone is going  to have to make a case for fixing problems and in a way that people can  see and feel in their neighborhood, on their street. They're, you know,  as they go to work, to the store and back - that they can see that  things are improving meaningfully, not just moving people who don't have  homes from one place to another. Or, you know, putting a navigation  program in that actually doesn't navigate anyone anywhere. And just seem  to have been a way to say I'm doing something without actually doing  anything. They, I think, Seattle is ready for someone to make a case for  some strong leadership - and not that consensus isn't important, but  strong leadership builds a coalition around getting a problem solved and  Hey, this is a plan - we are moving towards fixing it. And when people  see that you follow through, and that you will move towards getting  something done, and that you won't wait for everyone to agree because no  one ever will, and actually fixing something - they'll hop on board  quickly. And so coalitions are a result of trust and belief in your  ability to solve problems. They are not a benefit in and of themselves  just to have. Coalitions don't solve problems, coalitions are there to  fix problems. And if someone takes that view of it, then I think they  will be in a good position to make progress in this race. It'll be  interesting to see, but you know, I do want to talk -

Michael Charles: [00:26:25]  And I think that just on top of just Seattle, I think the whole region -  I mean, we're in a unique moment period where I think people are  looking to not just Seattle, but really like all their leaders across  all - regardless whether they're Democrat, Republican - people just want  to get shit done. And it feels like we're - you know, as we've  approached the year 10 of the War on Homelessness - you know, the  emergency declaration on homelessness and all these things. When does  performative become no longer acceptable from our leadership and like  really the rubber meets the road? And not that I think anywhere on the  West Coast has really particularly done a great job of this. And somehow  we're unique in our approaches to these challenges. However, I think we  have the people, the energy, the ability to actually solve these big  problems if we take the time to find leaders that are willing to build a  consensus with people that actually want to achieve something, not just  maintaining the status quo or making it - you know, happiness in our  region is determined upon the average wealth per person. Like there's  just - there's gotta be other determinants we're using and figuring out  how do we make life more livable for - especially those that are being  left behind.

Crystal Fincher: [00:27:43]  I completely agree with that. And we have a few minutes left and I  actually wanted to talk about the King County Council and politics at  the King County level. Those elections are up this year too and there's  some real issues that are probably going to be consequential in the  election and definitely consequential policy-wise. And for all residents  of King County - you just talked about Reagan Dunn and you know, recent  issues that he's had and that people have had with his comments. What  did happen there?

Michael Charles: [00:28:21]  Totally. You know, I - so there's just - he's made comments about the  way in which we can solve homelessness and taking very conservative  approaches of - you know, we should give people bus tickets and send  them outta here. And you know, my idea is putting them out on an island  and have everybody live together and - you know, just some of these  wildly conservative, based out of zero reality kind of proclamations of  what simple, you know, answer there is to solving homelessness, rather  than taking into consideration all the facts and analysis and reality of  the situation at hand.

So  I think because of that , we're seeing - and I think what's really  interesting in King County, especially over the last four years of our  tremendous growth - has not only been tremendous growth and incoming of  new populations. And - but also just kind of the, the shifting of our  suburban, especially, population from being even moderately Republican  to Democrat and, you know, moderately Democrat of the huge, tremendous  shifts. And so what we're seeing for the first time is areas that have  been strongholds for Republicans in King County, at least as far as the  district levels go with King County Council, we're seeing these areas  begin to shift and be more Democrat. And I think we're going to see for  the first time, all three of the seats held by Republicans are likely  going to face very strong and realistic challenges to their seats on the  council this year. And a lot of that is due to demographics, but a lot  of it is due to this - what we're beginning to see - like this  nationalized attitude of the GOP of defending Joe Fains. You remember -  Kathy Lambert was very vocal in supporting Joe Fain before. Like I just -  I think the shift in values and understanding of what the GOP actually  stands for - and I think they're all in trouble out on the East King  County and South King County. The other member of that being at risk,  you know, Pete von Reichbauer who's been in South King County, but  served in that position for a really long time. And, you know, from,  'cause I believe it's your district is, you know, you -

Crystal Fincher: [00:30:38] Just south -

Michael Charles: [00:30:38]  Just south of your district, but you know, I mean, you know, that area  has seen tremendous change over the past 8-12 years as well. So I think  we're seeing the demographics and timing of what could be a tremendous  change.

Crystal Fincher: [00:30:53]  Well, we are going to keep an eye on that and we'll definitely be  talking more about that when you're on again. And we're happy that you  are a regular co-host who rotates in here. So appreciate the time that  you've taken. And we appreciate everyone listening to Hacks and Wonks on  KVRU 105.7 FM this Friday, February 12th, 2021. Our chief audio  engineer at KVRU is Maurice Jones, Jr. The producer of Hacks and Wonks  is Lisl Stadler and our insightful co-host today was Michael Charles,  Managing Partner at Upper Left Strategies and new dad. You can find  Michael on Twitter @mikeychuck and you can follow his podcast, Cold  Brews and Voting Blue on your favorite podcatcher. You can find me on  Twitter @finchfrii, and now you can follow Hacks and Wonks on iTunes,  Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts, just type "Hacks and  Wonks" into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to get our Friday  almost-live shows and our mid-week show delivered to your podcast feed.  You can also get a full transcript of this episode and links to  resources referenced in the show at officialhacksandwonks.com. And in  the podcast episode notes.

Thanks for tuning in and we'll talk to you next time.