Week in Review: February 5, 2021 - with Heather Weiner

Week in Review: February 5, 2021 - with Heather Weiner

Today Crystal and co-host Heather Weiner get into all things Seattle mayoral and city council elections, including:

  • Who has thrown their hat into the mayoral race?
  • Who is likely to in the near future?
  • How will the Chamber and Amazon money affect these elections?
  • Will big grocery store chains, some disgruntled by the $4 hazard pay increase recently passed by the city council, show up as major financial contributors? (Also, Trader Joe’s is being pretty cool.)

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, Heather Weiner, at @hlweiner. More info is available at officialhacksandwonks.com.

Articles Referenced:

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

Learn more about Democracy Vouchers, and how you can use them, here: http://www.seattle.gov/democracyvoucher

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. Full  transcripts and resources are available in the show notes with the  podcast and at officialhacksandwonks.com in the episode notes.

Today,  we are 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 renowned political consultant, Heather Weiner.

Heather Weiner: [00:00:49] Hi, more like infamous.

Crystal Fincher: [00:00:53]  Well, certainly known for doing lots and lots of good work -  groundbreaking, nation-leading work. So I am pleased to have you on the  program again and eager to dive into these issues.

Heather Weiner: [00:01:05]  Oh my gosh. I love podcasts and how they spend the first couple of  minutes telling each other how much they love each other.

Crystal Fincher: [00:01:12]  Well, see the awesome thing about having a podcast is it does give me  an excuse to talk to people who I adore and admire and who are doing  incredible work. So this is - this is really a bonus and a perk.

Heather Weiner: [00:01:23] Yeah. I love - I love all the different, incredible guests that you've had on.

All  right. What are we talking about this week? Crystal! I'm so excited.  Like, it's like, it's kind of like Christmas. It's not quite Christmas.  It's more like - I don't know - hmm, more like opening, like  Thanksgiving for political folks right now.

Crystal Fincher: [00:01:41]  For political folks - or maybe it's like Christmas Eve for political  folks in Seattle - as we like unwrap the presents, you know? Get the few  early ones on Christmas Eve and unwrap the presents that are political  candidates for mayor and city council. And we had some more  announcements this week. So I guess looking at the mayor's race to begin  with, what's the shape of the race right now?

Heather Weiner: [00:02:06]  Yeah. Well, okay. First, full disclosure - I'm currently working with  Lorena González. I'm helping her out with some comms work, but that's  only for a couple of weeks just to help her get off the ground on her  campaign. So full disclosure there. So you'll know that I'm not biased  when I say, Wow, Lorena González is so - but yes, I'm - I think this is  pretty big news. You know, the city council president is running for  mayor. I think she is definitely has the biggest name recognition of  anybody who's in the race right now. But there's also some really great  people who have already declared like Colleen Echohawk, Lance Randall,  and Andrew Grant Houston, all of whom are people of color, which is just  amazing to have that deep of a bench and so many great leaders of color  running for mayor. I just think it's wonderful here in Seattle.

Crystal Fincher: [00:02:52]  Yeah. And we're seeing that increasingly, and to me it is positive and  notable because so, you know, we need representation and power across  the board - certainly within the political system and within policy  places, in addition to others. And the leaders that we have and kind of  also breaking through what so many people do very often - it's assume,  you know, well, there is a Black opinion and there is a, you know,  Latino or Hispanic opinion. There is an, you know, like Asian people  believe - as if, you know, that is one category with an opinion. And to  me one of the very healthy things is that we can have conversations  about the various experiences we've had and the perspectives that we  have and they're nuanced and varied. And that is - that reflects  reality.

And so to be able  to have that seen more widely, hopefully, normalizes that, Hey, you  know, I'm just going to look to one person from all of the non-white  groups, because we have no problem distinguishing between white people  and well, this is an environmental candidate, this is someone who is  representing business and everything and in past elections we certainly  have - Okay, well, that's - that's the candidate from the Black  community. That's a Black candidate and it is not that simple. And so we  do have a wonderful representation of Seattle so far, and there's also  some other folks rumored at getting in. So who else might join the  race?

Heather Weiner: [00:04:32]  Well, we're still hearing rumors about Bruce Harrell, former city  council member. We're hearing rumors about Jessyn Farrell, who is a  former state legislator . Possibly Nikkita Oliver, question mark. So  there's a lot of people out there who are still thinking about running. I  think it's going to be a crowded race. If you remember, when we had an  open seat after Ed Murray, we had dozens of candidates running. Full  disclosure - I worked for Cary Moon during that campaign. And here we go  again.

Crystal Fincher: [00:05:02]  Here we go again. So we're getting to the point where many candidates  are announcing here in this February and through March timeframe.  Usually candidates are in if they're going to be in by that time,  although there could be some after. But how are people, I guess, after  their rollouts and their campaign announcements - how are they  positioning themselves?

Heather Weiner: [00:05:26]  Yeah, I was just going to ask you that question. How are they  positioning themselves? I mean, who here is the, you know, in that list  of people we've talked about is the Chamber candidate? Who is the far  left candidate? None of these are really that clear. Even for Lorena,  there's quite a bit of conversation about collaboration, about bringing  sides together, about not having the yelling and frankly, a lot of hate  speech that has been coming towards the Council and between the council  and other folks for the last couple of years. It's no secret that the  Council and the current mayor have had a rough start - now in year three  - on their working relationship.  And you know, there's also confusion  among the public about, well, what does the City Council really do?

So  I wondered - Crystal, if we could just kind of review that for a  second. Let's do a quick Civics 101 here and remind ourselves that when  you talk about the City Council, it's the same as talking about Congress  essentially. The City Council reviews the budget, they make  legislation, they make specific policy, they pass laws - but then it is  up to the mayor's office and the enormous amount of people who work for  the City of Seattle to implement those policies, to spend that budget  wisely. And I think that Durkan - and I'm saying this on behalf of  myself, not on behalf of anybody's campaign - I think Durkan has done an  excellent job of - anytime there was a problem, putting it on , putting  the blame on the City Council instead of taking responsibility for  herself.

Crystal Fincher: [00:06:55] She is a masterful blamer - I would agree with that.

Heather Weiner: [00:06:59]  So I think - and I think the public and some members of the press have  bought it. I've been making jokes all day today that the cruise ship  industry is going to be closed this year. And because of some rules that  Canada is putting forward - not allowing them to dock. And why aren't  we blaming that on the City Council too? So I'm really very curious to  see how these different folks who are running, who are all - seem to be  kind of rushing for the middle, except for maybe Andrew Grant Houston -  how they're going to handle that.

Well,  that was not anybody like a candidate calling. Sorry. So I think it's  going to be super interesting to see how that positioning is handling  out. And I think a lot of what's happening at this moment is people  re-introducing themselves to the public.

Crystal Fincher: [00:07:43]  And I think the re-introductionis needed and useful. And also, with the  rollouts that they have  and the interviews that candidates have done  in various places. And I will say the South Seattle Emerald has done an  excellent job with the various candidate interviews and getting more  detailed than we often see in an initial interview certainly - is that  it's not immediately apparent that people are trying to position  themselves as, Well, I am the Chamber candidate, and I am the candidate  of the people, and the left progressive candidate. And it really has  been an issues focused conversation so far. But how do you see things  shaping out, moving forward? Do you see front runners in this race? Do  you see people starting with clear advantages in their position?

Heather Weiner: [00:08:38]  Yeah. I mean, look, I mean, obviously Lorena González is the front  runner here. She has the fundraising base, she has the name recognition,  she has the knowledge - deep inside knowledge - of how the City Council  works. She's well-known as a civil rights attorney in this town.  Remember - she was the lawyer who fought for victim - fought for justice  for the victim of the infamous "I'm going to beat the Mexican piss out  of you" incident with SPD. So she's very well known, but Colleen  Echohawk is also very well-known.

She's  got within certain circles, you know - she's known for her advocacy on  housing affordability and philanthropy. She's on the board of the  Downtown Seattle Association. So she's pretty well-known too. So I don't  know - I think it's going to be interesting to see how that works out.  I'm also very curious to see what happens with the independent  expenditures. Now, as you remember, because it wasn't that long ago - it  was 2019 - Amazon dumped $1.5 million into trying to elect their slate  of candidates. And they also put - big businesses also put, including  Comcast, put a million dollars into electing Durkan. So who they gonna  put their money behind this year is really the question. There's been  some rumors the Chamber is going to stay out of it, but we've been  seeing a lot of other stuff happening that indicates, Nah, they're not  gonna - they can't resist.

Crystal Fincher: [00:10:07]  They have never been able to resist and I don't think that this is  going to be any different. They certainly seem - while they still may  have a question, perhaps, on who they'll ultimately support. They  certainly seem to be moving in the direction of preparing that support  and putting themselves in a stance to activate for their candidate once  they're chosen and official.

Heather Weiner: [00:10:31]  Let's - I mean - now the Chamber is going to argue and I think Tim  Burgess and Tim Ceis, that people who are really - who are advising, who  are the consultants on this, I think they're going to start arguing  that things have changed in the last two years. And they have - but not  because of anything the City Council has done. I mean, look, we're in  the middle of a pandemic, right? Once every hundred years that something  like this would happen. Poverty is on the rise because people have been  unemployed. There's less money circulating through our economy right  now. People are facing eviction, they're facing mental health issues and  also substance use disorder issues.

Yeah.  Crime is going up right now. Yes - people - we are seeing increased  homelessness and all of these are symptoms of the larger issue of wealth  inequality and what's happening with our economy under COVID. They're  going to try to put all of that - the increased visualization of  poverty, which is what homelessness is - they're going to try to put  that on the City Council. And I don't know if voters are going to  understand the big picture macroeconomics here.

Crystal Fincher: [00:11:36]  And I certainly do see a tendency - certainly from the mayor - and she  seems to have gotten that from those interests as she was running - to  blame everything on the City Council. We have seen several times over  the past couple years that when the Council and the mayor have  disagreed, the Council with the support of the public seemingly behind  them, has overridden the mayor. And seemingly won the argument with the  support of the public.

Heather Weiner: [00:12:07]  This mayor is probably the least enthusiastic about interacting with  the public of any mayor - well before COVID - and seemed a little bit  sour on the job from day one. And so I'm not surprised that she doesn't  want to run again. It is a hard job. And I will have to say that almost  every reporter who interviewed Lorena González this week asked, Why do  you want this job? It is not an easy job, right? We've got a city that  is very much divided. We've got massive wealth inequality. We are seeing  the impacts of 100 years of racial discrimination, of gentrification.  We are, you know - and expecting a mayor to come in and solve all of  those problems. And that's a really big burden. That's a really big  job.

Crystal Fincher: [00:12:56]  It is a big job and it is coming with more expectation of  accountability and accountability in more visible ways than we have seen  before. The public seems to be more engaged and less willing to  tolerate rhetoric and really looking for action. Someone's going to have  to prove that they have a plan that they're willing to fight for and  implement. How do you think the candidates are positioned to do that?

Heather Weiner: [00:13:22]  Yeah. I think the only candidate - now look, I sound like I'm  campaigning, please forgive me, okay? I do think the only candidate,  really, who knows how to work with the Council is the current Council  President.

Crystal Fincher: [00:13:35] You're listening to Hacks and Wonks with your host Crystal Fincher on KVRU 105.7FM.

Heather Weiner: [00:13:45]  There's two seats coming up, also at the same time - the election -  even if both of those seats went to conservative candidates , the mayor,  a progressive mayor, would still have a majority on the Council. So I  think there is a really good position here to get quite a bit done, at  least in the first two years of whoever the next mayor's reign is. And  I'm wondering - let's talk about those seats. So Teresa Mosqueda, I  think, thought for a couple of minutes about running for mayor, decided  not to do it, has already qualified for democracy vouchers in one week,  is on a fundraising tear. I think she's scaring off any other  challengers to her - I don't think anybody's going to want to do it.  She's already pretty popular.

And then you've got the seat that's being vacated by Lorena that's coming open and that's where everybody is flooding in.

Crystal Fincher: [00:14:30]  We saw Sara Nelson declare for that seat either yesterday or the day  before - this week, certainly. And she has run before. She's a business  owner. She's had the support of CASE, the Chamber's campaign arm before.  And so how, I guess, as she's running, how is she positioning herself  and what did she present as her plan and viewpoint in her rollout?

Heather Weiner: [00:14:56]  Yeah. Her talking point was - we need the perspective of a business  owner on the Council. People don't remember though - that actually Sara  Nelson was a staffe , City Hall staffer for quite a few years. I believe  - I know that she worked for Conlin - I'm going to have to fact check  this. Anyway, I know that she worked for Conlin and she is trying to say  that she needs to be the business representative. I think what's going  to happen though, is when people take a look at her positions and also  her backers, they're going to see the same big corporate folks that  we've always had. So that's going to be interesting.

Ryan  Calkins is also rumored to be thinking about this. He is currently a  Port Commissioner.  Also a small business owner. And has been, in my  view, really moving his own positions way to the left over the last year  which is interesting - handsome, tall white guy. We've also heard  rumors about Scott Lindsay who - former candidate for City Attorney -  who lost badly to Pete Holmes. And who also has been working closely  with KOMO and SPOG to foment, you know , anger towards the City  Council.

And then we've  also heard rumors about Brianna Thomas who's a friend of the show - I  know she's been on the show before . Who is also a Lorena González  staffer, who also has been named as a possible person who might be  running. So that's - and I think actually Brianna has, and I'm not just  saying this because I personally like her a lot - I actually think she  has a good chance. Voters like to elect former City Hall staffers. Lisa  Herbold - former city hall staffer. Dan Strauss - former City Hall  staffer. Alex Pedersen, former City Hall staffer. All of these folks -  Andrew Lewis, right - used to work at City Hall. So all of these folks  are folks who have been elected by the voters. I think she has a good  chance.

Crystal Fincher: [00:16:44]  I think she has a good chance. And I think that particularly with her -  especially right now and just talking about - voters want someone who  is prepared to get the job done and start executing and delivering  without just talking about what is needed without the knowledge and  ability to get it done. As that - as Lorena González's chief of staff -  she has been intimately involved with getting policy through and  implementing the passage and the implementation, the design of  legislation that can withstand the legal challenges. You know, it's as  important to make sure your policy can stick as it is to pass it. So I  think the combination of her experience kind of within that system and  also additional experience at the legislative level and then bringing a  community-oriented perspective into the office and really being able to  fight for what community is standing for. I know that Lorena has talked  about how important Brianna has been in not just reaching out to the  community which she's been very  helpful with, but also in bringing the  community perspective into the office. And to say, Hey, as a Black  woman, this is not trivial - being afraid for ourselves and our family,  as we walk out on the streets and not knowing if we're going to see  someone come home again, or if they're going to be you know, harassed  for, you know, either from the police or from, you know, Proud Boys  roaming the streets without consequence or a variety of things. So, so  being strong in that perspective has certainly, I think, helped policy  in Seattle , been valuable for Lorena, and what voters are looking to  see in their representatives today.

Heather Weiner: [00:18:35]  Yeah. And I know you said earlier at the show - that just because  you're a person of color does not mean that you just singularly  represent the people who you ethnically or racially identify with. But I  do - I do think from a just, you know, your average voter perspective,  seeing a Black woman on the City Council would be great because we do  not have any Black representation right now.

I  mean, but let's talk a little bit about what's happening on the money  front. So right now, most of these candidates are using democracy  vouchers - which I love, it makes me so excited. I mean, Seattle -  you're awesome. You are using democracy vouchers to support the  candidates that you want. This is the best way to overcome big money in  politics. The other thing I want to point out is the rules have really  changed for independent expenditures this year. Lorena, actually - don't  I just sound like I'm promoting her constantly on this podcast? Are we  going to have to declare this to the PDC as an in-kind contribution? You  know, she was originally an ethics and elections commissioner. And now  as a legislator with the City Council, passed some really remarkable  reforms to campaign financing so that corporations that have a  significant foreign presence are seen as foreign contributors and cannot  participate in independent expenditures. So that is really interesting.  And it's going to be interesting to see if Amazon and these other big  corporations are legally able to put money into PACs like People for  Seattle.

Crystal Fincher: [00:20:06]  Yeah. And they, you know, last time around, they basically said, Here,  have a blank check - whatever you want to spend, you can. To the point  that they were - they were spending so much, they were running out of  ways to spend it. So checking the influence of large actors, especially,  who may not have the interest of the City of Seattle as their primary  motivator , is something. I think that they'll find a way to participate  within this campaign, but I do think you made an excellent point about  democracy vouchers helping to check the power of corporations  like  Amazon and of those with the most money - which buys the most  communication and allows you to attempt to drown all of the other voices  out.

And we saw that  firsthand, last city council election, where really it was because the  people were engaged and did not appreciate Amazon trying to buy their  candidates. And buy their way onto the City Council and influence on it,  especially since the policies that they were fighting against were ones  that Seattleites supported by a wide margin. You know, the Head Tax is  popular among people in Seattle. The only entity that seems to be  against it is Amazon and therefore the Chamber, which seems to closely  follow Amazon's legislative and policy agenda.

Heather Weiner: [00:21:35]  Look, I mean, Amazon still polls high in this city, you know, their  political game-playing not withstanding. We - people still like Amazon.  We like having our packages coming to our house. We like how the ease of  Amazon, like voters still like Amazon. So - but they do not like Amazon  trying to deliver a slate of candidates. So I don't know that they're  going to be able to do it.

And  honestly, how do you spend money this year, Crystal? So remember  there's no political advertising on Facebook in the state of Washington.  Or - and Google says they don't allow it either in the state of  Washington although people get through. Twitter definitely doesn't allow  it anymore. So in terms of social media advertising and fundraising,  that's off the table. You definitely want to have people knocking doors  then, right? But how are you going to knock doors during COVID? We saw  that Mark Mullet did it. He hired - he hired people and I think that's  what helped him - pushed him over the edge. But how are you going to do  it? How are you going to spend that money?

You know, I think folksCrystal Fincher: [00:22:33]  are going to try it at the doors. I think that is going to happen. I  think that we'll see a lot of digital advertising money spent. And so,  although it may not be on Facebook and Amazon, it'll be on every other  site you go to. And those, you know, customized ads that are served up.  And I think that we are going to see, you know, an onslaught of radio  and TV and mail and, and kind of going back to the old standbys. And  frankly, what a lot of those entities are used to doing and have done  for decades, really. And just trying to out-communicate on the airwaves  and in the mailboxes.

But  we will see - I think that people really saw the power of democracy  vouchers before. And I think one thing that's underestimated is that not  only does it give people the power to compete with big moneyed  interests, with being able to broadly appeal to the residents of Seattle  and have that add up. But it also gets people engaged to a greater  degree than they did without them. The democracy voucher isn't just,  Hey, one transaction, let me hand this over. It really does create a  deeper bond or a deeper level of engagement with the candidate. So I  think that right now we're going to see candidates have to not just be  the candidate of the Chamber or with supportive unions - that they're  going to have to speak to people and get the support of the public as  much as they ever have before and not rely on, you know, Hey, look at my  friends over here. They're going to do the heavy lifting of this  independent expenditure communication without them having to make their  own case and be a credible candidate that people feel is up to the task  of handling the crises that we're facing.

Heather Weiner: [00:24:26]  Yeah. You know, I know we only have a couple more minutes left, but I  want to just say, I think one of the big players that we might see this  year coming into the City Council and mayor's race might be the big  grocery stores. They are big in the news this week - suing, well, some  of them are - suing to stop their own workers from getting hazard pay in  the grocery stores. I mean, these are people who are supposed to be the  heroes, the frontline workers. People who are exposing themselves to  hundreds and hundreds of people who might have COVID every single day.  They are getting sick. They are the ones absorbing the impacts of this.  And the grocery stores which are getting amazing amounts of profits  during COVID - because we're all buying our groceries and not eating out  - don't want to pay that money. And they are going to - they're suing,  they're saying it's unconstitutional. They're really raising a fuss.  Except - and PCC, which is supposed to be progressive, you know, co-op,  awesome place to shop - is one of the people who are screaming the  loudest. Except, and this blows my mind - Trader Joe's. You know, LA has  done the same ordinance - Trader Joe's just went ahead and said, You  know what? Good idea. We're going to do it for all workers across the  country. Everybody gets $4 an hour raise.

Crystal Fincher: [00:25:44]  Which was incredible to see and really did not do service to their  similar, large grocers who as you said, despite reaping windfall profits  since the beginning of the pandemic, have said, Well, we can't afford  this. This is gonna make the price of groceries go higher. You know, the  sky is going to fall. Don't pay attention to our exorbitant executive  pay. But if we give these employees on the frontlines who are risking  their lives 4 more dollars - things are going to be horrible.

Heather Weiner: [00:26:16]  Yeah. We're going to have to raise prices - blah, blah, blah, blah.  Meanwhile, these same corporations are buying back their own stock,  right? Or giving out big dividends. Their shareholders are making a  bunch of money - a grocery cart of money, Crystal. Yeah. Anyway, so look  for them to get, to be involved in the play. And again, they're  beseeching Mayor Durkan to veto this. I don't know if she is going to do  it, but I know the City Council has enough votes to override it.

Crystal Fincher: [00:26:43]  Well, and my goodness, you would think that Mayor Durkan would be  chastened a little bit about, you know, when the Council acts in service  of the people and I then move to veto it - it doesn't turn out well,  it's going to get overridden and then she's just sitting there once  again as someone who tried to get in the way of progress and was just  repudiated by everyone. And this seems like, you know, it seems like a  bad argument on its face. And one that doesn't really have a shot in  Seattle 'cause as you said, these corporate executive shareholders are  reaping a lot of profit and have not had the experience that so many  regular people, and certainly that many of their employees on the  frontlines have, in the pandemic. And struggling to pay bills, and  dealing with being exposed and trying not to bring that home to other  family members. And to have the CEO of PCC fight against it as she's  flying to Australia.

Heather Weiner: [00:27:49] Really?

Crystal Fincher: [00:27:50]  Literally. Literally was fighting against the $4 hazard pay as she's  tweeting online about loving her second home and getting ready to go to  Australia. I'm like, Read the room, read the room. And as you have Whole  Foods CEO, again, trying to put a progressive face on a company and him  saying, Well, if people would just eat better, they would be healthier -  wouldn't even need health insurance. Because certainly eating well  prevents injuries from car accidents and cancer and you know, just how  ridiculous and detached and entitled these people making these arguments  are and it's pretty transparent. So this is going to be interesting,  and I do think that they're going to play a greater role in attempting  to shift the discourse. And it'll be interesting to see how that is  responded to and how they receive that.

Heather Weiner: [00:28:48]  Well, I can't wait to talk to you about this more. I think I'm coming  back next month. Let's - let's check in and see what happens.

Crystal Fincher: [00:28:55]  Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for listening to Hacks and Wonks on  KVRU 105.7 FM this Friday, February 5th, 2021. Our chief audio engineer  at KVRU is Maurice Jones, Jr. and the producer of Hacks and Wonks is  Lisl Stadler. Our wonderful co-host today is Seattle political  consultant Heather Weiner. You can find Heather on Twitter @hlweiner.  You can find me at 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 show and our mid-week show delivered to your  podcast feed. And you can get a full transcript of this episode and  links to the 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.