Week In Review: June 10, 2022 - with Jim Brunner

Week In Review: June 10, 2022 - with Jim Brunner

On today’s Week in Review, Crystal is joined by Seattle Times political reporter Jim Brunner. For police news, they first cover an update in the on-going saga of Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer’s harassment of a Black newspaper carrier, then they break down the newest revelations in the controversy surrounding the missing text messages between former mayor Jenny Durkan and former Police Chief Carmen Best. In elections news, Crystal and Jim discuss activist Glen Morgan’s volunteer group that’s going door to door looking for illegal voters, and look at the motivations behind a Sequim lawyer’s frivolous election fraud lawsuit. Finally, they explain how the end of Roe v. Wade will have major consequences for abortion access in WA state, even though our state constitution gives us the right to it.

About the Guest

Jim Brunner is a political reporter for The Seattle Times.

Find Jim Brunner on Twitter/X at @Jim_Brunner.


“Court issues no-contact order against Sheriff Ed Troyer citing unlawful harassment of Black newspaper carrier” by Jim Brunner from The Seattle Times: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/law-justice/court-issues-no-contact-order-against-sheriff-ed-troyer-citing-unlawful-harassment-of-black-newspaper-carrier/

“Ex-Seattle Police Chief testifies that she deleted text messages in bulk” by Lewis Kamb from Axios: https://www.axios.com/local/seattle/2022/06/08/ex-seattle-police-chief-deleted-text-messages

“Lawyer’s email told all Seattle police employees to preserve texts” by Lewis Kamb from Axios: https://www.axios.com/local/seattle/2022/06/09/lawyers-email-seattle-police-employees-preserve-texts

“Group doorbells WA homes, searching for illegal voters and drawing complaints” by Jim Brunner and Joseph O’Sullivan from The Seattle Times: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/group-doorbells-homes-across-washington-searching-for-illegal-voters-and-drawing-complaints/

“WA Attorney General files bar complaint against Sequim layer over ‘frivolous’ election fraud case” by Jim Brunner from The Seattle Times: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/wa-attorney-general-files-bar-complaint-against-sequim-lawyer-over-frivolous-election-fraud-case/

“End of Roe v. Wade looms large in Idaho, where women are likely to seek abortions in Washington” by Jim Brunner from The Seattle Times: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/end-of-roe-v-wade-looms-large-in-idaho-where-women-are-likely-to-seek-abortions-in-washington/


[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 policy and politics in Washington State through the lens of those doing the work with behind-the-scenes perspectives on what's happening, why it's happening, and what you can do about it. Full transcripts and resources referenced in the show are always available at officialhacksandwonks.com and in the 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 today's co-host: Seattle Times political reporter, Jim Brunner.

[00:00:50] Jim Brunner: Hello, thanks for having me back again.

[00:00:52] Crystal Fincher: Thanks for coming back again - always enjoy your coverage, have followed it for years and we certainly have a lot of it to talk about this week. Starting off - looking at a court issuing a no-contact order against Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer, because he has unlawfully harassed the Black newspaper carrier that he notoriously accused of attempting to kill him, when it appears that he quickly recanted that and just initiated a whole unnecessary issue. But this has continued - what's going on here?

[00:01:29] Jim Brunner: Yeah, this was a little surprising. Ed Troyer, of course - last year, as you said - news came out, we reported that he had been following this Black newspaper carrier, Sedrick Altheimer, in his neighborhood late at night, last January. And they wound up getting in a standoff - Ed Troyer didn't identify himself as law enforcement and wound up calling an emergency dispatcher and saying - this guy's threatening to kill me - said it a couple of times. And then this massive police response comes in, which could have turned really dangerous. And when Ed Troyer was questioned by Tacoma Police, he basically recanted - he said there was no threat. And I think he thought there would be nothing more to come of that, but Tacoma Police took a report, I later found it and wrote about it, and it really blew up.

So this thing, more recently though, is surprising - Sedrick Altheimer is suing Pierce County now over this incident and sought a no-contact or an anti-harassment order because he said Ed Troyer has, since this incident - in more recent months, even - followed him at night, flashes lights. He believes that he was being intimidated and harassed. And I should say Ed Troyer and his attorney said - it's not true, there's no video of this - other than he does admit that they ran into each other at Ed Troyer's father's house where, oddly enough, Sedrick Altheimer is delivering a newspaper - but he denies the rest of it. But during the no-contact order hearing this week, Sedrick testified under oath and Troyer did not testify - he's facing this false reporting charges and his attorney basically invoked his Fifth Amendment rights. And so the judge accepted the Altheimer testimony and basically said - I'm issuing a one year, no-contact order - he has to say a 1000 feet from Mr. Altheimer. And it's pretty extraordinary - just another crazy kind of thing to happen to the Sheriff of Pierce County, who now has - he's been put on the Brady list, he's facing false reporting charges, and now he has a no-contact order against him.

[00:03:36] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and the judge here basically said that this is a concern about the Sheriff - knowingly, repeatedly - just disregarding the law and disregarding just how he's supposed to be conducting himself. He's an elected sheriff of Pierce County - this is not a situation where he can be fired, lots of calls for him to resign for accountability. As you said, he and his lawyer have been almost combative in the way that they have talked about this and characterized it - trying to say that it's a political vendetta.

But as you described, what's not in dispute is that he did call in - the fact that he, this newspaper carrier, he said threatened him when he did not and recanted that. But this newspaper carrier is lucky to be alive. A situation where a man on the street - and a Black man at that - in Tacoma, where there have been issues with excessive force and other issues, and having a huge police response to someone who is allegedly threatening the life of the sheriff could have turned deadly really quick. And then to turn around and harass him for just wanting to live his life and wanting some accountability attached - this is really scary, it is very scary. And it's a scary thing to me, just because this is someone in power who there doesn't seem to be any effective way, at this point of time, of bringing accountability to the situation. He's still leading the police department, and what kind of culture is that creating - are all questions that I think lots of people are contending with. What is next in this process? What is happening with his criminal trial, if you know where that is, and where do we go from here?

[00:05:33] Jim Brunner: Everything else is on hold pending that criminal trial - Sedrick's lawsuit is in federal court, but it's basically stayed until the criminal trial is resolved - because there are Fifth Amendment issues here. Basically the judge in the civil case isn't gonna let a bunch of testimony come in that then could maybe affect the criminal case. And that criminal trial was supposed to be in July, but it got - at the request of Troyer's attorney - has been bumped back to October, I think maybe October 31st. And I wouldn't be surprised if it gets bumped back again - Halloween. If it gets bumped back again, which I think is a common - I don't know, maybe it's a tactic by defense attorneys. He certainly has the right to a defense.

I think it's going to be interesting to see what happens in that criminal trial - it's two misdemeanor counts of - one of false reporting and one of making a false statement to a public official, basically all based on what he told the dispatcher that night and then recanted. I think that there is a - I think the prosecutors have to prove that he knew that this would cause some harm or - whether it's the massive police response or whatever. I think it's even more of a slam dunk if he had actually been - Sedrick could actually have been injured or something - thank God he wasn't, but it could have gone the other way. So it's going to be interesting to see if the prosecution and it's - he's being prosecuted by the State Attorney General's office, which he has tried to flip and say - it's Bob Ferguson, he's a Democrat, he's on - it's an anti-police witch hunt, basically.

[00:07:19] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, which to me seems could hold water, if just the facts are pretty plain and supported by the other sheriff deputies who were there - just the basic facts don't seem to be in dispute.

[00:07:37] Jim Brunner: No, it's just a question of whether it's criminal - something can be disturbing and wrong, but you don't always get convicted. The other thing that's been really troubling about this is - it's great that the Tacoma Police actually took a police report on this incident, 'cause Troyer thought they were just going to not write anything down and just - they let Sedrick go and there was no arrest - he was detained for a while, but there was no arrest. But - and in fact when I called Ed Troyer for the first story we did on this last March, he was very surprised that there was a police report and looked it up while I was talking to him and was just very shocked. So it's great that -

[00:08:16] Crystal Fincher: I'm sure he was.

[00:08:18] Jim Brunner: - the story probably wouldn't have come out if it hadn't been documented in that way. But as we've reported and others have reported, there's also a bad look because the deputies who showed up and the Tacoma police who interviewed Troyer didn't have their body cam on, didn't record the interview and said that he left it at the station. And that's just, even if that's true, it's just a bad look for accountability - because we all saw the video of Sedrick Altheimer that night. And we didn't get to see video of what Ed Troyer was saying directly. We did have the audio from the 911 or his emergency dispatch call, but that's another element of this that I found pretty disturbing.

[00:09:04] Crystal Fincher: And I would agree with that - kind of in the theme of pretty disturbing activity by some local law enforcement folks is another story this week about former Seattle police chief Carmen Best testifying that she deleted text messages in bulk. This is about several text messages with both her, former mayor Jenny Durkan that were deleted against policy - seemingly, it is illegal to delete records that are public records and activity that you do in service of the public. What happened with this this week?

[00:09:48] Jim Brunner: Yeah, my former colleague Lewis Kamb, who's been bird-dogging this story - went over to Axios - found, I think it was testimony that Best gave in a deposition in one of the lawsuits that's ongoing against the City. And she basically said that she was deleting text messages in bulk after just determining on her own that they weren't - they didn't have to be preserved as a public record, or they were somehow transitory. And as you said, I don't think that's how the Public Records Act is supposed to work, the City has training and policies on this, there's the law too. As a public official, you don't just get to say - these emails or these texts aren't relevant and the public shouldn't know about them. They should be preserved and then if there's a records request that comes in, a records officer looks at them and makes that determination - that's how it's supposed to work. And for some of the City's top officials to have deleted texts over that - I think it was the 2020 timeframe when the major protests were going on, the CHOP and all that - it's been a real smudge on the City's leadership. I think we're going to continue to see revelations. Obviously what everyone would love to see is if somehow these texts could get recovered, but they had a whole big forensic tech audit - I don't think they've been able to recover them. They're gone.

[00:11:15] Crystal Fincher: Yeah - there are several that were gone, there are some that have been recovered from the recipients on the other side, but there still is a significant amount that haven't been recovered. And as you said, these are from a very turbulent period in the City and City government, within the police department - lots of activity where people were wondering - who's making these decisions, who's calling the shots. A police precinct was seemingly abandoned - who knew about it, how did this happen and come to be - are all questions that still don't have answers and that you would assume had been talked about over text - that's a common way to communicate. And many of those were deleted. I believe Jenny Durkan has said that she didn't know and she dropped her phone in a lake and -

[00:12:08] Jim Brunner: Dropped it at the beach, yeah -

[00:12:09] Crystal Fincher: Yeah - something happened. Although that forensic audit that you referenced said that the setting to automatically delete messages was intentionally set - doesn't say by who -

[00:12:24] Jim Brunner: it was made manually.

[00:12:25] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, yeah, and so - hard to see any kind of wild accident that would have deleted some targeted texts. And then with Carmen Best admitting that she did delete texts in bulk, which - I think I was, we were talking earlier - it's one thing I think for someone who hasn't been in government, been around government to be like - I delete texts all the time, I don't want them all in there, it's fine. In government, this is a thing that everybody is very conscious of - there are trainings about this, there are constant conversations about this, there are emails frequently come in and sent around - resulting from public disclosure requests that, hey, we got a request - save any information, don't delete any information. In fact, there was a message like that that was uncovered and talked about in this Axios article saying - hey, don't delete any records, we have a request that we need to respond to - and these texts were deleted anyway. So it's just a challenge.

[00:13:31] Jim Brunner: It puts the City in legal jeopardy when they do this. And I think even the former City Attorney, Pete Holmes, who got ousted in the primary, as we remember - he went on a rant about this a year or two ago when I interviewed him. And basically said that this whole text deletion issue is going to cause the City all kinds of problems in the massive litigation that's going on over what happened in 2020 - in terms of lawsuits over people who were killed, perhaps lawsuits by businesses and others - so it's a real mess and I think we'll continue to see the effects of it for quite some time.

[00:14:09] Crystal Fincher: I agree. And no one seems to want to investigate this, or people saying - I do want to investigate it, my hands are tied. What does the prospect of accountability or getting to the bottom of this look like?

[00:14:24] Jim Brunner: Yeah, nobody seems to want to do a full investigation. And I think, as Lewis's articles pointed out, Bob Ferguson's office would be one that you'd think might jump in as an independent probe, but he does have limitations. The Attorney General's office can't just go investigate anything, especially on I think on the criminal side. They have to be asked - like often they get asked by small counties that don't have the ability to investigate complicated murders, for example. But Ferguson could get in touch with the governor and the governor could request this. And I don't think that - it doesn't seem like they want to do that at this point. And people can just make of that what they will - they don't seem to want to do it.

[00:15:12] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and likewise, the Seattle City Attorney actually does have the authority to make the referral. Ann Davison's office has said that they went through a review themselves and decided that this isn't worthy of a referral. When asked - what did they go through and how did they make that determination? - they didn't respond, but it certainly is something where a lot of people are asking for there to be more of an investigation. There are a number of public officials on the record saying this should be investigated. And just a lot of people right now looking at each other and saying - well, I can't really do anything now, I don't really know what to do. It continues to be a challenge.

Another interesting story that you wrote this week was about a group doorbelling Washington homes searching for illegal voters - that's been drawing complaints and a lot of attention. What happened here?

[00:16:13] Jim Brunner: Yeah, this is something that we've been hearing about. A group of - the organizer, who's a conservative activist out of Thurston County, Glen Morgan, says that - I think they've had up to 350 people going around the state doorbelling, knocking on doors. They're basically checking the voter rolls - they think that there's a lot of illegal voters out there, or the county auditors aren't updating the registrations enough. A lot of this is motivated by the doubts that former president Trump has seeded in our election system. There's no doubt that this is motivated by that in part, although some of the people I talked to said, claimed that - oh, I'm not really, that isn't what I'm doing, I just think it's interest - I just want to make sure the voter rolls are clean. So, I can't read people's minds - they could have varying motivations, but certainly there's an effort like this going on nationally.

One of the reasons that I wrote the article - several county auditors and the Secretary of State, Steve Hobbs, have put out public notices saying - we've been hearing, getting some complaints about these people. Some of them said that they were hearing that voters were under the impression that these folks were affiliated with official county auditor work, which isn't the case. And so they put out notices and public statements saying - you're not under any obligation to answer these people's questions. Now, the organizers said - we're very clear, we're not impersonating elections officials. I don't know what goes on in every door-to-door conversation, obviously, but some people have felt that this is over the top and maybe even voter intimidation.

A similar effort that I mentioned in Colorado - some civil rights groups have actually filed a federal lawsuit saying that the groups there are targeting neighborhoods with a high percentage of residents who are people of color. So, I think this kind of canvassing effort varies state by state. You've seen some really, I would say more bizarre stories, in some of the swing states where this is going on. But it's part of a national movement - it's largely driven by Trump's - a lot of it's just falsehoods about the 2020 election.

[00:18:42] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and it's a challenge, and it's not like no one ever goes to a door on behalf of voter activity - sometimes people reach out to folks who've had their ballots challenged to say - hey, I don't know if you know 'cause a lot of people don't check - your ballot is showing it's not counted yet with the county, this is how you remedy it. That certainly happens. This is a new dimension and a canvass to find illegal voters - you talk to a resident in Bremerton who said that the person who came to their house - the woman started off talking but then transitioned to a rant about "illegal immigrants" and ballot signature forgery. And as you said, clearly seemed very in line with some of the false and extremist talk that has been inflamed by former president Trump saying that he actually won the election despite every court that's had it in front of them saying - no, you didn't. But this is a challenge and for some people it may seem totally fine and they're checking in. For other people, I can definitely imagine it would be a little intimidating to have someone come to your door and say - we want to make sure you're legally authorized to vote. You aren't sure where they're from or not. And you feel like someone may be watching you or having it out for you.

[00:20:14] Jim Brunner: Yeah, I can see that potential - like you said, I tried to be careful in this article, because like you said - there's nothing per se wrong with going door-to-door and asking people to voluntarily disclose some information, you know what I mean? Whether they're wanting you to sign a petition of some kind or whatever, try to sell you something - but you could see it turning in a more sinister direction. I will say that the small amount of interactions I observed - it seemed like they were - they are checking against the voter rolls and saying - hey, we just want to check, does this person live here, and are they still voting? And in some cases, they do find - oh, no, that person doesn't live here anymore, I don't know why they would still be registered here. Now, the county auditor's are all the time going through data and postal service records, social security, death records, they even check obituaries in King County to make sure they're not - if people are dead, that they cancel the registration. So there's this constant process of updating the voter rolls, but the group that's doing this just has the belief that it's not, it's not sufficient.

[00:21:27] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, and I am trying to think about this - some of the county auditors involved said - hey, they forwarded us some list - or folks who they thought were suspicious - lists of people who, according to them, they sleuthed and investigated and came up with a list of these people who should not be on the voter rolls. And that actually turned out not to be the case. And kind of universally they're like - no, we took their list - we'll check anything that they give us, but we did and we didn't find anything fraudulent.

[00:22:05] Jim Brunner: Yeah. Occasionally they'll find - oh yeah, there is somebody who died and for some reason they didn't get taken off the rolls or whatever. But other times they find military and overseas voters who have a right to continue to vote in the state that they want to stay as a resident, sometimes your kid might go off to college but still vote in the state. Sometimes the lists are - the lists that this group is getting are - they become outdated very quickly because people are moving all the time, right? And people often don't update their registration right away, so there's a lag. And so, what I think King County Elections told me is that almost half of the names on the list that was given to them were voters who are already in inactive status - in other words, they can't actually even vote because they - I think King County sent a ballot or something and it got returned, so they - they're all the time going through and they are scrubbing the rolls.

[00:23:04] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, so it looks like they were actually more on top of it than anticipated in making those changes. You did note in the article that documented cases of voter fraud are exceedingly rare in Washington and nationally. Here in the 2016 and 2018 general elections, the Secretary of State's office identified 216 cases of possible fraud, or 0.003% of the 6.5 million votes cast in these elections, which is certainly a very different story than we've heard from folks who have believed the big lie - whether it's Loren Culp, or folks potentially in this group - alleging there are 50,000 potentially fraudulent votes that came through. Just - that's just not reality.

[00:23:53] Jim Brunner: Yeah, there is a middle window here of - it's not necessarily that they're illegal votes, but people who some time ago moved from a residence and just never update their address. And the laws in this state are actually pretty loose on that - there's no absolute deadline when you have to do it. You're supposed to be a resident of the place where you vote, but the auditors don't have the power to just willy-nilly go and cancel a bunch of registrations. There's a process actually for challenging registrations, but I don't think this group is even, has even got to that stage.

[00:24:32] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, we'll continue to keep an eye on this, see how it progresses - certainly a effort by Glen Morgan raises a lot of red flags, given a lot of the other activity that he's undertaken before that has crossed the line into unethical or illegal activity, and just other activism that he's done. Also this week, you cover the Washington Attorney General filing a complaint against a Sequim lawyer for frivolous election fraud claims - what happened here?

[00:25:05] Jim Brunner: Yeah, this is maybe some cross-pollination with the story we just talked about. There's a Sequim lawyer who has been representing a group called the Washington Election Integrity Coalition United - they pronounce it "we see you" - they have a big eye in their logo, like we've seen that you have stolen the election. And so they filed a bunch of lawsuits around the state against county auditors - none of them have been successful. They're looking for full forensic audits of the 2020 elections still. And like many of these lawsuits - all, I think, of these lawsuits around the country - they invariably get tossed out because you have to go through certain legal standards to actually make a legitimate challenge to an election, and they invariably don't meet that standard. So this lawyer Virginia Shogren is representing this group and it still has several lawsuits pending in federal court, but - which I think will undoubtedly get tossed out eventually.

But they also filed a case directly to the State Supreme Court, accusing Jay Inslee of violating his oath of office because he's allowing massive registration, they claim, of illegal voters. And the Supreme Court tossed it out and then took the unusual step of saying this lawsuit was so without legal merit, that we're going to impose sanctions against the attorney and the plaintiff, and send it to a court commissioner to determine the amount of the sanctions. And I think they wound up saying - it's over $28,000. Now I think a court in another county also has imposed sanctions. And the Democratic Party and I think the King County Prosecutor are seeking sanctions against this group in one of their lawsuits still going on. So these lawsuits are spectacularly unsuccessful, they're lobbying completely bogus claims of vote fraud. And the reason they're getting sanctioned - there are professional standards for attorneys - the reason the bar complaint was filed in this case. There are professional standards for attorneys - you're supposed to do some cursory investigation at least to make sure that what you're filing in a court of law has some merit - and they're saying that this attorney didn't meet that standard. And so, the bar association is going to investigate and they could do anything from a reprimand or they could suspend her law license. In extreme cases, they can basically force the person to resign their bar license.

[00:27:42] Crystal Fincher: Well, and this is an interesting action - lots of people have talked about it because these - looking around the country, there have been a lot of frivolous lawsuits that just are not attached to reality and seem more to be PR tools and base-building tools almost, fundraising tools - serving more utility there than any utility they have in the legal world. And these lawsuits are expensive - if you're suing a public entity, that is requiring tax dollars to defend and process and administer. It is taking a lot of time - lots of these courts are already backlogged, so this is not something that happens without consequence or penalty. And if a lawyer does know that - hey, they don't really have a legal action, but I'll do this and collect some money anyway - that is not -

[00:28:37] Jim Brunner: I mean, I think the lawyer in this case is a true believer in this stuff. She's associating with the woman who's running for Secretary of State now - Tamborine Borrelli, who - and both the lawyer and Tamborine Borrelli, interestingly, I guess, are former Bernie Sanders supporters who have flipped basically to being pro-Trump and believing that the election was stolen from Trump. And that might seem bizarre, but certain hardcore group of Bernie or Bust people thought that the thing was rigged against them too. And remember, Trump tried to exploit that and said - you have nothing to lose, come over to me. So, they just have a deep suspicion of institutions and the political powers that be. And so it's - I don't think I would accuse this attorney of just doing it for money, I think she's a true believer.

[00:29:31] Crystal Fincher: And part of the challenge with that is the true belief comes from - my opinion here is - it comes from a very intentional and coordinated effort by people who know that it's not the truth, but who have spread this lie, who have repeated all of these talking points in outlets and blown this up. And there certainly are a lot of people who really do believe this, but man, it is damaging. Everyone can have their day in court, but you can't abuse your day in court and you can't just keep going with no end to it, in our system. I do wonder what is going to happen - I think that - no, there wasn't a specific sanction asked for just to - hey, review this and see what you think might be inappropriate sanction, but interesting to see what happens with this.

[00:30:33] Jim Brunner: Yeah, and I don't know if - I don't think I mentioned it in this article - but there's also a bar complaint against Loren Culp's lawyer who - the candidate for governor in 2020 - after he lost by over a half a million votes, claimed that fraud may have been to blame. Again, no real evidence. And so his attorney, Stephen Pidgeon, is also facing a bar complaint.

[00:30:56] Crystal Fincher: Another article you wrote about this week is something that's on a lot of people's minds - the end of Roe vs. Wade looming large in Idaho - that could impact us, and pretty much will impact us here in Washington. What did you see here?

[00:31:12] Jim Brunner: Yeah, I talked with Planned Parenthood advocates in Idaho while I was there - I was actually working on a separate story while I was there, but this leak happened and obviously got tons of attention - on the end of Roe v. Wade possibly coming here. And already, Idaho has some pretty severe restrictions and they have a trigger law that if Roe v. Wade is struck down, essentially, that almost all abortion in Idaho will be illegal. And so abortion providers in Idaho are saying that this will increase the number of people coming across the border looking for medical care to get abortion access. And I should say that that's already happening because there are only - there are very few actual abortion providers in Idaho, but they estimate that it will vastly increase. If Roe v. Wade is struck down, we're going to have a patchwork in this country of states where abortion rights are preserved and states where they are almost entirely eliminated. And so you're going to see people cross borders trying to get services, or in some cases, they might just be forced to continue with the pregnancy that they might otherwise not want it to have.

[00:32:36] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, really big challenge. A lot of this conversation - we talk about - well, Washington is one of the better states to be in, when it comes to the right to abortion. But because of that and because so many states are facing down the prospect of having abortion be illegal there, there's an anticipation that bordering states, neighboring states are going to see a dramatic influx of people looking to receive abortion healthcare and services. And that is going to put a strain on our health system, on the abortion care system, and a big challenge.

On top of that, I don't know that we talk about it a lot, but lots of people like - ah, we're fine in Washington, no problem. We also have the idea - the right is one thing, access is another. Here in Washington - figure from last year, I don't know if it has changed, but 41% of the hospital beds in Washington are in Catholic hospitals, which frequently do not provide abortion services. And in Centralia, Walla Walla, Yakima, and Bellingham - based on the merger completion between Virginia Mason and CHI Franciscan, that will be the only hospital in those areas, a Catholic hospital. And so - one, just looking at - okay, access is an issue. If we're also seeing an influx of people, which I think most people are welcoming to - if someone needs to come to another state to get services, we need to provide that. But really this is a challenge that we aren't done being prepared for, I think. And looking at people saying - we have guaranteed this right in our, here in the state, and a lot of backup legislation. But man, access is an issue, and it's also not like there haven't been some pretty stringent bills introduced by conservatives in the state regarding abortion too and attaching prison for doctors who do it to it. So it's just - I think this is a big concern. And even if it's not illegal here, we can certainly see impacts - the system can certainly experience strain. And when time is of the essence here, that can have a dramatic impact.

[00:35:19] Jim Brunner: Yeah, I think you've seen - there is planning going on for what post-Roe world looks like. I think that State may even put some money into planning for access and issues like that. And I know that the advocates and support groups in Idaho and in Washington, I think, are in touch and they're - and with Oregon too, because some of those - some of the nearest abortion facilities are actually in Oregon also, that are closer to Idaho. So I think there's a lot of behind the scenes talk going on - I wouldn't be surprised to see more discussion and legislation come forward in the next legislative session in Olympia. We'll see what - who has the majority then - it's not looking like a great year for Democrats. The inflation monster is going to cost a lot of seats, I think, but I haven't really done a careful analysis. I don't know if there's enough seats in play in the Capitol, in the State Capitol Olympia, to where the Republicans could get a majority, but they're certainly likely to pick up seats.

[00:36:25] Crystal Fincher: I know that's a big concern. And news just came out this morning that inflation is higher than we've seen it in decades - actually it is - people's finances are being strained, this is a challenge. I think there are such stark choices between the parties at this point in time. And the Republican Party, though lots of people think of is - well, Washington has a history of a more moderate Republican Party and looking at people who are there - and that just doesn't seem to be the case anymore. And so it's going to be an interesting -

[00:37:09] Jim Brunner: Well, I'm going to - I'm going to push back just a little on that. I do think that the leadership of the State House and Senate in Washington - I know you disagree with them, but they have tried, to some extent, distance themselves from the most extreme elements of their party. And actually this year, interestingly, some of the most far-right legislators in Olympia are probably not going to be there next year. Some of them are running for Congress, for example. They have been a little bit sidelined by their own leadership and they resent it. So -

[00:37:45] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, I - one, I think a great guide is looking at bills that they have introduced and that are waiting in the wings already, which are concerning. And I would also push back on that - I would say that they certainly - the leadership certainly likes to portray that they are the adults in the room, but I think what we're finding is that they are generally - they're not pushing back on anything. They're staying silent and letting it happen. They're not commenting on things.

[00:38:16] Jim Brunner: Yeah, there are certainly topics that they don't like to discuss because there is the base in the Republican Party that has views that - I think they feel if they step out too much, it's like you've seen with Trump - if people feel like if they step out too much, they'll get beaten up by their own party. That's certainly the case.

[00:38:38] Crystal Fincher: I agree that that's the case. And I think the thing in there is - that is the party. That's their party. And even if they personally are not aligned with it, they aren't opposing it. They aren't pushing back on it. They aren't expelling those elements from the party. They aren't standing up and saying these actually aren't values that we should be standing up for. And so functionally the difference between standing back and letting it happen and cheering it on is not really that different. And in the same way that - well, I'm not gonna speak out against Trump, he's doing his own thing - had an enabling effect. Ignoring him, talking about other things - didn't do anything to stop him. And we're talking today - we just saw really compelling testimony and images from his own staff talking about the violence and the really planning a coup - planning not to hand over power peacefully and working to subvert that.

So I would not be surprised at all - I follow J T Wilcox and other people on Twitter - I see them around and I'm sure in conversation they're perfectly pleasant. But I also see that they're silent when it comes to issues that would upset their base. And that, to me, is just an acknowledgement that that is the Republican Party and they are not steering the ship anymore. They're following the lead of their base and they're headed in a very dangerous direction and no one is pumping the brakes.

But we're going to have this all litigated throughout this election cycle now, and we'll see how these elections turn out. Certainly a lot to talk about, a lot going on - pandemic, mass shootings all of the time. So much stuff going on that's just a lot for everybody to deal with. So I don't know that normal is a thing that we're going to be encountering, or that this election cycle is predictable one way or the other.

[00:41:04] Jim Brunner: When does the anxiety, all-consuming anxiety, about the news offense and it does feel pretty destructive right now.

[00:41:15] Crystal Fincher: It does and it's tiring. And so I hope all of you listening - do what it takes to just maintain your peace and sanity through these times. It's a rough time for everyone everywhere in at least some ways generally. And so hopefully you take care of yourself. It's okay to actually step away from the news. It's actually okay not to listen to this podcast and to go fly a kite - I say fly a kite because I've taken up flying kites and I liked it, but - with that -

[00:41:49] Jim Brunner: Touch some grass, fly a kite, touch some grass.

[00:41:52] Crystal Fincher: Touch some grass. Do something that brings you joy - read a comic, do something.

Thank you for listening today to Hacks & Wonks on this Friday, June 10th, 2022. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Lisl Stadler and assistant producer is Shannon Cheng with assistance from Bryce Cannatelli, and our insightful co-host today was Seattle Times political reporter Jim Bruner. You can find Jim on Twitter @Jim_Brunner, with two n's. You can find me on Twitter @finchfrii and now you can follow Hacks & Wonks wherever 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 mid-week show delivered to your podcast feed. 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.