Week In Review: June 17, 2022 - with Mike McGinn

Week In Review: June 17, 2022 - with Mike McGinn

On this Hacks & Wonks week-in-review, Crystal is joined by former Seattle mayor and current Executive Director of America Walks, Mike McGinn. The show starts with a plug for the Institute for a Democratic Future (IDF) graduation party in Seattle this Saturday, 6/18, to celebrate its Class of 2022 completing a program focused on recruiting, training, and promoting the next generation of Democratic civic leaders, and extends an invite to others interested in the program Crystal credits with starting her political career. On the topic of civic leadership, Mike and Crystal note that primary ballots are a month out from arriving in mailboxes and discuss what they each look for in a candidate: where they lie on the urban vs suburban spectrum, whether they hedge or make strong statements on policy, how they demonstrate living the values they espouse, what kind of campaign they run, and a demonstration of being strong in tough scenarios before they are elected. The two then wrap up with a look at the opportunity voters have on the November ballot to make changes to future elections with Seattle set to vote on approval voting and King County Council moving a ballot measure on even-year elections forward.

About the Guest

Mike McGinn is former Seattle mayor and current Executive Director of America Walks.

Find Mike McGinn on Twitter/X at @mayormcginn.


Institute for a Democratic Future: https://democraticfuture.org/

IDF Class of 2022 Graduation Party: https://www.facebook.com/events/677339030035686

RSVP for IDF Class of 2022 Graduation Party: https://secure.anedot.com/idf/graduation

“What’s The Difference Between Candidates in the 36th Legislative District?” by Hannah Krieg from The Stranger: https://www.thestranger.com/news/2022/06/17/75176294/whats-the-difference-between-candidates-in-the-36th-legislative-district

“Voters Could Change How And When We Vote This November” by Hannah Krieg from The Stranger:https://www.thestranger.com/news/2022/06/15/75135178/voters-could-change-how-and-when-we-vote-this-november

“Election Nerds Feud Over Whether or Not Approval Voting Violates Voting Rights” by Hannah Krieg fromThe Stranger: https://www.thestranger.com/slog/2022/03/01/67571578/election-nerds-feud-over-whether-or-not-approval-voting-violates-voting-rights

@GirmayZahilay - Twitter thread on even year vs odd year elections:https://twitter.com/GirmayZahilay/status/1537124459080929280


[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. Full transcripts and resources referenced in the show are always available at officialhacksandwonks.com and in our 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, super popular cohost, activist, community leader, former mayor of Seattle and Executive Director of America Walks, Mike McGinn.

[00:00:57] Mike McGinn: Glad to be here - again - thank you.

[00:01:00] Crystal Fincher: Glad you are here - always a fun time when you are here. So I wanted to start off just by mentioning - we've talked about the Institute for a Democratic Future before, which is pretty much responsible for my political career and the careers of so many people in politics and policy in Washington State and DC. This year's class is actually graduating tomorrow - super proud of all of them. That is actually a public event that people can attend - tickets are on sale and you can attend, so if you're free Saturday, June 18th, in the evening - check out the Institute for a Democratic Future website for tickets - democraticfuture.org. We'll also put a link in the show notes and it'll be available on the website - or just hit me up on Twitter, whatever - would love to see you there, meet some of you. I'll be there. Look forward to that and seeing this current class graduate and a great opportunity just to learn more about the program - see if you might be interested in doing it.

Also, ballots arrive in a month for the primary election. Things are coming in quick, time evaporates really quickly. And so lots of people are trying to figure out who's who, what's differentiating the candidates. The Stranger had an article come out this morning talking about - what's the difference between candidates in the 36th? So starting off, Mike, as you evaluate - how do you evaluate how candidates are different, how are you going to be making the decision about how to vote and who to support? How do you go through it? How do you recommend voters go through it?

[00:02:48] Mike McGinn: Yeah, now this is such a great question in Seattle elections, right? Because one of the real, and we could carry on about this at length, one of the things about Seattle is - Seattle is, by comparison to national politics, a very progressive place. You find that 90+ percent voted for Biden in this city - I think was the number, if you go back. So it's pretty clear - some people will try to make it "what flavor of progressive are you," but everybody's gonna work to sound like they're progressive. And occasionally we'll see - for some reason, we seem to get this more from the Seattle Times and the more right side of the spectrum - "but they're all really the same, aren't they?" And I'll warn you about something - that that's not always the case, or they try to claim it - that well, one side is more ideological and the other side is more pragmatic or reasonable - something like that.

But there is, in fact, a dividing line in Seattle politics that I'd ask people to consider and maybe about where they fit on that dividing line. So nationally, the ends of the spectrum are urban versus rural. In a city like Seattle, I'd suggest to you that it's urban versus suburban and the attitudes that accompany those. Now, of course, Seattle has areas that are suburban in nature - single-family homes on nice, quiet, tree-lined streets and a fair number of the voters come from those precincts. But they have indeed chosen to live in a city, so they're not - there are progressive sensibilities there. And urban is a catchall that could cover a lot of things. But let me see if I can dig into this just a little bit. Housing and zoning - a suburban approach would be single-family houses are great, an urban approach would be we should have lots of different kinds of housing. Policing - a suburban approach might be how do we keep bad people out of the neighborhood and how do we patrol the neighborhood to prevent folks from getting here. And a more urban approach might be - well, bad things are gonna happen. How do we make sure that the police can work effectively with the community and treat 'em fairly? So you see an urban versus suburban divide there. Homelessness - suburban mentality is can we give them a bus ticket to the city - this is an overstatement. An urban mentality is - well, we're gonna have homeless people, what are we gonna do? So I think on every issue that we look at - where do they fit on that spectrum is a way to look at it.

And candidates - we already saw it in that article you showed about the 36th - what would you do about single-family zoning - a couple of whom were hedging, were hesitant. Bruce Harrell, as mayor, when he ran was hesitant - I'm not sure, we shouldn't just rezone the whole City. And then when you look at where they get the votes from, they tend to get the votes from the folks who are more resistant to building more housing and more different types of housing in the exclusive or exclusionary neighborhoods of Seattle. So that would be the first thing I'd look at in candidates - is where do they fit on that divide, and how to ask some hard questions to get at it. Like really pin 'em down - 'cause everybody's for more housing, everybody's for affordable housing - but would you upzone single-family neighborhoods is a hard question. You could ask 'em about what laws they might change in the State Legislature to make it easier to hold police accountable - see where they fall on that. There's a whole bunch of different places you can go to try to pin 'em down on something. So that's my first cut. I have a second cut on that, but Nicole - not Nicole - Crystal! I know you have answers to that one.

[00:06:50] Crystal Fincher: That's so funny - you called me Nicole. My name is Nicole, but yes -

[00:06:56] Mike McGinn: Is it really?

[00:06:58] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, my family's called me Nicole my entire life - that's my middle name. So yes, lots of people call me Nicole. I don't know if you heard someone call me that, but anyway -

[00:07:05] Mike McGinn: No, I think it's just that Nicole - it's been on my brain from prior discussions.

[00:07:10] Crystal Fincher: Anyway, I think that's good - certainly, housing affordability, the approach to getting people housed - basically, whether you're looking to take a housing first approach and house people primarily. Or if people think the problem is visible homelessness - always a red flag to me when I hear people characterize the problem as visible homelessness - the visible is not the problem, the homelessness is the problem. And a lot of times the characterization of visible homelessness positions people who witness homelessness, or have to see it, as the victims - are somehow harmed - when clearly the harm is absolutely being done mainly to the person who doesn't have a house and who is out there in the elements with no shelter, much more likely to be a victim of crime than most other people in the community. And so that's always something to me. And are we okay with sweeping, even if we don't have shelter available. Or is it - hey, we need to find places for people to stay, we need to create places for people to stay. Are we satisfied with shelter, congregate shelter, which we now have so much data showing that it's really counterproductive in some situations - absolutely as emergency shelter, and some situations better than being on the street and some situations it's actually not. So are we providing people with rooms with a bathroom, a door that locks - somewhere where people can stabilize.

Just especially in these Seattle elections - where they are D versus D races - we can have a lot richer conversations. And frankly, be pickier about who we decide to support. This is not a situation where the choice is between a Democrat and a Republican who is denying the 2020 election, who doesn't prioritize democracy and one person, one vote, who wants to end abortion protections, and all of that - where it's almost a - it's a harm reduction approach at minimum to vote for a Democrat, but the consequence is horrible. So you stop quibbling on issues and policy and we're talking really broad strokes. That's not the case in Seattle. You can make a choice for a progressive person or someone who is aligned with you on policy. There isn't something as - well, we don't know if we can elect a progressive in Seattle. We absolutely can. People can make that choice.

And so one, drilling down further to see - are people hedging? Are they willing to answer strongly? Are people trying to not take a position? Are they saying - this is where I am, and trying to make the case for bringing other people along with them. I think that's a big thing. Another thing I would say is - working in politics for a while - campaigns are actually horrible job interviews for governing. The skills and the stuff that you use on a campaign - lots of them do not translate to governing, and it's just so interesting that we go about things like this. There's a saying that - Hey, we have the worst system except for all the other ones.

Who knows, but I do think that there - one thing that I've seen that has been a consistent transfer is, what are the decisions that people make in their campaigns? How are they choosing - they may not have been in a situation where they were in control of a budget before. They may not have been in a situation where they were making hiring decisions and staffing decisions. Well, now that they are - what are they doing? Are they making decisions in alignment with their values and how they're talking? Are they working with people who are aligned with them, or who are aligned with folks who are doing things very different than what they say they anticipate doing? How are they living their values in this situation, in a campaign, where they are the ones making the calls and making the decisions? How are they using their resources? Just things like that are - you can see how someone is processing information. You can see - hey, you talk about workers - are you paying your campaign staff? Everyone has volunteers, but your campaign manager, other people involved - do you have a diverse staff? Lots of people have pictures with lots of diverse people in them. Who are the people that they're paying. It is a question -

[00:12:17] Mike McGinn: That's such a great observation. Everybody's got the right pictures.

[00:12:21] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. How are they investing their resources? And that, to me, consistently translates into the decisions that they make when they're elected and how they choose to allocate resources. And so look at their campaigns, see what they're doing, what kinds of decisions they're making, who they're hiring. I think who you hire, a lot of times, speaks a lot more than who you work for. Lots of times people are trying to pay their bills, all that kind of stuff. So - hey, I work for - people, I certainly have lots of issues with Amazon, but am I gonna take issue with someone who works for Amazon? Absolutely not. It's hard to pay bills, it's hard to find a job that - so do that, but once you're doing the hiring, that's a different story. Who are you choosing? How are you going about that? How are you living your values? What have you done that gets away from the rhetoric and more to - are you walking your talk?

That is how I look to candidates and campaigns and decisions. I'm looking - this is me, obviously - I'm looking at PDC expense reports to see who they're working with, to see how they're being a steward of the resources in their control. So that would be my recommendation - look and see how they're living the values that they say they're living. That's a good indication of what they're gonna do when they're elected.

[00:13:56] Mike McGinn: Those are all great points. So let me see, I'll come around for my second cut and I'll hit some of the ones you hit too. How they run their campaign - are they - is it a top-down campaign which is money and some consultants, or are they really showing the ability to engage and draw volunteers? 'Cause that gives you a sense of how they will operate in office - who's part of their coalition. That's - I think the next one is endorsements matter and they don't matter. I wouldn't - a lot of the endorsing organizations may be trying to figure out who's gonna win as well as their values. But if you look at their money and everybody's gonna have some - everyone's gonna have a mix of checks, but where's the weight of the money coming from? 'Cause the reality is most people, once elected, are gonna serve the base that got them elected. So where's the political base as can be told from looking at all of the data around endorsements and dollars and then again, how they're running the campaign. So does it appear to be a campaign that's built upon a broad coalition of community members volunteering, or is it being financed by certain industries or sectors of the economy? That'll tell you who they'll speak to. So that's worth looking at.

Your comments reminded me of two other things. One question I asked, and this is now coming from a Sierra Club background and we interviewed people for endorsements. And again, everybody came in, everybody knew what the right answer was for Seattle politics, and people would hedge a little bit - but this is expanding on one of the things Crystal said. And by the way, your LinkedIn is Crystal Nicole Fincher, so I -

[00:15:51] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, I usually put all three names.

[00:15:53] Mike McGinn: Nicole is there in a lot of places, so maybe that was there, maybe it was there in my head somewhere. The question is - I would ask - tell me about a time you did something for the environment. Not what's your position on clean air, or what's your position on walking and biking - but tell me about a time you took action because you cared about the environment. And some people have great answers and some people have no answers - and if the answer is, well, I recycle regularly - well, so that's Seattle, right? But if your answer was - oh, I took a summer to volunteer at an animal rescue center or something - okay, this person in their heart really feels something about the world around them. And you could ask that in any number of contexts - tell me a time when you acted on this impulse. The other question I love to ask people and - 'cause people still come to me and ask me for endorsements - and I say, tell me about a time you did something in your life or career that was hard and maybe even unpopular - the time that you had to have some guts and courage. And the reason is 'cause if you don't show guts or courage before you take office, you are not gonna show it once you take office.

[00:17:13] Crystal Fincher: That is the truth.

[00:17:15] Mike McGinn: This is - yeah, because the dynamic, once you're in office, is really pushing you to not take chances, to go with the flow, to not stand out too much - it's the safer place to be. And those forces only get harder and harder, which is why you end up with elected officials who just - you feel like after a few terms, they don't really seem to be doing anything anymore because it's been taken out -

[00:17:43] Crystal Fincher: Ground out of them?

[00:17:44] Mike McGinn: Ground out of them, man - it's like a tea bag that's been dipped into the hot water too many times - there's just not much flavor left after they're in for a long time. So that's my thing - tell me about a time you did something hard, unpopular, tough, but you did it anyway. And why you did it 'cause you do want somebody who's gonna be willing to step up on a hard issue and take a chance. My 2 cents - when we're looking at the challenges we face, incremental changes to the status quo in the face of all the challenges we face - you'd like to see people step up and do something hard and take a risk politically for the right thing. And that's what I'd like to see in a candidate too.

[00:18:27] Crystal Fincher: That's so good. That's absolutely true. I definitely tell candidates and have conversations with lots of people. To your point, it gets harder after you get elected. There's pressure on candidates sometimes to - well, don't offend these people, you might lose this, don't say this, don't say that don't. And the mindset is almost - well, if I just get elected - I just need to get elected and then I can really do the thing I really wanna do. It does not work like that - it gets harder - the stakes are higher, actually. And so you have to be willing to stand by what you believe before you're elected. If, when it comes down to a negotiation and you're going back and forth on - and we're talking about legislative races - with your colleagues on - well, we can keep this in, I'll agree to keep this in if you take that out. What are the things that aren't going to be compromised on, what are the things that you know you can count on them to say I'm a No vote without this. And that's a big deal.

The other thing that I think is really useful and that candidates have to do - they have to be out talking to voters. They have to be out in the community. They have to be knocking on doors. They have to be talking to regular people who are not hacks and wonks, who are not insidery insiders - who are saying this is what I'm dealing with, what are you gonna do about it? And who - you have to talk to them about - I hear you, this is what I think will help - go back and forth, get their feedback on it. Most candidates who are talking to voters regularly - you can tell. And to me, that's the difference between someone who is coming from a philosophical or purely ideological point of view, they may be very online - but you have to engage with your constituents, you have to hear tough feedback, you have to talk to people who are going through rough moments, and you have to see what you can do to help, and explain to them and bring them along with you. You have to actually build a coalition to govern. You have to bring people along to your side. If you want to change policy, you're going to have to change people's minds. And if you don't have practice doing that, if that's not a habit of yours, then it's not gonna happen after you get elected. The pressures to do that lessen after you get elected - schedules get busier. You have to prioritize engaging with people in your district from all different backgrounds, all different walks of life, viewpoints. And if you aren't comfortable with that, if you haven't done that in all of those situations - it does not serve you well as a candidate or as someone who's elected.

[00:21:33] Mike McGinn: It's super hard as a candidate too, 'cause candidates - new candidates, in particular, and I'll toss myself - I was pretty engaged in civic affairs before I ran for mayor, but there were still big chunks of issue areas that I was not terribly sophisticated in my thinking on. And so I may have been better than your average new candidate in some areas, but compared to somebody who'd been in office - and so this is one of the traits you see of someone who's been in office for a while - they've got their talking points on every issue, they know where the safe space is on each one. So there's this learning process that occurs when you're running as well. And going back to your point about talking to people, you're not gonna learn if you're not talking to people. So I do like to see that too. It's funny - we're talking about somebody who can hold their principles, but you also want somebody who can be educated by the people they speak to and begin to understand the complexities of the issues. But also understand what really matters to people, and your point is really a strong one. And then be able to say, 'cause if you're running, you're saying you're the best person for the job. If you don't think you're the best person for the job, you shouldn't be in the race. Well, if you think you're the best person for the job, you're gonna have to start challenging yourself to answer the questions in a way that demonstrates that you're capable of making some forward progress on that issue.

And I hold new candidates, at the beginning of that race, to a pretty low bar - because they're learning and you're allowed to say - well, I'm learning more about the - I don't recommend any candidates say that in any endorsing interview or to anybody - when you run, you're supposed to have all the answers. It's terrible. And then when you're elected, you're supposed to listen to everybody 'cause you shouldn't have all the answers. So that's another dynamic of running and winning. But when you're running, it is okay to keep learning and I see candidates learn and progress. So that's the other thing I look for in a candidate - just is, are they - what their ability to take up issues, identify, and attach a philosophy to it, and actually start making real recommendations, as opposed to simply talking points. And by talking points, I mean - one of the things to look for is - when you're talking to a candidate, are they just giving you value statements? "Affordable housing is really important. We need to care for every person in our community that's homeless." That's a value statement and it's good - I'm glad to hear people's values - but somebody can say, "We need to fight crime and we need to hold the police accountable." Okay, what's your plan? What's your plan to hold police accountable? How far would you be willing to go, or how far is too far for you as a candidate, and what do you think should be done differently to fight crime? What would you support?

So, in a way it's the actual taking a position on an issue. And I also get super suspicious of candidates who don't take a position - who wanna, and I recommend this to candidates too - the way I phrase it now is, if you win votes, sometimes you have to lose votes. If somebody is afraid of losing a vote in the way they talk to you - it's in a way - it's a little bit taking the voter for granted if you're just trying to tell everybody what they want to hear and never take a hard position. Voters can - and I experienced this as a candidate and as a mayor - people will sometimes, people can disagree with you on things and still vote for you. If they like what you say on other issues, or if they like your approach, or if they just think you're coming from the right place, they're gonna work hard to get the right answer even if they don't like your answer then. So don't get hung up on - take a position, particularly on the things that really matter to the voters, so that you can give them some direction.

There is a candidate - this is the thing, though - there is a candidate that can get through without taking positions. And this is why I think voters should be suspicious of those candidates. Those candidates can get through without taking a position, 'cause often they're the anointed candidate in the race. Races tend to end up with only one anointed candidate - that's why they're anointed - sometimes you see multiple people fighting for it. And the anointed candidate is the candidate who's wrapping up all the endorsements from the political insiders and the interest groups and the campaign funders. And with those dollars, and then usually with the support of the Seattle Times - in those races, everybody will say what a wonderful person this candidate is. And they will reflect on that person's personal characteristics. And their goal, their way of getting through the campaign is to present themselves to the world as - well, I'm clearly the best person for the job, look at my resume and my wonderful personality. And they don't wanna take a position, 'cause they're gonna count on that to get 'em over the top. The problem with that candidate is they are so beholden to the interests that helped elect them, that they'll never take a hard stance. Now, if you're not the anointed - a lot of candidates make the mistake, then, of trying to be the anointed candidate - getting all the endorsements and not taking a position, 'cause they look at that candidate and they go - so many of those candidates succeed, that's my path too. But there can only be one of them in a race. So what I'd be looking for in a race is who's somebody who's running on something. This is my personal experience, this is my lived experience, these are the things I've thrown myself into, this is the thing I wanna change in the world. Let me tell you how I'm gonna change it. And then evaluate - are they working on the right thing? Does their plan have a good likelihood of success? And that person at least will be willing to take some risks on change. If you want the status quo, elect the anointed candidate. If you think there are problems and unique change, look for the candidate who's willing to take some risks and potentially lose some votes, but hopefully they're gonna win votes because - hopefully the City believes that there are problems that need to be solved and we should elect problem solvers and not defenders of the status quo.

[00:27:58] Crystal Fincher: I completely agree. Take a stance. You have to know where people stand - your point about value statements, it's so interesting being in a lot of situations where I'm watching how people and audiences react to things or - hey, this person said "Housing is a human right." I believe housing is a human right. Okay, done. And it's like okay, but have they explained how they're going to house people, what they're willing to do and what they're willing to not do, what their priority is, what they will prioritize funding? What are the details of that? What will you actually do?

And there also is sometimes a plague of people, a type of candidate, whose priority is to get elected and who doesn't necessarily understand the type of office that they're running for. 'Cause running - what you can do as a legislator is very different than what you can do as a King County Councilmember or Port Commissioner, it's different than a city councilmember or a mayor - those are all very different things, very different jurisdictions. Your levers of power, your tools of change are very different. So do you understand the jurisdiction that you're running for? Or are you running for Legislature, like you're a mayor or a city councilmember? Those are very different things. And even the conversation on public safety is very different - and what they can do and how they can engage with that - or homelessness is different based on what you're running for - what you can actually do and what you can't do is different based on the jurisdiction. Has someone even engaged with that yet? Or are they just - this is me, I've always wanted to be elected, this open seat popped up, and so I'm running for it. This is not a commentary on anyone who's running right now. That was an example - I'm not referencing anyone specific, but that is a thing that I see often, that I see every cycle. And it's just - this person wants to be elected, they don't actually wanna make change.

[00:30:08] Mike McGinn: So the - yeah, this is - you're reminding me of one of my other favorite sayings - is the candidate - do they wanna be somebody or they wanna do something? And it's a little unfair, 'cause nobody's a 100% one or the other. Like I definitely thought - I was running to do stuff, but it is fun to have people call you mayor, so I'm not immune to that. And I even think the people who I look at and go - oh, they just wanna be somebody, they've just been positioning themselves for the last 15 years to get an elected office, and spent so much time positioning that they haven't actually gotten anything done - they still have a beating heart and there's still things they wanna do. I think it's a mix of both, but where on that spectrum are they - of wanna be somebody or want to do something. And one of the best ways you can tell if they're people who want to do something is the questions we asked earlier - have they made, have they taken hard choices and taken some hits as a result of it? Have they thrown themselves into a cause to try to make change, even if there was no personal gain attached to it or status attached to it. And those can help answer that question of whether they want to do something or just be somebody.

[00:31:22] Crystal Fincher: Makes sense. Well, this - a lot of times Fridays are Weeks In Review, but we have a unique opportunity here, when we're speaking with Mike McGinn, who has so much experience in activism, as an executive of one of the largest cities in the country. And so I do think this is a helpful conversation, as we're going to begin to hear a lot more from candidates - as candidates are gonna be communicating with voters, and your mailbox is about to fill up, and they're gonna be commercials and videos that you see - all that. But looking beyond that, this is always such an interesting conversation. As a political consultant, I'm involved in doing all of that - to be clear - but if you actually do care about this stuff, you actually want it to be with good people. I'm extremely picky about who I work with for that reason, this cycle I'm working with one person - working for other causes and in support of things, but when it comes to working with a candidate, I want a candidate that I know is in it to create change, has a history of walking their talk, is doing those things. And so - I'm working with Melissa Taylor in the 46th legislative district - there are lots of great candidates everywhere. I also still volunteer for candidates, because it's important who we elect to do that.

And it is heartening - I see so many leaders who pass progressive policy, which is a distinction from people who just label themselves as progressive. That's more of a verb - it should be a verb - but it actually matters who we elect and we do have the opportunity in Seattle to not settle because we're scared of how horrific the opponent can be. We have better choices, so let's not settle for the status quo in so many situations - let's move forward, but do it in a way that just applies a little bit more discernment. And I appreciate having this conversation with you, 'cause I think it's really hard for people to figure out how to make this decision.

[00:33:41] Mike McGinn: This will be the final point on this that I'll make, which is - I worked on endorsements within the Sierra Club for 10 years or so, I'm asked for my personal endorsement, I've run for office, gone through everyone else's endorsement processes multiple times. But let me just say - in doing endorsements for the Sierra Club, we got tricked more than once. It's hard. Somebody came in, they said all the right things, they seem to be the right person - but then, and it's really hard in this progressive versus progressive space, and then they get into office and you discover that they're not really with you. And it happens. And so, if you're trying to figure it out, and you find it hard, and you make a mistake, you're not - I can assure you - you're not alone here on this. So we're just trying to give you the best tools we can give you to make what can often be a very hard choice.

[00:34:38] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, it is - I get it - it's actually a big reason why I do this show - to try and - I've seen people in the candidate stage, I've seen 'em in policy, I've seen the intentions of policy and things that seem good and things that I thought were good. And then seeing, time after time, it go through the legislative process and how it ends up. Or, hey, this type of person or this type of profile does well in an election, and this is how it usually turns out when they govern. And you just start to see the patterns. I think it's hard, if you aren't watching this all the time, to pick up on those patterns. And I think that is helpful in trying to determine who actually does - who actually can make change. And a lot of things go into that - having the right principles, but also understanding how to work productively with your colleagues - balancing that line between yeah, absolutely standing by your principles and listening - and that helping to develop your policy. And testing what you're saying - yeah, this is what I believe - and if you encounter something that challenges that, you have to contend with that, you can't just ignore it - does that mean that your policy needs some tweaking or something - all those things. I just hope to contribute to that conversation, to contribute to help people figure out - what's happening, why it's happening, and what they can do about it - who they can vote for to do something about it. But I really appreciate having this conversation. I'm fine with this being this conversation instead of a Week In Review, because hopefully - and there's just tons of news and sometimes -

[00:36:30] Mike McGinn: Well, we gotta bunch of races coming up. Speaking of races, we have different voting methods coming up about or under debate right now. One of the things we've seen is that approval voting will be on the ballot this November. And we also see an effort in King County to move King County elections from odd years to even years, which are big, significant changes.

[00:37:01] Crystal Fincher: Big significant changes - we've talked about even year elections, just the difference - King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay tweeted actually this week - just a chart of voter turnout and it just looks - it's high, low, high, low, high, low, high, low - such a stark difference. And it's just even year, odd year, even year, odd year - 53%, 36%, 83%, 54%, 65%, 47%, 84%, 50% - that's the difference between even years and odd year elections. 2021 turnout was 44%, 2020 was 87%. And you're like - okay, well that was a presidential year, maybe that was the reason why it was different. 2019 was 49% - still less than half. 2018 - 76% - every single year - 2017 was 43%, 2016 - 82%. You're, in some years, almost doubling the amount of people who participate in that. To make an argument that we're okay with the amount of people being half that participate in our elections just does not make sense. And in this situation, I think we need to do all we can to help make sure everyone can vote.

Speaking as someone who works in politics, you certainly see this yourself. It is tough, especially with how much local media has disappeared, how comparatively thin the resources are stretched now than they were 20 years ago - to just let people know that they're - forget a general election in an odd year - a primary election, it's rough and you basically have to pay to communicate with people and let them know. That's part of what drives up the cost of elections. There is almost no way for you to reach a large chunk of the voters without paying to send the mail, paying to target communication at them - that's the only way to let them know you exist. If you are someone who's a non-incumbent or challenging someone, your biggest opponent isn't your opponent, actually. It's just being known, period. So moving these to even years will just do a lot more and hopefully reduce the amount that needs to be spent on elections 'cause they are too expensive. The race I'm working in has - there's a ton of money in this race, which - okay, this is what it takes to win this race, unfortunately now - congressionally. We need to change the system to get some of the money out of it. And it's a tough go, especially for someone who's standing by their principles, not accepting corporate donations - it's rough to be able to try and afford and do those things. And we need to make it easier for people to get engaged without having to pay so much money to make that happen.

[00:40:12] Mike McGinn: Well, if you believe in voter turnout - if you believe democracy is better when more people vote, then conversation should be over for you. But it turns out that there are some people who would prefer that fewer people vote. And so, it was not unanimous on the King County Council. And it goes back to that comment I was making earlier 'cause what we know is - when voter turnout is higher, you tend to have greater, more diverse representation in the voting pool. Similarly, you tend to have more people of lower incomes in the voting pool in high turnout years. More renters, more apartment dwellers, so it's more representative of the population as a whole in high turnout years. And low turnout years are less representative of the population as a whole. It tends to skew older, whiter - which then means also more single-family home ownership.

We were talking earlier about the suburban or urban approach to city issues. Well, that's the - this is a difference between a more urban voting bloc, or one that trends towards the more suburban sensibilities about how cities should work. And, it's funny - I've used this line before - we talk about urbanists, but trust me, there are suburbanists in the City of Seattle that run for office and win. And that's challenging when you're trying to make sure you have enough housing for everybody, or that you want progressive policies towards - more progressive policies towards policing and the like. So, there are people who will argue - well, this enables more focus on the races and people can make more informed decisions, but it's a smaller pool of people. So they're really arguing for a smaller, less representative pool of people.

And if you wanna put this in a national frame - the people arguing for odd year elections, because it does allow for a greater focus - it has the same effect as people who think the electoral college is good because it gives rural voters more say - without them - it's false to say that the electoral college is meant to protect small states and rural voters. Well, the electoral college has the effect of giving voters from smaller states an undue influence in the course of the country, right? The majority of the country believes certain things and that's not reflected in what the majority of the US Senate is, or what a majority of the electoral vote would count. Same thing happens in local elections held in odd years. The people who participate in the elections and the people who get elected don't actually represent the sentiment of the City as a whole, or the county district that they're running in. So moving to even year elections is just the right thing to do if you believe in democracy.

And try to come up with a system to reduce turnout or to favor one population or over another - well, that's pretty anti-democratic, so honestly hope no one would speak up for it, but watch what would happen. I'll make you a bet that if Seattle had the opportunity to do it, state law would have to change. You'd see a whole lot of interests arise to argue that it's wrong, because they're used to helping shape and influence and anoint candidates - we talked about this earlier - their ability to anoint the candidate and push 'em through would be lost in a year in which there was bigger turnout than when holding these in low turnout elections.

[00:43:46] Crystal Fincher: I agree with that. And especially with the momentum that ranked choice voting, which is not on our ballot in King County, at least this year, but there's a lot of support and momentum for here and across the state. It looks like they've actually seen this coming, that they've seen the momentum behind even year elections, ranked choice voting and have launched a preemptive strike in the form of this approval voting initiative, which will land on ballots in the City of Seattle in November. Now Hannah Krieg wrote a story about this and ran into a signature gatherer who told her - hey, ranked choice voting and approval voting are the same thing. That's not true, they're very different. And there's a reason why some of the folks who are supporting the main organization who's supporting this look like it would - this approval voting seems to have appeared out of nowhere. It's not - hey, this is my first choice, second choice, third choice. So that if your first choice doesn't make it, at least you can get your second choice in. And that makes a lot more sense in crowded primaries. This is - just vote for everyone who you like, just vote for everybody - which, in a situation where money counts, pretty much guarantees that the most well-funded candidates will make it through. And I think people have seen a gathering threat, especially in districted elections, and saying - okay, well, hey, the recall against Sawant didn't work, we're seeing these progressives being elected in all these different areas, let's make sure they get through. I am extremely suspicious of approval voting, especially with some of the misrepresentations that some of the signature gatherers have been making. It just strikes me as a preemptive strike against some of these other measures that do seem to be, that do seem like they'll have the result of increasing the amount of people who are engaged in voting these elections.

[00:46:03] Mike McGinn: Well, I may have a slightly different view on this than you. I think that there are people who are totally into what's the best election system, 'cause I've gone down that rabbit hole and people have really strong views about that. I have to say, I think that approval voting has some positives to it, and which are - first of all, I know how I'm going to vote - if I have a clear winner, I'm gonna vote for the person I really like. You only have to vote for one person in approval voting, but boy, I've had races where I would've gladly voted for two or three people and said they're okay, just to show my support for 'em. Particularly they - 'cause here's what we know in Seattle - here's the counterargument for it. And by the way, I like ranked choice voting more than approval voting, but ranked choice voting has to be approved by the State, and it's probably gonna take a few years before we get there in Seattle - and we can always go there.

But right now in Seattle, we tend to end up almost exclusively with candidates that are either endorsed by the Seattle Times or The Stranger. So I kinda like the ability of approval voting to get somebody, to give somebody else the possibility to get through. And I can think of races where I would've voted for more than one person in the race, rather than have to pick The Stranger or Seattle - and by the way, I almost, I pick The Stranger - cards on the table - between The Stranger and Seattle Times, I pick The Stranger. But I looked at these other candidates and said - boy, I'd really love one of them to get through, but they just don't really stand a chance. And I think approval voting would lead to The Stranger having to identify more than one candidate. They don't have to - they could, like me, identify one candidate they approve, but they might also be able to identify two or three that they approve. And I think that might yield better outcomes in terms of the candidates we get.

[00:48:03] Crystal Fincher: It's an interesting argument. One thing - does approval voting, approval voting, does ranked choice voting need to be approved by the State? I don't think it needs to be approved by the State, does it? There are initiatives on the ballot for ranked choice voting in Clark County and maybe one other county right now.

[00:48:24] Mike McGinn: I think counties are different. I think counties are different than cities in what people can do. I think that there's a - and same thing is true of the district election, excuse me, not district elections, odd year versus even year elections. Right now, the voting system for cities - there's a state statute that says what system you must follow, and when you must vote. And I think counties have greater flexibility, for whatever reason, under state law. So you need a law to give cities the authority to choose ranked choice voting and/or move into even years. And there have been efforts to do both in the legislature, both of which I support.

[00:49:10] Crystal Fincher: So I just texted someone for clarification, really - the answer given to me via text, we can obviously clarify this at a further time - speaking from a county point of view, for non-charter counties, they can implement it. As you just said, for charter counties need - should be able to implement county-level, or charter counties should be able to implement it. Non-charter counties can't. Cities - question marks. You probably you're - yeah, I guess I didn't realize that. You probably dealt with this.

[00:49:48] Mike McGinn: I'm pretty sure of this because I've worked on promoting the state legislation that would give authority for this.

[00:49:54] Crystal Fincher: So how can we get approval voting?

[00:49:58] Mike McGinn: Approval voting - just it, that one, I guess, just works differently. It's a good question, but I think it just works differently in the top-two primary system. I don't have legal analysis for you, but I'm sure if somebody did the legal analysis and concluded that it fit under the statutory system in a way that ranked choice voting did not. Yeah.

[00:50:20] Crystal Fincher: Well, very interesting. I'm always learning here, I'm learning every week.

[00:50:26] Mike McGinn: Oh, I was all ready to collect signatures for moving Seattle elections to even years until I discovered the State prohibition. So Mia Gregerson has legislation in the State Legislature. I actually think that a lot of the organizing that was done around odd year, even year elections has helped influence the County. In fact, when I met with Girmay, when he was running for office, I now recall this - I told Girmay - hey, by the way, win or lose, I hope you could support an effort to move elections to even years. We'll see if Girmay remembers the conversation the same way - that was at The Station up on Beacon Hill, at The Station coffee house. And he said, absolutely, I'd be all in for that. So Girmay, thank you for being - not just saying it, but doing it. So really cool - really cool to see the leadership he's showing on the King County Council.

[00:51:25] Crystal Fincher: I would - back to our prior conversation - I would put Girmay in the category of doers. He wants to do something, is not primarily motivated by being someone. So, I appreciate this conversation. Always an interesting conversation with you, former Mayor Mike McGinn, now Executive Director of America Walks - you talked about your Sierra Club days, your City days, just all of it. And just talking about growing over time - look, I'm one of the people who you have convinced on some policies - back when - when you were "Mayor McSchwinn" -

[00:52:08] Mike McGinn: Oh my goodness. And I never even owned a Schwinn - why would they say that? Yeah.

[00:52:16] Crystal Fincher: Oh my gosh. Yeah, I have certainly learned a lot, continue to learn a lot - but, and it's one of those hallmarks of someone who is willing to engage in conversations. We've had conversations about policy - I'm like, red, and you're like, blue - and it's well, you know what?

[00:52:35] Mike McGinn: Well, you've changed my mind, Crystal -

[00:52:37] Crystal Fincher: He's making sense.

[00:52:37] Mike McGinn: You changed my mind on things too, for what it's worth. You've absolutely changed my mind.

[00:52:42] Crystal Fincher: Well, I appreciate it. I appreciate all of you for listening to Hacks & Wonks on this Friday, June 17th, a month out from when we get our ballots and can start voting in this primary election. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Lisl Stadler, assistant producer is Shannon Cheng - Dr. Shannon Cheng is a United States orienteering champion - once again, we've talked about this a little bit before - she is just dominating in every where and every way, and is just extremely amazing and incredible. With assistance from Bryce Cannatelli - also, Bryce is just so great. Bryce is a newer addition to our team here and just oozes competence and is a delight. The Hacks & Wonks team is absolutely a team, I just wanna reinforce that again - you hear my voice most of the time with a guest, but this does not happen without these other people. It would be impossible to get one show a week done, let alone two - the amount of editing, preparation, just everything from soup to nuts - I am eternally grateful to Lisl, Shannon, and Bryce. You can find Mike McGinn on Twitter @mayormcginn, you can find me on Twitter @finchfrii, and now you can follow Hacks & Wonks wherever - wherever podcasts are, Hacks & Wonks is. Be sure to subscribe to get the full versions of our Friday almost-live show and our midweek 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 - talk to you next time.