Week in Review: January 6, 2023 - with Heather Weiner

Week in Review: January 6, 2023 - with Heather Weiner

On this Hacks & Wonks Week in Review, political consultant and show host Crystal Fincher is joined by fellow political consultant and urban farmer, Heather Weiner, for an enthusiastic conversation looking ahead to the 2023 Washington state legislative session, reviewing key announcements from a party leader and a city councilmember who aren’t running again, and discussing what makes for effective political mail.

Crystal and Heather start the show looking at what’s coming in the 2023 state legislative session. They highlight housing, drug possession laws, childcare, and education as key areas that our representatives will be working on in Olympia, and point out the mandate voters gave our leaders by electing for fighting for progressive reforms last November.

This week, state Democratic Party Chair Tina Podlodowski announced she will not be running for state chair again. Crystal and Heather review Podlodowski’s accomplishments as chair and compare her tenure to other state parties like New York. In more local news, Seattle City Councilmember Alex Pedersen announced he will also not be running for re-election this year, meaning that now three city council seats will not have an incumbent in their race.

After a brief discussion about Seattle’s I-135 Social Housing initiative, which will be decided on a February 14th ballot, Crystal and Heather have an in-depth conversation about what makes for effective political mail. It’s an informative discussion from two highly-accomplished experts in the field that you won’t want to miss!

About the Guest

Heather Weiner
Heather Weiner (she/her) is a political consultant with 30 years of experience on labor, environmental, LGBTQ, racial justice, and reproductive rights issues. She focuses on ballot initiatives, independent expenditures, legislative, union organizing and contract campaigns. She's a recovering lawyer.

Find Heather Weiner on Twitter/X at @hlweiner.


The Hacks & Wonks logo. Below that a title reads "2022 In Review," with the following stats below: 97 Total Episodes, 71 Total Guests, 25  Interviews with Electeds, 4 Candidate Forums.

Inslee Rolls Out ‘Substantial and Audacious’ Housing Agenda in Budget Proposal” by Ryan Packer from The Urbanist

Voters sent clear message to WA leaders for 2023 Legislative session” by Andy Billig from The Seattle Times

In 2023, WA lawmakers will decide the legal future of drug possession” by Joseph O’Sullivan from Crosscut

Missing Middle Housing Reform Returns for 2023 Legislative Session” by Doug Trumm, Stephen Fesler, & Natalie Bicknell Argerious from The Urbanist

What WA voters want to see from the 2023 legislative session” by Joseph O’Sullivan from Crosscut

WA Democratic Party Chair Tina Podlodowski stepping down” by Jim Brunner from The Seattle Times

Alex Pedersen Not Seeking Second Term on Seattle Council” by Doug Trumm from The Urbanist

WA Supreme Court clears way for state to collect capital-gains tax” by Claire Withycombe from The Seattle Times

House Our Neighbors website - I-135 Overview and Text

Catch Up on Seattle’s Social Housing Ballot Measure at Our January Meetup with Tiffani McCoy” by Doug Trumm from The Urbanist


[00:00:00] Crystal Fincher: Welcome to Hacks & Wonks. I'm Crystal Fincher, and I'm a political consultant and your host. On this show, we talk with policy wonks and political hacks to gather insight into local politics and policy in Washington State through the lens of those doing the work with behind-the-scenes perspectives on what's happening, why it's happening, and what you can do about it.

If you missed our Tuesday midweek show, we had an enlightening discussion with Senator Manka Dhingra, Chair of the Senate Law & Justice Committee in our State Legislature and our State Senate, where we talked about the tough issues of her committee, the tough issues her committee will take on this legislative session. Find it in the resources below or on our website, officialhacksandwonks.com.

Full transcripts and resources referenced in the show are always available on our website and in our episode notes. Today, we're continuing our Friday almost-live shows where we review the news of the week with a co-host. Welcome back to the program, friend of the show and today's co-host: political consultant and urban farmer, Heather Weiner.

[00:01:15] Heather Weiner: Good morning, afternoon, whatever day it is for your listeners - time of day - Crystal Fincher.

[00:01:20] Crystal Fincher: Hey, hey, hey.

[00:01:22] Heather Weiner: So happy to be invited back. I really thought for a moment there that I had just completely bungled it and would never be invited back. So can't tell you how excited I am to be here in 2023.

[00:01:34] Crystal Fincher: Now hush about you bungling stuff. You remain one of the most admired and in-demand political consultants - and wonderful mentors and friends to so many of us.

[00:01:49] Heather Weiner: Oh, I love this part of every podcast, whether it's this one or anybody else's, where people just give each other big air kisses. So big air kiss to you, Crystal Fincher.

[00:01:58] Crystal Fincher: Big air kiss to you. I love it, and I love that - yeah, we get to talk to great, awesome, incredible dynamic people and learn from your wisdom. And just get a chance to say Hi, because we get so busy sometimes that it becomes hard. So I - we're listening to each other's voices. But while we record, I can see your face - this gives me an excuse to see your face.

[00:02:27] Heather Weiner: Well, good morning. Listen, I am so excited about today's conversation because - as you know - it is not quite Christmas Eve for all of us hacks and wonks. But it's pretty exciting - I would say maybe more like right before 4th of July - because the fireworks are going to start exploding on Monday when leg session comes in - in Olympia - and we're already seeing pre-filed bills, people are already starting to stake out their positions.

[00:02:53] Crystal Fincher: They are.

[00:02:54] Heather Weiner: Yeah, it's going to be very interesting - with the Democrats coming in just fired up to get some stuff done.

[00:03:01] Crystal Fincher: Love it. Legislative Session Eve basically.

Before we even get to that, I did just want to take a moment. We, the team here - Bryce Cannatelli, Shannon Cheng, and I - looked back at our 2022. And usually we don't do this publicly, but we thought - we actually did a lot of work this past year and we just did a little 2022 In Review. We actually did 97 total episodes in 2022, which is a lot - 71 total guests, 25 interviews with elected officials, 4 candidate forums. We did a lot of work, a lot of shows. And the podcast overall - I was just saying yesterday - it, for being just this completely niche, really wonky local government politics and policy podcast, which - I was like, Okay, maybe seven people will listen to when we started out, but I just think it's really important to talk about these issues. It's become bigger than I ever thought it would. And I just really appreciate all of the listeners and people who engage. We are really passionate about just engaging in our community, including our local government. This is how we shape who we are and tomorrow - I've said before - getting involved in local government is organizing.

[00:04:33] Heather Weiner: And it's, and it's fun.

[00:04:35] Crystal Fincher: It really is. And you can make a difference, you can change things - you have so much impact locally. And so I hope, as we talk about this, people see that and feel that - and get activated and involved. But anyway, just wanted to take a moment to say thank you to everyone. We do this podcast in the middle of all of the rest of our work - this is a side project and not what we do actually full-time - we're political consultants. And squeezing this in between everything is a lot of work - it takes a lot of time - but we feel it's important, and we enjoy it, and we enjoy interacting and speaking with all of you. So thank you once again.

And on to a legislative preview. What can we look forward to this legislative session, Heather?

[00:05:33] Heather Weiner: First, let's just say that the Democrats are coming in and saying that they are being given a mandate by the voters. I don't know if you read Andy Billig's op-ed in The Seattle Times where he laid out, Hey, we won big this year and we have a mandate to address racial equity, to address homelessness, housing, tax fairness, the environment - and we're ready to do it. To which Danny Westneat, ever playing the devil's advocate and a grumpy old man like Walter Matthau, suddenly wants to say - No, you didn't really get a mandate. You just lucked out because of Dobbs and Roe V. Wade. I think Danny is reading the room wrong. I think Andy Billig totally has it. The voters want more progressive policies, they want to see Washington become a better state to live in, and they want the super rich to pay for it. And I'm very excited to see what this legislative session comes up with.

Top of the agenda, of course, is from Governor Inslee's budget, which he announced right at the end of the month in December - where he dropped a bombshell saying he wants to run a statewide referendum that raises money for housing. And I think that's an amazing, fantastic idea - and we're hearing a lot of support from Republicans actually - even Braun is out there talking about middle-income housing, which is fantastic. We need to make sure that we don't lose sight of what the real - the other big crisis that is in front of us every day, which is the lack of low-income housing. I'm really hoping that the Legislature is going to take that by the horns and run it through this year. What else are you seeing, Crystal?

[00:07:19] Crystal Fincher: I am definitely seeing that. I think, in housing, it is really interesting to see the increase in momentum, support - even just from last legislative session - for taking action on middle housing, or the ability to build in more places to increase the housing supply in the longterm. Also remains to be seen if there is enough momentum to, as you just mentioned, address lower-income folks and their ability to afford housing, keeping people in their homes, renter protections, those types of things. We will see how that lands in this Legislature. I think - seeing momentum on some public health issues - they're going to have to address the Blake fix, or the legislation that was brought about from the Blake decision from our State Supreme Court addressing personal possession of drugs and substances. And in addressing that, they're going to be forced to take that on this session. And we actually had a great conversation with Senator Manka Dhingra in our midweek episode about that. I think one thing that people are wondering about is just in the issue of education - we saw so many strikes by public educators really standing up for their kids and especially bringing attention to how short-staffed and underfunded our special education system and resources are -

[00:08:56] Heather Weiner: And childcare.

[00:08:57] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely. And although there was some improvement made on that in the short term - really what was made plain - is that there needs to be some statewide fixes. We have to more fundamentally address education. And I don't know if that's going to be addressed this session, but I think that's another area where voters spoke loudly and clearly - from people who were really articulating the importance of that as candidates and also that we just saw in the support of teachers. It's always interesting when those strikes happen and people are trying to figure out - okay, is there going to be pushback against the strikes? Is there going to be support? And in district after district - doesn't, didn't matter whether it was in a metropolitan area, suburban, rural - those teachers had the support of the families and the parents in their district and a recognition that we have to do better. So I do hope that we see action taken on that. And I think they can expect to face questions if that doesn't look like that happens.

[00:10:05] Heather Weiner: So let me pivot on that one and say - earlier this year, we heard from a lot of school districts that said they might have to do more levies in order to fund their needs - whether that's basic construction, repairing these aging schools, funding special ed programs, funding general programs. And what happens is when they pass a levy, that's through a property tax and that property tax means that the lowest income people are the ones who end up paying the greatest percentage of that. So I am very excited to see in the Governor's budget that he is already taking into account the capital gains tax, which is going to the Washington Supreme Court for a hearing on the 26th of this month. He's already assumed that will be upheld as constitutional and has incorporated that money into education, particularly preschool help for low-income families and expanding childcare opportunities for all families. I'm very happy to see that - I think that's pretty exciting.

But did you read this Elway poll that Crosscut did? Yeah - talking, asking voters what their highest priority issues were. I thought that was also super interesting because I find the Elway polls skew pretty conservative - and sometimes they're worded a little conservative for me, sometimes I don't really buy them - but I actually got polled on this, so I was very excited to see where I was. And more than a majority of the voters do support the Governor's proposal - raise a $4 million bond for homelessness and housing. They support more funding for education. They want the Democrats to move forward on these progressive policies. I think the Republicans are going to be smart this year. I don't think they're going to pick fights on the dumb issues for them - I don't think they're going to pick fights on choice, I don't think they're going to pick fights on LGBTQ issues. I think they're going to pick a fight on taxes and I think they're going to pick a fight on decriminalization. I think that's where they think they can start to wedge people and start to pull some of the moderate conservative Democrats with them. What do you think?

[00:12:10] Crystal Fincher: You know, that's such an interesting issue. Speaking of public polling, every time this is polled - and it has been several times - the public is ahead of where our legislature is and the public is clear about - on issues of legalization, that they want a public health approach. We can look around and see that the War on Drugs has failed, right? We've been trying this for 40, 50 years and has not worked, even though that it's taken a ton of resources. And so they do want a different approach and to stop doing the things that haven't worked. And so it's really interesting because the public is there. And when it's put in front of the public, they vote in that direction. But some of our legislators are behind where the public is, and we hear concerns from them that frankly we don't see. Even in King County, when vote after vote, we see people and candidates who have articulated a more evidence-based approach to these things - that takes into account where criminalization is counterproductive, and doesn't make people safer, and doesn't get us closer to where we need to be as a society.

[00:13:30] Heather Weiner: And is a waste of taxpayer dollars, honestly, right - incarceration.

[00:13:34] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, it is really inefficient and expensive. And so that's going to be interesting - to see if people follow where evidence is and it's very clear, or if they don't - I don't know where the Legislature is going to land on that.

[00:13:49] Heather Weiner: I feel like it has less to do with facts and it has more to do - I know this is going to shock you and all of your listeners - that politics and policy may not have anything to do with facts, and may have more to do with personal experience. And I think there are many legislators and many of us who have people in our lives who we love and care about who struggle with substance use disorder. And I think that those stories of people who we love and care about because - who are struggling with substance use disorder and face incarceration if they ask for help and so they refuse, they cannot ask for help because they are afraid of incarceration. I think that if some of those stories can come out, that if legislators have courage to share their personal stories with permission of the people involved, of course, I think that will be almost as persuasive - if not more persuasive - than the facts. Because it is the dehumanization of people who suffer from substance use disorder, which is a public health issue - it is a mental and public health issue - that people who suffer from that are demonized and dehumanized. And while we continue to allow that to happen, I don't think we're going to get very far. So let's use those personal stories. Let's have the courage to come out with our own personal stories about substance use disorder - for me, it's a lot of red wine - to get people to talk about it and take away the stigma and get some solutions on the table.

[00:15:15] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely. So it's going to be interesting to see. There certainly will be a lot that unfolds during the session and we will continue to pay attention to what happens, but certainly it's going to be, it's going to be an interesting session and I think beyond everything, you're absolutely right. There is a mandate to act and people are expecting action.

Another piece of big news this week - seeing a series of big news where people announcing that they are not running for the seats that they hold. And I guess starting off is one that's not technically a public official, but is very visible in politics and policy in Washington - Tina Podlodowski, the State Chair of the Washington State Democrats, announced that she is stepping down from her position. What did you think about this?

[00:16:07] Heather Weiner: Well, first - I am a big fan of Tina Podlodowski's. I think she has done an absolutely amazing job as Chair. She's raised more money. She has focused on Field instead of a lot of internal stuff. I think she's revolutionized, not revolutionized, but certainly taken the State Dems into a much better direction. And even just from going from caucus to primary system - all of it, I think, has been better for the State Dems in general. So I'm a big fan of Tina's. I think we need to remember what the State Chair does. So whoever is in that position is the face and voice for the State Party. They get to be the bad guy in a lot of ways. They get to be the attack dog, and that's the role that they have to play and sometimes it makes them unpopular. I think that they need to raise a lot of funds. They need to make a lot of friends and be close to the establishment - raising that money - while at the same time answering to the grassroots and more radical elements of the party who actually show up, knock doors, and do the hard work. It's a difficult position and I think whoever runs for it, and we'll know on January 28th who wins that position, has got to be prepared for walking that tightrope for the State Dems. I've seen that Shasti Conrad has already announced that she's running and has lined up a very impressive list of endorsers. So I know we both are Shasti fans and as the current Chair of the King County Democrats - or previous Chair of the King County Democrats - I think she's well positioned to take that role on. What do you think?

[00:17:55] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, completely agree with you. And just - on Tina - that is a position that is really hard to get kudos for when you're doing things right. You're always making someone unhappy if you're doing things right. But what a contrast between the successes that we've had and built on in Washington state and the mess that we see in a state like New York.

[00:18:18] Heather Weiner: Oh, right.

[00:18:21] Crystal Fincher: That state party has just managed to really mess things up so severely that the entire country is paying for them - potentially just the composition of the House and the majority - looks like New York is responsible for messing that up. And just the calamity that is George Santos who - is that even his real name? Who has lied about everything under the sun?

[00:18:53] Heather Weiner: Look - Tina is regarded by many of the state chairs around the country as one of the best in the country, because of what she's done with the State Party here. And I do want to say there's been a lot of criticism of her. I also am a woman who sometimes says things that piss people off. But I will say that, Look, if her name was Tim Podlodowski, she may have gotten a little bit less of the criticism for being the badass that she has been. Now, the next person who comes in is probably going to want to heal some of the intraparty wounds and build some bridges back. And I think that person has to be prepared to do some of that. But again, the State Party is often an unrecognized powerhouse behind many campaigns, Congressional campaigns, our recent campaign with Senator Murray. And the people who do that really hard work behind the scenes do deserve to be recognized - shout out to all of the State Dem staffers.

[00:19:55] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. We also saw news of Alex Pedersen on the Seattle City Council announcing that he will not be running again.

[00:20:04] Heather Weiner: Number three - we have three open seats in Seattle.

[00:20:08] Crystal Fincher: So what is this landscape? What does this mean for the City of Seattle?

[00:20:13] Heather Weiner: First, let me just say - to everybody who's been asking, I am not working on any candidate campaigns in Seattle because -

[00:20:18] Crystal Fincher: Ditto.

[00:20:19] Heather Weiner: I can't do it anymore. It's just too emotional. It just wrecks me too much emotionally. It's just not good for my mental health, and my wife will kill me if I work on another candidate campaign in Seattle. So this is super interesting because I think that Bruce Harrell is actually still pretty popular in the City. I think that he - if nothing changes wildly between now and August, I think that his anointed candidates will definitely come through primaries, if not win. So I think whoever's running right now has to be ready to not attack Harrell and to be in a position to talk about how they're going to improve things or work with the current mayor. The current mayor is not - I do not get the sense that people are ready to hold this current mayor accountable for anything. They still like what he's doing. They think he's a nice guy. There's not been a major snowstorm or police shooting. So as far as the general public is concerned, Harrell's all right. And I think Inslee is actually giving Harrell and a lot of other city leaders a great out by running - going back to this bond initiative - by running this massive bond initiative referendum to fund housing and homelessness, because that is the major issue in major cities around the state. And in this way, the city leaders will be able to point to that, talk about how that's going to be the solution, and are able to walk away from it.

[00:21:41] Crystal Fincher: I don't know that I necessarily agree with that.

[00:21:43] Heather Weiner: Please - I love it when you disagree.

[00:21:45] Crystal Fincher: I think that it's up in the air - and this is so interesting because this is like the conversations that we have amongst ourselves elsewhere - so I think the City is in a very interesting place. I think the City is progressive and frustrated at not feeling like issues are getting better, and not seeing issues get better that have been talked about as the most important issues - the crises that we're facing, yet still not seeing substantive or tangible improvement. And I think also - just looking at these last November elections - we see, especially in areas like North Seattle that have been traditionally thought of as more moderate - definitely look like they're different, like they're significantly more progressive than they were. And it makes sense when you think about the increase in renters, that the pressures on people of even generous incomes being able to afford the increasing and astronomical rent, just being able to enter the housing market in Seattle close to services and the City or being displaced further out from that. And so I think that you see the foundation of a more progressive shift, which we have seen a trend towards more progressive policy over the past several years overall.

Now, this is an odd year. We're not going to see the same level of turnout, which is why we talk about even- versus odd-year elections this year - and that is a headwind. So it's going to be really interesting to see. And I actually think the individual candidates are going to make a difference. How can they articulate a vision of what they can get done positively that's not based on - to your point actually - what they dislike or grievances that they have, and more of a vision for what they can accomplish. How can they work together with people to do that? But I do think that people are more on guard than they used to be for - I'm the adult in the room, and I'm the conciliator and the person who can bring everyone together to find a place where everyone agrees and we can move forward, because -

[00:24:07] Heather Weiner: I'd vote for you. I vote for you - that is the speech.

You're probably right. And let's remember that in this year, the seats that will be open or up for re-election are going to be the district seats. So in this case, people who are currently going to stay in - like Tammy Morales, Dan, or Kshama - are going to have to show what they have done for the district. And people who are running for those open seats are going to have to be super hyper local focused on their district. What are they going to do for West Seattle? What are they going to do for North Seattle? And talk about that rather than the City around - and I think it's going to be a lot of geographic discussions, a lot of very specific - here's what we're doing for this park, here's what we're doing for this intersection - neighborhood community talk rather than the citywide referendum.

[00:24:57] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, yeah, I completely agree with that.

[00:25:01] Heather Weiner: Yay, you agree! I was really looking forward to a smackdown though. One day, Crystal will just - it won't just be this chorus, and one day we'll have a fight about something and it will be really, really cool. I'll find something we disagree on - it's gonna be like mayonnaise versus mustard or something.

[00:25:18] Crystal Fincher: Oh my goodness, there will be something someday.

[00:25:22] Heather Weiner: So I just want to point out one more time for your listeners that there's two really big things happening the week of January 24th. One is this Washington Supreme Court hearing on the capital gains tax, which has enormous implications - not just for $500 million of funding a year for childcare and education that comes from the super super super rich, but also for our tax structure overall in the state. And the second is - much more micro - is the election of the new Washington State Party Chair two days later. So that's going to be a really interesting week. I can't wait to see who you have on that week to discuss what's happening there.

[00:26:04] Crystal Fincher: It'll be interesting to see. We also have a couple of things. We have a special election coming up in many jurisdictions in the state, including the City of Vancouver, Washington. But particularly in the City of Seattle - on February 14th, there will be a special election. If you know me, you know that I am not a fan of these February, April special election dates just because they are notoriously low turnout, but there is going to be a vote on social housing. Speaking of the motivation to address homelessness and housing affordability in this crisis, this is going to be on the ballot. We actually have a show coming up about this topic, but this will give Seattle the opportunity to establish a public developer - that establish publicly-owned, permanently affordable, cross-class communities with resident leadership - and basically establishing a type of social housing where it takes away the privatization, capitalist profit motive basically, of housing that we've seen where people are looking to create increased profits and income from raising rents. And really take away the ability to raise it and use resident funds to fund just the maintenance and upkeep without the pressure in - that happens in conjunction with the private sector - to continue to raise rents and hopefully create more sustainable, affordable, publicly-owned social housing that can start to address this housing affordability crisis and put in place a new and different model that isn't as reliant on federal funding, on federal income guidelines - and just give the City more flexibility to address its own issues. So this is going to be a really interesting thing that we have coming up. Ballots will be mailed on January 27, so that's coming sooner than we think. How do you see this playing out?

[00:28:20] Heather Weiner: Who is going to come out and oppose this? That's really what I want to know. I haven't heard that much from opposition right now, and I think it's really just going to be about how it's framed for the voters. I'm thinking a lot about ranked choice voting and how that kind of was the sneaker issue that came in. And at the last moment, they sent out really good mail - shout out to Moxie Media for some really good mail on that campaign - and won, not by a landslide - but won on a confusing campaign. So I wonder if this is maybe the sneaker issue also - that there isn't really a well organized opposition and it gets through.

[00:29:00] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. And I think how this is explained to the masses is going to be the thing. I actually completely agree -

[00:29:08] Heather Weiner: Again!

[00:29:09] Crystal Fincher: - just in the shout out with - on an issue that on its face is confusing to explain to voters - in what we just saw with ranked choice voting beating out approval voting. I think that was a great example of looking at - just when you have to communicate this simply to the masses - man, the ranked choice voting mail was excellent. The way that was communicated to all of the people - there are the people who pay attention, which is not a big percentage of people. We're abnormal. If you're listening to this show, you are abnormal.

[00:29:41] Heather Weiner: You're just now noticing that we're abnormal. You want to know how abnormal I am? Every piece of political mail that comes into our household - my wife knows to set aside for me because I keep it in a folder. I just keep all of the mail. I hoard it because I love to go back through it later and see what people did, what they didn't do.

Look at you - you do the same thing - you have - Oh my gosh, you have Teresa Mosqueda - look at you with all that mail.

[00:30:08] Crystal Fincher: That is me pulling up my -

[00:30:10] Heather Weiner: That is sexy. That is - I'm coming over for a date. I'm gonna bring a bottle of wine, some candles, and we're going to go through your mail, your political mail -

[00:30:18] Crystal Fincher: We're going to go through mail.

[00:30:19] Heather Weiner: I always vote late, just so I can get the mail and I can see how people are doing it. And I like to play the guessing game of which firm did this mail - because there are certain firms that shall go unnamed that just do the same boilerplate, same design over and over and over again - and I can spot them a mile away. And then there's some people who just look like they did it with a Word doc and just threw it together - maybe on purpose, maybe not. And then there's sometimes just really highly polished, really engaging, creative stuff. So I love to hoard the mail. I've got a whole box over here, Crystal - come over, honey, put on something comfy, and we'll go sit on the couch and go through it together.

[00:30:59] Crystal Fincher: Oh, we're going to do that. I will bring my accordion file full of stuff.

[00:31:07] Heather Weiner: I'm not going to cheat on you - not cheating on you, honey. I also want to say a shout - a big warning to some folks out there who have sent out recent mail - it's called householding. When you do not send five pieces of mail to the same household - it's annoying to the household and it looks like a waste of money. It looks like your consultant's not doing a good job, so - to certain people who have sent out mail recently and not householded, you need to have a conversation with your people. That is a waste of postage. It's a waste of - it's a waste of postage when it really comes down to it.

[00:31:41] Crystal Fincher: It's a waste of postage, it's a waste of - yeah, it's a waste.

[00:31:45] Heather Weiner: It's called householding.

[00:31:46] Crystal Fincher: It is. And every year someone wins the - I-spelled-our-candidate's-name-wrong-on-the-mail lottery.

[00:31:53] Heather Weiner: Can we do an episode where all we do is just go through and make fun of ourselves and other people who make huge mistakes on mail - including me, by the way. I mean, that word "public" - it's often, loses the L.

[00:32:05] Crystal Fincher: Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness. Yeah, there are, there are a lot - yeah, you would be, you would be surprised.

[00:32:14] Heather Weiner: Also, I recently saw a piece of mail where "county" lost the O.

[00:32:19] Crystal Fincher: Oh no.

[00:32:23] Heather Weiner: Yeah.

[00:32:25] Crystal Fincher: There are all sorts of things that go wrong with mail and it still has - mail still has some utility. Obviously -

[00:32:37] Heather Weiner: Oh - mail still has some utility? I think mail has increased in utility over - since COVID. Tell me, tell me why you think it still has utility and then I'll give you the counterpoint.

[00:32:46] Crystal Fincher: It absolutely still has utility - one, especially during COVID when Field was impacted - that's a challenge. But it's so hard. Basically I think that you have to do everything, that you have to try and get to people in every way - I have to show you the commercials that we did.

[00:33:05] Heather Weiner: Oh, I'd like to see them. Oh, I've seen a couple. I've seen a couple. They were really good.

[00:33:09] Crystal Fincher: Thank you. But it's just hard, and I think lots of people who don't do this don't realize how hard it is just to get people's attention. The hardest thing to do - for a candidate or an issue - is not necessarily to beat your opponent. It's just to let people know that you exist. It's to break through all of the noise - because people are sick and tired of political stuff anyway. And there's so much happening, especially like last year when we had competitive Congressional races in many districts and legislative races, and there are so many political messages flying, there are five different mailers landing in mailboxes every day. Everything is a commercial in the middle of everything and just everything is that - it's hard to break through. And so really trying to stand out and in ways that are - that get you in front of the eyeballs of people - even if it's just the few seconds between when they pick up their mail and walk to the recycle bin, or they're half paying attention to a commercial. Hopefully people are making it to the doors also, but that's hard to do in a citywide election, in a City of Seattle. And maybe you can get to 50,000 people, but what are you going to do for the other 150,000-200,000?

[00:34:31] Heather Weiner: Look, mail is not - if you're down by 10 points, mail is not going to win, is not going to win it for you. But if you're down by 1 or you need to - you are tied - mail can definitely make the difference. And let me tell you why. Let me tell you why, Crystal. Number one, it gets - you definitely are getting into the household, right? It's not like digital, it's not like TV - you know that that voter - it's getting into that voter's household. Number two, you can micro-target the messaging to that household, unlike other ways. You can do that with digital somewhat - but really with mail, you can do an excellent job. And the third is voters want to make the right decision. They want information and to have that written information in front of them - that's comprehensive, that's just not a pretty picture and a whole bunch of endorsement logos, but actually has some - what am I saying? - some crunchy information in it. Voters want that and will keep it. And particularly people say, Oh, younger voters, they don't check their mail. Younger voters find mail to be - I don't know - quaint and interesting, and like to get letters and like to get things that are personally addressed to them because it makes them feel like - 'cause they're real people. So I am - I actually think mail is more effective and more important than ever right now. And I am not solely - I will do mail for campaigns, but I am not pitching my firm as a mail campaign. I'm just saying in general, do not discount it. And do not get yourself all, get your panties all in a twist about TV and cable and everything all the time - broadcast TV, God forbid - spend that money on getting to the people who vote.

[00:36:05] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, I think so. And also, especially in a vote-by-mail state - we're a 100% vote-by-mail state - mail is in the same medium as the ballot and the information that they're getting. Mail absolutely matters and it is one of - still - the most efficient methods to get to people that you can't talk to personally.

[00:36:27] Heather Weiner: Well, I just would like to invite you to come over one night and take a look at my mail.

[00:36:31] Crystal Fincher: Mail - it's a very vulnerable thing. It's a very sensitive thing. People are very sensitive about their mail. There is actually a reason why we have not done a mail breakdown on-air because people are very sensitive.

[00:36:46] Heather Weiner: There are people who will never come on your show about their mail

[00:36:49] Crystal Fincher: About their mail - and all of us are - it's not like every piece of mail I do is excellent, or dynamic, or on purpose.

[00:36:56] Heather Weiner: We could do noteworthy mail - how about that? I would love to do one - it'd be hard to do on a podcast 'cause people can't see it, but I would love to do - it's like one of those cooking shows where you can't taste what the people are talking about - but I would love to do one going through, like over the years, some really noteworthy mail. And I've got a couple that are just - there's one, there was a piece where it had a black hole cut out in it, and it was talking about how something was a waste of money and it was a black hole - that was by a consultant from the East Coast. There's another consultant who did a piece of mail - attack mail in a leg race that was real - oh no, it was in a city council race - that was horrible and awful, and I think won that election for that candidate. So I would love to go through that sometime - that'd be really fun. And also it would be really interesting to a niche audience of approximately 12 people, Crystal, so maybe not.

[00:37:51] Crystal Fincher: Oh, I mean - we would have 32 people who were riveted in that conversation. I don't want to rip people live on-air.

[00:38:04] Heather Weiner: Let's just only talk about noteworthy things.

[00:38:06] Crystal Fincher: Yes. And my biggest note - usually my biggest thing - is just trying to overcommunicate on mail. There - you can, if you try and say too much, you actually end up saying nothing. 'Cause people do need to be able to get what your - pick up what you're putting down at a glance. And then give them some hooks for a little bit more stuff. But you make that hard to do when you bury stuff in text. But anyway, we can talk about mail forever. But we will wrap up today's show.

And thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks on this Friday, January 6th, 2023.

[00:38:45] Heather Weiner: Oh my goodness.

[00:38:46] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, it's January 6th - a happy Insurrection Anniversary and Speaker Groundhog Day on the federal level. Hacks & Wonks is co-produced by Shannon Cheng and Bryce Cannatelli. Our insightful co-host today is political consultant and urban farmer, Heather Weiner.

[00:39:03] Heather Weiner: Thanks for having me.

[00:39:04] Crystal Fincher: You can find Heather on Twitter @hlweiner and that's H-L-W-E-I-N-E-R. You can find Hacks & Wonks on Twitter @HacksWonks and you can find me on Twitter @finchfrii, that's two I's at the end. You can catch Hacks & 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 the full versions of our Friday almost-live shows and our midweek show delivered to your podcast feed. Please leave us a review if you like us. You can also get a full transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced in the show at officialhacksandwonks.com and in the podcast episode notes.

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