Week in Review: November 11, 2022 - with Robert Cruickshank

Week in Review: November 11, 2022 - with Robert Cruickshank

To break down all of the news from the 2022 election, Crystal Fincher welcomes political strategist Robert Cruickshank back to the show! They review key results from the election, starting with the race for Congress in Washington's 3rd Congressional District where Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez currently leads MAGA Republican Joe Kent in a race that's still up in the air, and the blueprint this race provides for Democrats for winning in rural areas while maintaining their values. Our co-hosts discuss the King County voters repeated rejection of punitive-punishment based measures, and the clear mandate from voters for action on comprehensive public safety reforms and alternate responses that address the root causes of crime with Leesa Manion's decisive victory over the punitive "law-and-order" candidate Jim Ferrell in the King County Prosecuting Attorney race, and the comprehensive public safety and alternative response measures passed in Redmond and Shoreline.

They follow with a look at the Oregon gubernatorial race where Democrat Tina Kotek beat a well-funded Republican opponent in a close race, as well as a review of key Democratic legislative victories in swing districts across Washington by candidates who are younger and more diverse, and who leaned into strong progressive messages instead of being hesitant to talk about them. They discuss the results of King County even-year election vote and Seattle’s opportunity for Ranked Choice voting reform in the near future if it doesn't prevail in its current close race. After breaking down the incredibly successful Raise the Wage Tukwila campaign, Crystal and Robert end the show by predicting how the resounding success of progressive Democrats this year will impact next year’s Seattle City Council races and beyond.

About the Guest

Robert Cruickshank

Robert Cruickshank is Chair of Sierra Club Seattle and a long-time communications & political strategist.

Find Robert Cruickshank on Twitter/X at @cruickshank.


Institute for a Democratic Future 2023 applications are live! The final application deadline is November 13th.

Hacks & Wonks is hosting a Post-Election Roundtable this Tuesday, November 15th at 7:30pm! Stream it live on our Twitter, Facebook or Youtube account.

Gluesenkamp Perez, Schrier maintain leads in WA congressional races” by Jim Brunner from The Seattle Times

$19 is the new $15: Lessons from Tukwila’s Minimum Wage” by Katie Wilson from The Stranger


[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're continuing our Friday almost-live shows where we review the news of the week with a co-host. Welcome back to the program, friend of the show and today's co-host: Chair of Sierra Club Seattle, longtime communications and political strategist, Robert Cruickshank - hey.

[00:00:55] Robert Cruickshank: Good morning, Crystal. Thank you for having me on again.

[00:00:57] Crystal Fincher: Good morning. Excited to have you on again in this election week 2022. We have a lot to cover.

Before we get into that, I just want to give a couple reminders. We've talked about the Institute for a Democratic Future before - how it's been instrumental to my career in politics - just a great education and network. The deadline for applications is this Sunday, November 13th, so we'll include links to the website information about applying in the program if you are interested. And feel free to reach out to me directly on Twitter, via email if you have any questions about the program.

I also want to mention that we are having a Hacks & Wonks Post-Election Roundtable - a live show Tuesday - this coming Tuesday, November 15th at 7:30 p.m. We're going to be streaming live on all platforms. It's going to include Dujie Tahat, Kelsey Hamlin, and Djibril Diop, who is the Director of Government Relations for Washington Education Association and played a very consequential role in a number of the elections and battleground districts around the state - just breaking down the results of this year's general election - expanding upon the conversation that we're going to have today from consultants' point of view and the view of people who were involved in the work being done. So please tune in Tuesday, November 15th at 7 30 p.m. - Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, all of the platforms - we'll share that information in the show notes.

So now getting into election results - there was a lot that happened. We will go through a number of them. I think I want to start off talking about the Third Congressional District. What happened in this race, Robert?

[00:02:56] Robert Cruickshank: So this is a fascinating, and I think potentially really important, race where we started off with the incumbent Jaime Herrera Beutler, one of the few Republicans to vote for Trump's second impeachment, and that made her a target. Joe Kent, a openly fascist Trump supporter, declared his intention to run against her and take the Republican nomination away from her. In response to that, we had Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez, who is a rural working class Democrat. She and her husband own a auto repair shop, they live in rural Skamania County in a house they built themselves. She's been active in Democratic Party politics as someone who wants to bring rural working class folks back into the party. And she saw, with increasing alarm, Joe Kent getting traction, getting support down there in Southwest Washington. And she decided she would step up and run, especially since it looked like the National Democratic Party wasn't going to take this very seriously, wasn't going to do much. And so she did step in and she and Joe Kent made it through the primary. And now, as of Friday - at least Friday morning - she's leading Joe Kent by a margin of just about 51% to 48%. She, depending on - today's ballot drop may be the final decider as to whether she hangs on and actually wins. And this would be a big victory not just to stop Joe Kent, which is important in and of itself.

But Marie is a really smart, sharp person who's been working hard to bring, a populist, working class, rural voice back into the Democratic Party and do it in a way that's also economically progressive and socially progressive. And seeing the campaign she ran, the ads she ran, I think potentially point to a direction forward for Democrats as they really try to figure out what do they do about rural America. She's winning right now because she has a huge lead in Clark County by double digits, but she's holding her own in the rural parts of the county. She's at 45-46% in Kelso-Longview area out on the rural Washington coast. She's not going to win this race without running up decent numbers in the rural parts of the district. And so I think there's a lot Democrats can learn from here.

[00:05:16] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. And really cannot be overstated how almost miraculous it is for a Democrat to be leading in any situation in this district, given what you just talked about in some of those rural areas - that's better Democratic performance than we have seen in I don't know how long. I don't know that we have. And so even accounting for the fact that Joe Kent is a fascist, not in touch with reality, completely taken with conspiracy theories, white nationalist rhetoric, all of that stuff, she did have to run a positive campaign. It wasn't enough for Joe Kent to be bad. We saw candidates across the country who sounded like him, some of whom won. And we didn't see that here because she was such a strong candidate. She did connect with voters throughout the district in both rural and suburban areas. And it really does seem like it points to the path to victory. First of all - showing up, having a belief that you can, being willing to talk to all kinds of voters, but really connecting the issues that she's talking about - the issues that are important to people in their everyday lives - to the progressive values that actually do improve things materially on the ground and for those families. Just really, really exciting to see. I do hope that as votes continue to come in, she does hang on. We are recording this before we're receiving results on Friday, but I think it is fair to say that the Joe Kent race - if they're hanging their hopes on a comeback, was certainly hoping to see returns that would have been more in their favor yesterday than they actually were. So that is pointing to some signs of hope. We won't know until we see results today, but the ballots did not trend as hard right as they certainly could have yesterday.

[00:07:21] Robert Cruickshank: That's correct. And what Marie has done is, in some ways, reclaimed Southwest Washington. There were Democrats representing it in Congress off and on. At the state level, Southwest Washington used to be more reliably Democratic than King County, for example. Like in 1980, Ronald Reagan carried King County, Jimmy Carter carried a lot of Southwest Washington - those old school, rural, logging Democrats, Union democrats had been abandoned by a large swath of the Democratic Party who just gave up. And that outraged Marie. And I know that because I've worked with her personally before within the Democratic Party. And she was one of these leaders who stepped up and said, we can win these places back, but we have to win with authentic values that are rooted in these communities. She ran ads talking not just about working class values, about inflation - she also talked about abortion without hesitation, talking about how important reproductive rights were. And you would hear from Democratic consultants around the country that - oh, if you're in a district like this, you probably shouldn't be doing that. She proved them completely wrong. Even if she narrowly loses at the very end, the fact that she made it this far, that she made it close, and potentially even wins - proves her theory of change in rural America correct. And I think Democrats going forward need to listen to Marie and people from her campaign and people like her about how we reclaim these districts. Again, she may win ultimately based on votes in Vancouver and Vancouver suburbs, but she's not going to be close without running up some good numbers in rural parts of the district. Democrats like John Fetterman in Pennsylvania did the same thing. There's a model here that the party needs to learn from.

[00:09:12] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. And as you alluded to, this has impacts potentially down the ballot. We are seeing super close races in the 17th and 18th Legislative Districts. These are areas that are potentially in play for Democrats, if they do invest in expanding on the strategy that Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez has started. These areas are ready to vote for Democratic policies if people just connect with them and talk with them, listen, and understand how to communicate how these values can be helpful. I certainly hope to see much more Democratic investment, Democratic engagement on the ground next year in the off year, the year beyond, in the next cycle - these are areas that we can win if we put in the effort and if we put in the resources. And so I am certainly excited and anticipating a significant effort to continue to turn Clark County and beyond blue.

[00:10:18] Robert Cruickshank: I would hope so. That's going to take the established structures of the party to take it seriously. Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez has had to do this without that support - the Democratic campaign structures of the House didn't show up, they put in maybe a small token amount of money towards the end. But Marie built this herself with a great campaign team around her. This is not something where DC consultants parachuted themselves in. In fact, they've tried that in this district before in the recent past and lost. So I think another key piece of this is that those party leadership, those folks in leadership from Pelosi on down need to do a better job of listening to the voices of Democrats on the ground who know how to win, know how to win without compromising our values. That's, I think, one of the most important things Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez has shown - we can win on our values with authentic voices, especially authentic working class Democratic voices in the rural parts of the country. May not win everywhere, but if you run up some better numbers, you make a lot of things possible.

[00:11:23] Crystal Fincher: There were a number of other races that we saw - races that people were expecting to be close. Of course, Patty Murray versus Tiffany Smiley was not at all close. We saw some polling results that a number of people doubted and cast some doubt on. One polling firm had this polling on a one-point race a week before the election, which just never passed the smell test, and they certainly have a lot of answering to do. But this was a race where Tiffany Smiley and the case she was trying to make was pretty soundly rejected. And certainly, I think Republicans - I know Republicans genuinely thought they had a message that was resonating, particularly with suburban voters. And wow - suburban voters just flatly rejected just about everything they were throwing out - from the fearmongering about crime that was not at all attached to reality or evidenced-based practices about what actually does make streets safer, to the economy, to health care, and absolutely with abortion. That affected the Kim Schrier versus Matt Larkin race. Several races here where it just seems that what they had fell flat. And so just a pretty sound drubbing by Democrats to Republicans across the board - certainly in the Senate and in many of the Congressional races that were originally anticipated to be close.

Now, the King County Prosecutor race is another interesting one. What did you see here?

[00:13:14] Robert Cruickshank: Again, this is another one of those races that - going into the election - if you listen to some of the observers in the media, was expected to be very close, expected to be an example of backlash to efforts to reform criminal justice. Jim Ferrell, very much running on the Ann Davison platform of cracking down on crime and homelessness and things like that. Leesa Manion, running not as a bold reformer, but running certainly as a reformer - someone who wants to do criminal justice correctly and certainly better than it's done now. And the assumption was that Jim Ferrell would either make it very close or win outright. That's not what happened. Leesa Manion has won convincingly, and won throughout King County. This is not just a Seattle victory. Her victory is countywide. And I think that's a pretty big rebuke to the "law and order" politics that someone like Jim Ferrell has been running on, that The Seattle Times has been trying to push hard, that KOMO has been trying to push hard. King County voters aren't there - that's not what they're looking for in terms of how we address public safety.

[00:14:20] Crystal Fincher: That's not at all what they're looking for. And once again, we saw a sound rejection countywide - certainly not limited to the City of Seattle - in every corner of the county, saying that, no, we don't want these punitive politics, punishment that is not at all connected to public safety, making the streets safer, reducing the amount of people who are victimized. And that really is the ultimate goal. There's a lot of talk about punishment. There was a lot of support from very conservative forces, a lot of talk about - hey, we need to enforce the law and put these people in jail and calling into question bail reform, any kind of criminal justice reform, any kind of alternative response that does not include police. We saw police unions rally around this campaign and really see this as a vehicle for increasing their footprint and moving away from some of the things that have been asked for for voters for quite some time.

In 2020, we saw with the King County Charter Amendments that - once again, countywide - voters want accountability in terms of public safety. Voters want to address the root causes of crime. They understand that even those who are saying, hey, I'm fine with the amount of police that are there, I have no issue with increasing the amount of police, but we know they can't do everything. We know they don't have the tools to address homelessness. We know criminalizing homelessness doesn't make the problem any better. We've seen them try and fail repeatedly. It's time to do things a different way that actually do have a shot at making this issue better. We know that police don't have the tools to address behavioral health issues, mental health issues - and those services are too hard to find, completely underfunded, and not at all in the shape that they need to be to adequately address this problem. We need to invest in and expand those services and the availability of that. We know that simply throwing people in jail, especially when the issues are poverty, their health, they're related around education - that that doesn't help them and it doesn't help the community. It doesn't reduce the chance that they're going to commit another crime or that people are going to be victimized. We need to do the things that reduce the likelihood of those things happening. We need to do the things where there is evidence and data to show what the path forward is. We've seen plenty of examples of those in pilot programs in Seattle and in King County and have been promised that that was the way things are going - to only see, especially with recent administrations, including the current ones, moving in the opposite direction.

And not only in King County, but we also saw propositions in Redmond, in Shoreline that also reinforced that people want accountability and investing in root causes and responses to issues that do need help, issues that do need intervention. If someone is having a behavioral health crisis, if someone is out on the street, that absolutely needs intervention - but by someone who can address the issue. And that's not a policeman in those situations. And so we need mental health professionals, we need service providers, we need all of those. We saw both in local initiatives in Seattle suburbs throughout the county and countywide that this is what voters want. I really hope that our leaders listen this time. I really hope that our media listens this time. And we stop having this conversation that is such a disservice to voters and members of this community that simply focuses on - are we recruiting, are we hiring, are we doing policing? Policing is not the whole picture of public safety. We have to address those other issues. We've seen many cities increase funding and address policing, but have left everything else unaddressed. And voters are practically begging our leaders to take action on a holistic view of public safety to keep us all safer where we all benefit. And I really do hope we start seeing coverage of what's going right, of what voters are saying - beyond whatever police union has the bully pulpit for the day. Talk to people on the ground. Voters are in a much more nuanced place in this than we hear in a lot of the public rhetoric and media. It is, certainly for me, been a source of frustration that this has been pretty obvious for a while and we keep not listening as a whole. I hope finally people will start to listen to what voters keep trying to say.

[00:19:24] Robert Cruickshank: Yeah, I think what you said resonates with voters, Crystal. It's also something we've seen in the election results. When you were talking, I was thinking of the signs I saw from a Republican candidate in the 32nd Legislative District up in Shoreline that said - at the top of her signs - Make Crime Illegal Again. She got a whopping 18%. You talk about the public wanting investment in alternatives - I think of a young man named Kenneth Mejia who ran for Los Angeles City Controller. He put up billboards all over LA and very prominent places showing with bar charts how much money was being spent on the police and how much was being spent on things like mental health services, and how the police were overfunded yet no one was feeling safe. And he ran against a conservative law and order type guy, and won by 20+ points. The public is making it very clear - they do want crime addressed, but they want violent crime to be addressed through solutions of root causes as well as an officer showing up in the right appropriate moment. And the public recognizes that sending a officer with a gun to a mental health crisis is not the right answer. Sending an officer with a gun because someone's in a tent somewhere is not the right answer. There are other solutions we need to be looking at and the public wants those.

I think also what we're seeing is that candidates who address this issue, who don't try to duck it and hide from it, do better. Again, Fetterman was a good example of this. But we saw Leesa Manion here as well and we can even look at Oregon. When Democrats start talking about this, the public will listen. When they address it and say, yeah, I hear you and here's a solution, we're not going down this ridiculous law and order path that hasn't worked. Here's what we're going to do instead, and the data shows this works and this matches our values. Democrats do pretty well. And I think that's a lesson for Democrats in local state and federal races going forward.

[00:21:22] Crystal Fincher: We also saw, in a neighbor of ours, down in Oregon a really interesting race for governor. How did this shape up?

[00:21:31] Robert Cruickshank: It was a race that was dominated by conversation about crime, homelessness - Portland got hit harder by the pandemic and certainly by Trump than we did in Seattle. Whereas we had a short amount of protests here in the city, Portland was where Trump sent in the Department of Homeland Security, picked people up off the streets, there's reports that he was trying to manufacture terrorism cases, working with local officials. They had 100+ nights of battles with protesters and police in the streets. What this led to was - you go to downtown Portland today and it's taking a lot longer to recover than downtown Seattle. There are real issues with folks living unhoused and not getting support services they need. And Republicans, who have come close to winning the Oregon governor's race in the past, thought they could capitalize on this. And certainly didn't hurt that Republicans had Phil Knight, the Nike founder and billionaire, funding them to the tune of millions of dollars. And Tina Kotek, who was the Democratic Speaker of the House from Portland, was being blamed for this. And the media and the Republicans and Phil Knight were all saying - it's your fault, Tina, that all these awful things are happening in Portland. Portland is dying.

And what Tina did was she turned into it and said, here's actually what we're going to do, here are the solutions we're going to talk about. Yeah, we're going to get everybody housed and we're going to get everyone's needs met, because that's what Oregon is and that's what we do in Oregon. And she pulled out a victory. She won Multnomah County, which is where Portland is. She won Washington County, which is where the most populous suburbs of Portland are. It was called the day after the election. People thought that Kotek would lose outright or win very narrowly. She's won fairly, by a wider margin than people thought. Another example right there of - when Democrats take this stuff seriously, don't hide from it, but turn and talk about it and root it in our values, they can win. So I think looking at that victory there in Oregon with someone who has been very progressive as a Speaker of the Legislature in Oregon, who'll be a great governor, who's done a lot on housing policy, a lot on other issues as well. Tina's going to be a great leader for the West Coast - something we can learn from in Washington as we have our own governor's race coming up in two years.

[00:23:49] Crystal Fincher: Now locally in Seattle, there was an issue on the ballot about how Seattle is going to vote. There was also an issue in King County on the ballot for how King County is going to vote. What is going to happen with how Seattle and King County run their elections?

[00:24:06] Robert Cruickshank: We can start with the clearest outcome, which is King County. King County has very clearly - it's settled - voted to move elections for the King County Council and the King County Executive to even-numbered years - that'll start in 2026 - rather than having them in odd-numbered years. And what this will do is increase turnout. City of Los Angeles did this a few years ago - this was the first even year that their mayoral election happened and turnout is significantly higher. Higher turnout means more voters are involved in the process. Candidates have to speak to more voters. They can't just go talk to the old white folks who always vote. They got to talk to everybody. So that's good for democracy right there.

In Seattle, the vote came down to a decision between approval voting and ranked choice voting. Ranked choice voting is the clear preference with 75% support. But the first question that got asked is, do you want to change anything at all? No is very narrowly leading on that. I think that's partly due to - voters are still learning about things like ranked choice voting. You also have both The Seattle Times and The Stranger recommend a No vote for different reasons. The Stranger said they support ranked choice voting, but they wanted a different process to get there. But I think coming out of this, there is a very clear mandate from Seattle voters. We want ranked choice voting. The Legislature needs to figure it out, City Hall needs to figure it out. And in next year's legislative session, they're going to need to give not just Seattle, but other jurisdictions, more freedom and leeway to do something like that.

[00:25:40] Crystal Fincher: This is coming, in one way or another, to the City of Seattle, clearly. That is a very clear message sent by the voters. Now, I do think there is a fair point to be made about the process by which it happens, just having some more time to really educate and give information about it - I think that's going to be helpful. But really figuring out the how of the implementation to make sure that it's smooth, to make sure there is sufficient outreach and education for voters beforehand, and to make sure that the voters are able to vote in a way that is fair, that there is a - with the Secretary of State - that they're adequately supporting Seattle and any other jurisdiction that wants to make this change and to help make these implementations consistent and successful. So I'm looking forward to seeing how this proceeds.

I'm really looking forward to even-year elections. The difference that this makes in turnout is so clear and obvious. Again, you brought up Los Angeles. We are seeing the difference that that is making - so many more people are engaged in elections down there. Even in the primary, so many more people have been engaged and it has shown. And candidates who are not engaging with the public and relying simply on the old tried and true way of just speaking to a narrow slice of special interest supporters and having a big war chest of finances are not having the time that they thought they were. They're actually struggling in this election, and those candidates who have engaged with a broader selection of the public are much more successful this cycle. So I also think this is a positive thing just in terms of not just turnout, but in how candidates need to engage with the public and need to be accountable to their constituents. I think this is a very positive development that we've seen in Los Angeles, and I am excited to see it implemented here with county races and really hope that it expands. There's a bill also to do this in the Legislature. I hope we see that the success of this, and just the very wide margin of passage and support for this, really does help this get through in the State Legislature statewide.

[00:28:03] Robert Cruickshank: Yeah, I think it's a pretty strong mandate from King County to the Legislature as well - that we want that bill to pass to give local jurisdictions the ability to move their elections to even years. One thing you see in some of these small cities around even King County, going into the late 2010s - you had a lot of right-wingers controlling these city councils - Tukwila, Burien, SeaTac had Trump supporters sitting on their city councils in 2017, 2018, even as late as 2019. And even-year elections help mitigate against that because you get more people involved in the process. That's good for small D democracy. I think it'll also make the outcome more progressive, which is good for those who care about that. There's no guarantee that that happens. Ultimately, candidates have to speak to more people, and that's always a good thing.

[00:28:53] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely. And in Los Angeles, we are seeing a very, very close mayoral race. As you said, this doesn't guarantee the progressive outcome, but there are a lot more people engaged. Turnout is increased - it's taking time to count those votes, but we'll stay tuned on what's happening there.

Also here, we saw across the state, legislative races in these battleground districts turn out, frankly, much better than initially anticipated. For a midterm year, it's not just in Congress where the party in power traditionally struggles. And we just did not see the outcome that many feared at the start of this cycle. There were people wondering across the board, both in political circles and outside - are Democrats going to maintain the majority in both chambers of our legislature? And the resounding answer is yes. What did you see in a number of these races? I'm thinking of the 26th Legislative District, which is a district that is absolutely a battleground district - progressive senator there with Emily Randall, but who has been constantly under attack by extreme Republicans. The 42nd Legislative District in the north part of Washington, the 47th Legislative District where - full disclosure, we did work in that race - but here in King County, in one of the most diverse areas of the county, but one which is a purple district that has elected both Republicans and Democrats. What were your takeaways and what did you see in these races?

[00:30:38] Robert Cruickshank: Yeah, I think we're seeing Washington become a more stable blue state. And I think the Republican Party is in a permanent downward trend - doesn't mean they'll never win again. I want to make that clear. But right now, the fundamental trends favor Democrats, especially in the entire Puget Sound region. You mentioned the 42nd District way up in Whatcom County, all the way down to the South Sound - Democrats are winning consistently, and it's not just a rejection of the far right. You saw people like Chad Magendanz, who used to be a more moderate-ish Republican State Representative in Issaquah, in the 5th District. He wanted his seat back. And so he ran against Lisa Callan, thinking there's a Democratic woman I can easily beat her. No, you can't. He's losing by 10 points. He had the Seattle Times endorsement. The Seattle Times endorsed another fairly moderate-ish Republican to take on Manka Dhingra in the Redmond area - Manka's winning by a huge margin. You mentioned the 47th District, where Claudia Kauffman is winning against a more moderate Republican. And Republicans even got bounced out of the open State House race there. Federal Way is becoming much more safe for Democrats when it wasn't that long ago - 2014, 2015, 2016 - the most expensive races in the state for Legislature were happening in Federal Way - it was that close. You look at Emily Randall, who's done a great job representing the Kitsap Peninsula and that part of Pierce County out there - Gig Harbor area - really responsive to constituents, running on an unabashedly progressive agenda and winning. It's close, but she's got a pretty strong, stable lead.

I think what you're seeing here is a Democratic party that is increasingly responsive. The people who are filling these seats are increasingly younger, more diverse, more representative and inclusive. And I think it is giving Democrats a more stable majority. Republicans are having a really tough time right now - finding a path to a majority. Now, that means Democrats have to deliver. They keep getting these victories at the State Legislative level, and then they fall a little short delivering on things. They did great stuff on climate, they had some good reforms on policing in 2020, which they then stepped back from the next year, which was a big problem. But there's a lot that they need to do on housing, right? Housing legislation died in the 2022 session - that's going to have to come up. We may be entering a recession and they're going to have to solve taxes.

I think honestly, one of the most important victories is Noel Frame becoming State Senator. She's a huge upgrade over Reuven Carlyle. Reuven Carlyle spent his time working behind the scenes to undermine or kill progressive priorities left and right to help corporate power. Noel Frame, on the other hand, is leading the way to fix our broken tax code. And I think 2023 is the year finally for Democrats to fix that broken tax code. Now Senator-elect Frame has been leading the Tax Structure Working Group - they're expecting a report on what a new structure for the state could look like that's more progressive and brings in a bit more money. 2023 is the year to get it done - because going into a presidential election year, Democrats are not going to have a whole lot of seats at risk if they do something big in 2023. And given the fiscal forecast, they're going to have to. We have schools that need more funding, school mental health services that need more funding, a healthcare system in crisis. The Legislature needs to step up. Democrats now have majorities where they're not going into each election worrying about whether they're going to lose those majorities. They can keep them if they deliver. And now I think it's going to be on the rest of us who aren't in the Legislature, who are advocates and representing communities, to speak up and organize and make that Democratic legislature deliver in 2023.

[00:34:25] Crystal Fincher: And I think you're right on - in addition to just one, being elected and having those majorities - Democrats have a mandate. We saw to a degree that we haven't before - to your point earlier - that Democrats ran hard on their values. And those who did and talked about a holistic view of public safety and bringing comprehensive public safety, who talked about housing being a human right, who talked about the absolute need to expand healthcare coverage, to house people - not simply temporarily shelter, but get people into housing reliably, to control out-of-control housing costs across the board - that these are things that Democrats across the state in battleground districts ran on and won handily on these things. Where there was some question - I know from some consultants, from some Democrats even in leadership - whether they did have a mandate to act on that, whether the public would support those things. We heard a resounding yes from voters. We saw candidates who pledged to take action on these things succeed.

And we have leaders who are ready to take on progressive revenue that's going to be necessary to address all of these other issues, particularly in the event of an economic downturn, in the event of budgets going in the other direction. And I do think that we have a helpful blueprint here in the City of Seattle, who recently did implement new progressive revenue with the JumpStart Tax - that is now being used by people who originally opposed that to bail out the City from the consequences of an economic downturn, from budget shortfalls. That is actually providing the necessary revenue, providing stability throughout this downturn period. Progressive revenue really is the key to make sure that the City can continue to deliver services, to make sure that the City can continue to provide residents with the support and assistance needed, to handle infrastructure, to really start to address homelessness in a way that solves this problem, that gets people housed and doesn't just move them from place to place like sweeps do. Progressive revenue really is the stabilizer and the responsible way to handle this. And what I was gratified to see was that opponents, prior opponents of this have now come around and are embracing the JumpStart Tax, are embracing progressive revenue, and recognizing that this is a necessary element of budgets moving forward. I think that there's a lesson to be learned here, as we look at the county budget and as we look at the state budget, that progressive revenue really is the stabilizer here.

[00:37:32] Robert Cruickshank: It is. And I think we can also add in the capital gains tax, which the Legislature finally got done last year. And Republicans and their billionaire friends thought, first, that they could repeal it at the ballot box. So that fizzled out. It became really clear, both in terms of their slow going in terms of signature gathering, as well as the polling - no, the public supports taxing the rich to fund education and other priorities. The Democratic elected officials who voted for it haven't paid any price for it. Why would they? The voters want that. They support that. So now you have going into the 2023 session, where they're going to have to figure out how to fund programs and add more funding for things like public education, solve health care problems, and deal with overall budget - the public supports wealth taxes. Senator-elect Frame had a wealth tax proposal that she proposed in 2021 and 2022 - that should be a centerpiece of the discussion in 2023 and her larger Tax Structure Workgroup solution. There is no political downside to making this tax code more progressive. The public wants it. The public supports it. Democrats will face no political cost for doing it. They have no excuse for failing to act. And I think what you point out about Seattle is even people who were skeptical or opponents now understand this is a popular and useful source of revenue that can help solve some problems.

[00:38:54] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. And I'm definitely looking forward to this coming legislative session and seeing people take action. And I also just want to call out that we saw more diversity in all kinds this past cycle in winning candidates. There has been lots of chatter that I've heard over the years, and even in this past cycle, talking about ideal candidates and candidates who fit their district - even by Democratic consultants. And usually that has been code for - this is an older white male who is a business owner, or a veteran, or previously a police officer. And really it sounds like code for - this is someone who Republicans can like, this is someone who looks like a Republican. And really if we focus on who looks like the community, who is in the community, who reflects the full diversity of the working class, who can speak to and connect with those issues. And we saw younger candidates. We saw candidates of various ethnicities. We saw candidates of various sexualities. We saw people who can speak to the communities of today who are not stuck in some of the old paradigms that are just not fruitful or productive and haven't been for anyone.

If we don't make a case on what we need to do when we're running for election, we can't then govern on that. We can't then pass that legislation. And I think we have seen in prior sessions that being a sticking point and a barrier to governing. Yeah, you can have a Democratic majority, but if it is full of people or has enough people who oppose progressive revenue, who oppose comprehensive public safety, healthcare, education funding that's adequate and appropriate - all of these issues that we're facing - then we have just as much of a barrier than if we elected people from the other party. You have to build a coalition around the action that you need to take. You have to build the case for that action in campaigns. I'm so glad that we saw that done by so many candidates who were successful across the state, and that this can then motivate action on the mandate that they've been handed.

[00:41:25] Robert Cruickshank: I think that's right. And I think we may and I think we need to see a reckoning within the Democratic caucuses in Olympia on this. The Democratic caucuses have often been led by mostly older white men or older white folks, who have a lot of privilege and who spend their time telling these newly elected legislators who represent their communities more authentically and look like those communities, telling them - no, fall in line, you have to do what we say, you can't deliver on your promises. And that's been, frankly, a source of a lot of toxicity. You saw Kirsten Harris-Talley step away from being in the Legislature after only a single term and wrote a public letter in the South Seattle Emerald saying that the leadership lacked integrity. You've seen others like Jesse Johnson step away, Emily Wicks step away - but more folks keep coming in who represent those communities, who look like those communities, who aren't the older white folks of the past. And I think we who are outside of Olympia need to do everything we can to help change that dynamic, put the pressure on leadership - the old ways of standing on the tracks and saying, no, isn't going to work anymore. We've delivered the votes. We've delivered stable majorities. Now you have to deliver. We are not accepting no for an answer.

[00:42:43] Crystal Fincher: Now there is another local race that we've talked about on the show before that is absolutely exciting and an example of what true grassroots organizing, true connection to the community, and what direct action and community action can do. And that's the Raise the Wage Tukwila campaign that was wildly successful. We have not seen a minimum wage initiative be this successful yet here in this state. This was something that included leaders from the business community in Tukwila, labor leaders in Tukwila, the Transit Riders Union leadership, and just a bunch of people who are really passionate about making sure that workers get paid fairly. What happened that you saw in this race?

[00:43:43] Robert Cruickshank: I think what we see is that, again, King County - and it's not just Seattle - strongly supports higher wages for workers. You see worker organizing from Starbucks to Amazon is popular and people get it. Working folks are struggling. They're struggling before pandemic, struggling before inflation. And those two factors have made it only more important and more popular to raise the wage. And it's interesting that we've almost come full circle here. I think the national Raise the Wage movement took off in SeaTac in 2013, and grassroots organizations got the $15 an hour minimum wage passed there. And it was a very close vote. That was not a resounding victory by any means. And then grassroots folks led by Kshama Sawant and others in Seattle went 15 Now. And they got that done in part by gathering signatures to say - we don't have a solution that we like - we'll take you to the ballot and we'll win. Now what you're seeing - going to Tukwila - saying, 15 was a good start. It's not enough. We need to keep raising that wage. And voters are responding very, very strongly. And you can see this across the country now, even in deep red states like Arkansas, Missouri - initiatives to raise the minimum wage pass pretty easily. Voters understand that the wages are too low, that people need to be paid better for the work that they're doing, especially those in what have often been underpaid service sector jobs. The public is there. The public wants it. And again, here's another place where Democratic majorities should act. You look at the federal minimum wage, which has not budged since 2009, it's still stuck at $7.25. If Democrats hang on to the House and hang on to the Senate, one of the first things they do in 2023 should be to raise that wage.

[00:45:27] Crystal Fincher: It absolutely should be. And it's something that they should move to advance, even if they don't take control of the House. Because to the point that you just made, we saw in a deep red state this year and on the ballot box, just this week, a minimum wage increase pass. We've seen these pass in deep red states. Progressive policy is actually popular with workers. It does materially improve the wages and the lives, living conditions of working people - regardless of what their political ideology is. And they recognize that and they support these things. If Republicans were smart, they would see that their voters, their constituents that they need to win, support this and they should also. And if not, then once again, they're going to be voting against the will of their constituents and something that could materially improve their lives immediately. So this is something that should be ripe for action from Democrats across the country in every state legislative house, every state legislative chamber, every - in Congress - just people from far and wide, from cities and counties on up. We need to see action on this. It's time. The federal minimum wage is pathetically and shamefully low. We can't support anything on that. It's at this point of poverty wage, and we need to do all that we can to move people out of poverty. We need to stop this exploitation at a time when we see record corporate profits with so many corporations and organizations. There is no excuse to be paying workers poverty wages at all. And communities agree.

I also just want to call this one out because sometimes these efforts are kicked off and started in coalition with some really heavily moneyed interests that have positive change in mind. But sometimes they come with - it's a small group of people, the same group of people here and some individual interests doing this kind of across the board. This, to me, was really inspiring because we really saw this generate from the ground up. We really saw community activists, people with an interest in Tukwila, people who lived in Tukwila, people who worked in Tukwila deciding to do this, making sure that it worked for everyone in the community, all of the different stakeholders, really doing the work in canvassing and talking to voters. And that is critically important, and I think helped this initiative and is why we see it being so resounding - is having those one-on-one conversations with people at doors makes the biggest difference that can be made. This was a very intentional campaign. They knew that they had to do that work, planned to do that work, executed that work well, and it showed and it paid off. And so I certainly hope to see this model replicated across the state for a variety of things.

My goodness, we can run initiatives to build sidewalks for people to be able to get around their communities, to advance transit, to take climate action, to address healthcare, alternative response public safety. These are all things that we can move on on the ballot box locally with initiatives. And what a great blueprint to be able to study and follow. And I really hope people do that.

[00:49:19] Robert Cruickshank: Yeah, I think Transit Riders Union and other folks who did a lot of that work in Tukwila really pointed the way forward for a lot of different types of organizing. Hats off to them for stepping up and getting this done.

[00:49:31] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. I'm just absolutely inspired and thrilled. And again, hope people really take a look at the work that was done, the planning that was done, and how they executed it - because that's the way to get it done.

Okay, so overall, we saw Democrats have just a really successful cycle here in 2022 in Washington. My goodness, Republicans are struggling. What does this mean for both parties as they move forward?

[00:50:06] Robert Cruickshank: I think what we're seeing is potentially a light at the end of the tunnel out of 12 years of the Tea Party/MAGA/Trump movement - this huge backlash to progressive policy, a backlash to a Black President, a backlash to a woman presidential nominee, a backlash to social change. We may be starting to see the other side of that. Democrats picking up seats in places like Ohio is promising. There's still a lot to be done. Things didn't go well in Texas. Things went really badly in Florida for Democrats. New York was a problem, but that's also partly because of the Democratic Party structure there that's ossified and really problematic. But the United States is a center-left country, but we have a Republican Party that is trying to use the laws and the courts to undermine that through things like gerrymandering, undermining voting rights, things of that sort. And it's really a problem. And I think if we're able to have a center-left majority represented in this country - now's a good time for Democrats, especially in Congress, to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, to step up and make sure the right to vote is protected, that gerrymandering is ended. Because what you can do with that then is have a stable Democratic majority in the Congress. We can keep the Tea Party, MAGA, Trump movement at bay and finally start to make some movement on the political, social, economic challenges of this country. So I look at this election as a really hopeful moment. I know a lot of us went into it with a lot of anxiety. I know I did.

Coming out of it, I think we should feel hopeful about the possibilities that exist. There's still a ton of work ahead. Maybe we turned a corner - I don't know. We'll see. Trump may announce he's running for president next week, but I feel more hopeful right now about the direction of the country than I felt in a little while. I think that's a positive outcome.

[00:52:12] Crystal Fincher: I also think it's a positive outcome. I do also see cause for hope. Obviously, we can't, we don't know what's going to happen with control of the House or Senate yet. We don't know what is in store there. But we did see a sound rejection of people who are that extreme. We did see a sound rejection by voters of some of the most extreme policies there. And so let's take that as a starting point and understand that entertaining those, entertaining any of that kind of talk, painting any of that as a both-sides issue, just doesn't work and is not acceptable. I think from the media to different candidates, we don't have to treat that as valid and reasonable at all. We saw a lot of that in the lead up to this election. And I hope that one of the lessons that we learned is that it's just absolutely unacceptable. So given all of the election information that we saw, with everything that happened in these races, what does this mean for 2023 races, particularly in the City of Seattle?

[00:53:31] Robert Cruickshank: There are folks out there from the mayor, to The Times, to other observers and consultants who think that 2023 is going to be a more conservative year in terms of City Council elections. I think these election results challenge that. I think you can see that - even in Seattle, where in a place like Northeast Seattle, the 46th district - Darya Farivar, the more progressive candidate, is winning and winning clearly over her more conservative opponent. You see The Stranger's endorsed candidates winning all throughout Seattle legislative races. I think that what this suggests is that voters going into 2023 are not in the same place they may have been in 2021. I think that you're going to see voters want solutions on criminal justice, on public safety, on homelessness that are responsive, holistic, that treat people as whole human beings - not law and order politics. It's not going to be a year where Ann Davison clones are going to do well.

I also think there are other issues that are going to come to the fore - you see Darya, Emily Alvarado doing really well because in part, they're strong supporters of building new housing and solving the housing crisis. Someone like Alex Pedersen in District 4 is going to have a real problem - a district that overlaps the 46th - Alex Pedersen being a hardcore NIMBY, deep opponent of new housing, opponent of bike infrastructure, opponent of transit. He's going to have his hands full in 2023. You have an open seat potentially if Debora Juarez retires in District 5. I think even Dan Strauss is going to have to figure out whether he wants to be more progressive or more conservative with his new district. And you see pundits say, oh, it's going to be more conservative district. Will it? That is potentially an open question. I think that going into 2023, there's an opportunity for progressive Seattle here to lay out solutions that the public wants, that are responsive to engage on these issues - not hide from them, but tackle them all directly, and speak directly to voters' concerns, and point the way forward to building a better city that we all know we can have. Some of these races may be very close, but then Alex Pedersen very narrowly won in 2019. If I'm progressive Seattle, I'm looking at 2023 as an opportunity, not as a time to have to play defense, but a time to go on offense and show voters what we have to offer.

[00:55:57] Crystal Fincher: I think that is absolutely correct. And I think you're right to point to the 46th Legislative District results as a perfect example of why. This is a district in Northeast Seattle that a lot of people considered to be one of the most moderate in the City of Seattle, to be a NIMBY stronghold, to be the place where - other places in Seattle, other districts in Seattle, other areas may elect Kshama Sawant, may elect more progressive candidates, but that doesn't work north of the Ship Canal. That doesn't work in those areas where we have more established, higher income, single-family neighborhoods, and they don't want that to be destroyed. There have been a small number of very loud voices that have come from those neighborhoods traditionally. And we have seen in this election, really, a sound rejection of the arguments that they were advancing. We saw that rejection on all levels, from legislative races to the county races to the Senate races - the types of arguments and the type of change that they have said was going to be damaging, that they directly took on in these races, just did not land with the voters. And voters sent a clear message that they want to move forward in a different way.

Absolutely a message to both progressives and moderates that this is a different day. And it's not good enough to just say, you know what, I want to listen to everyone, bring everyone together. We just need not to be divisive. We don't need to do anything big or dramatic. Let's just stay the course. No one is happy with the course that we're on. No one is happy with continued inaction on housing while prices continue to just escalate and rise to levels that people can't afford. Everyone is being affected by this in one way or another. We're seeing the symptoms of inaction and I think people are recognizing that. And so people who are building a strong case for what action needs to be done and saying - I'm going to be willing to do the hard work in getting this passed and getting this through - are going to be successful.

The role of progressive revenue in these races and seeing forces who fundamentally don't want taxation for extremely high income earners, whether it's landlords or people who are making money in speculative gains, to the heads of these major corporations, to the corporations themselves that have reaped windfall profits especially through the pandemic and beyond. And their workers are still struggling or they're battling unionization efforts. Seattle and these districts are on the side of the workers conclusively. They're on the side of our community. And I think there needs to be a broader recognition of that across the board - from leaders to current politicians to our media - and really get connected with what voters are saying today. It's different.

And so I'm really interested to see how these 2023 races shape up. I'm frankly interested to see what even the mayor of Seattle takes away from these elections, because he had previously said in some different venues, some in some leaked commentary that he's recruiting against these candidates. He signaled that he wanted to and was aligned with a more punitive punishment approach, that he was skeptical of some of the things that passed without any kind of controversy in this past election by voters. And so is he reconsidering the direction he's taking? Is he reconsidering those candidates who he is setting up to run, perhaps with platforms and advancing policies that were just soundly rejected? And is he reconsidering how he is aligning and allocating his budget that is currently being discussed now - from the sweeps that we're talking about to asking for frontline service workers' compensation to be reduced to just a variety of different things here - is he reconsidering that? It looks like he did start to reconsider progressive revenue, because he certainly relied on that to bail out parts of his budget and to keep it from being underwater and in a deficit. So it looks like there is acknowledgement that that was the right way to go and that we're going to have to rely on that revenue for stability. Hopefully he sees that moving forward. But I'm really interested to hear what our local leaders and existing leaders' takeaways are from this also.

[01:00:53] Robert Cruickshank: Yeah, I think that's absolutely right. And the public wants homelessness solved - people in a tent are our neighbors - they need help, need housing, not punitive solutions. People want crime addressed, but they don't want it addressed with punitive hardcore law and order solutions. Sometimes that may be necessary here or there, but they want the root causes addressed. And I think that this is not a year, and next year will not be a year where sort of Eric Adams-style approach is going to work in Seattle. I think it's a real opportunity for progressives. If they speak directly to the issues, hear people's concerns, and show that we have better answers. And I think certainly comes down to questions of police accountability as well - SPOG contract is becoming an important issue that will come up very soon. And I think you're going to have to see candidates declare themselves. Are they going to be for tough reforms on the police department that hold them accountable? Or are they going to try let them off the hook? And I don't think voters want to see the police let off the hook in terms of them doing their jobs and doing their jobs responsibly, constitutionally, and with accountability.

[01:02:06] Crystal Fincher: And with that, we thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks on today, Friday, November 11th, 2022. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Lisl Stadler. Our assistant producer is Shannon Cheng, and our Production Coordinator is Bryce Cannatelli. Our insightful co-host today is chair of Sierra Club Seattle, a long time communications and political strategist, an excellent political mind, Robert Cruickshank. You can find Robert on twitter @cruickshank. You can follow Hacks & Wonks on Twitter @HacksWonks. You can catch Hacks & Wonks on iTunes, Spotify or wherever else you get your podcasts - just type "Hacks and Wonks" into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to get all of our shows. If you like us, leave a review wherever you listen. 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.