Primary Election 2016: The Long, Hot Summer

Can we be honest for a moment? So far, this summer has sucked. Every other day it seems like somewhere someone is shooting or blowing up or running down scores of people. Cops are shooting innocent people, bystanders are shooting the killings with their phones (and posting for the world to see), and then whack jobs are in turn shooting the cops. The Republicans are running a proto-fascist for president and a charisma-free Christian jihadist as his running mate. But not to worry, the Democrats are running two charisma-free Republicans against them. Seattle is overrun by overgrown white frat boys with entitlement issues to match their oversized paychecks, our pseudo-progressive mayor is sticking up for police officers who feel unfairly maligned for their sloping foreheads, and $10,000 will get you first, last and deposit on a one-bedroom broom closet somewhere south of Buckley. Maybe.

Oh, and once again there’s a critical primary election in the middle of summer, and even more than in most years, sensible people are desperate not to pay attention.

Alas, unless we want to live in a city where no lives matter, we don’t have that luxury. It’s time to organize. And raise holy hell.

But, truly, the voting matters this time, too. Control of Olympia’s gridlocked legislature is at stake, and only voters can un-gridlock it. Market-based solutions like linkage fees, impact fees, rent control, and the like would help, but at the end of the day there is no substitute for creating housing that’s not at the whim of insane real estate speculation; Seattle voters have the chance to approve a housing levy that’s double the size of the last one, with many of the new funds going to publicly owned housing. We can send a kick-ass liberal to Congress (for a change), put a genuine climate change activist in charge of state lands, give a boost to several Bernie Sanders supporters who’ve taken the next step and are running for local offices, and give Tim Eyman one more humiliating electoral defeat before he’s sentenced to jail. And much, much more.

This shit matters.

Keeping it all straight in the heat of summer is going to be far more than most people can, or want, to do – especially with 17 people running for U.S. Senate and 11 running for governor, many of whom appear to have dropped out of the mental health clinical trials they used to pay their filing fees.

Well, I’m here – again – to help. And as has been true for each of the 21 (!) years I’ve been passing on my recommendations, the usual caveats apply: this is one opinion. Take it for what it’s worth, which is, well, one opinion. Do your own research.

Remember, this is a top-two primary, meaning that the top two vote-getters proceed to the general election in November. If there’s only two candidates for a position, it doesn’t appear on the primary ballot and so doesn’t appear here. If there’s only one candidate running for a position, it’s not like anyone has any kind of a choice at all so it doesn’t appear here, either.

And be sure to vote by Tuesday, August 2, but don’t think for a second the job of changing the world, or even our city, will be over when you do. Social change comes from below. Voting becomes most useful when people have already organized, not when the people and policies we empower are approved. Get out and make yourself heard all the time, not just by mailing in a piece of paper.

As for which lines to fill in the bubbles for…

FEDERAL OFFICES

US Senator: Patty Murray is a reliable Democratic incumbent who rarely makes waves. Chris Vance is her only credible opponent, and it’s a measure of how badly Republicans are out of step with our state’s voters that he lists a lot of past jobs in his voters’ guide statement, but somehow leaves out that bit about being head of the Washington State Republican Party. The rest of the cast of thousands would be a laughable cast of permanent candidates, except we have the even more remarkable governor’s race to mock for that. Patty Murray

US House of Representatives, District 1: Suzan DelBene won this seat six years ago as a moderate Democrat by dumping a boatload of her personal fortune into last-minute TV ads. It was a good investment for her personally, but hasn’t done much for her district; she’s been another reliable Democrat, in the best and worst senses of that phrase. This year, she’s getting a challenge from her left, from Sanders backer Alex Storms. She needs it. Alex Srorms.

US House of Representatives, District 7: The last time Seattle’s congressional seat was seriously contested, Ronald Reagan was president. Think about that. After almost three decades on the other Capitol Hill, Jim McDermott is finally retiring from one of the safest seats in Congress.”Sunny Jim” is a friendly guy with frequently progressive rhetoric, but almost nothing to show in actual accomplishments for his long career. Seattle deserves better.

That history is important in evaluating the three Democrats with the best chance of following Jim. Joe McDermott (no relation, though he’s surely hoping to cash in on the name confusion) is the reliable Dem here. In his time in Olympia and on County Council, like so many local Democratic office-holders, he’s been likeable but hasn’t actually done much to justify his lifetime sinecure – let alone this promotion. Brady Walkinshaw, in his short time in Olympia, has been far more dynamic. He also deserves massive credit for entering the race before McDermott’s retirement, and quite possibly triggering it – a civic accomplishment that in itself deserves our gratitude. He’d make a fine Congressman.

But I’m going wih the riskier choice here. Pramila Jayapal, dating to her time as founder and executive for Hate Free Zone, now One America, has a strong reputation as insanely ambitious, and as not treating the people around and below her particularly well. Frankly, I don’t entirely trust her. I wouldn’t be shocked if, once elected, she decided establishment comfort was more important than principle, or if she served a few terms and then cashed in for a more lucrativr lobbying gig, as so many Congresscreatures do. But I had those same concerns when she was elected to Olympia, and was pleasantly impressed – she’s used her prodigious ability to network (and fundraise) to make things happen in Olympia and to get progressive goals accomplished in a way that Jim McDermott, long a pariah in his own caucus, never has. With such a safe seat, Seattle needs a Congressional rep willing to take risks and fight unpopular battles until they become popular. Jayapal is the only one of the three candidates who’s shown she can do that, and it makes her the best choice here. And Lord knows Congress needs a strong voice who will go to bat for immigrants, too. Pramila Jayapal

US House of Representatives, District 8: Dave Reichert is taking even longer to retire than he took to “catch” the Green River Killer. His Congressional career has been marked by a reputation (pushed hard by the Seattle Times) as moderate and independent – but he votes with his batshit crazy caucus most of the time. The Eastside deserves better. With former sportscaster Ton Ventrella having dropped out of the race, the Democrats’ best shot for unseating Reichert lies with Santiago Ramos.

US House of Representatives, District 9: Adam Smith, like Suzan DelBene, is a moderate Democrat. He’s been in Congress longer and has done more, rising to become ranking member of the House Armed Services committee. That was a good fit when his district included the sprawling military facilities south of Tacoma. But in 2012, District 9 was redrawn to shift north, and with the inclusion of the Kent Valley is now the state’s only majority minority district. Smith is no longer such a good fit.

Jesse Wineberry was in the state house in the ’90s, and is coming back from wherever former state House members go to challenge Smith on that basis. Wineberry would surely become a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, the biggest progressive player in the other Washington. His record in Olympia was mixed, but he’d represent the district better than Smith currently does. Jesse Wineberry.

STATE OFFICES

Governor: This race is a shitshow for the ages. You’ve got Goodspaceguy and the abusively erratic David Blomstrom from the “runs for something every year” contingent; Bill Hirt, who seems to be running solely to stop the expansion of light rail to the Eastside (??); James Robert Deal, who’s very, very, very concerned about vaccines and about flouridation of our water; Mary Martin, who Radical Women ran for Seattle Mayor four years ago; and four other people who you’ll hopefully also never hear from again. The only two that matter here are incumbent Jay Inslee and his main Republican opponent, former Port of Seattle commissioner Bill Bryant.

You’ll mostly remember Bryant as the guy who brought Shell’s arctic drilling rig to the Port and then bashed the protesters who demonstrated against it – but that’s pretty much what he was about during his entire tenure overseeing one of the most corrupt and corporate-friendly agencies in the state. Now he wants to run the state. No. Fucking Way. Inslee has had some flaws as governor, and some but not all have been a function of a disastrous state senate refusing to work with him. But he’s been solid on a lot of fronts and better than his two immediate predecessors, Christine Gregoire and Gary Locke. He’s also the only rational choice running. Jay Inslee.

Lieutenant Governor: This is a useless position that really should be abolished; its only functions are to chair the state senate and to succceed the governor if he or she doesn’t complete the term. Brad Owen is finally retiring after two decades of using the copious state-funded free time that leaves to promote his favorite cause, the Wat on Drugs. Good riddance.

The two strongest candidates to replace him are Karen Fraser and Cyrus Habib. Fraser has some solid accomplishments from her time in Olympia and would be a fine choice, but I’m going with Habib as being both competent and more progressive in how he uses that free time. Cyrus Habib.

Secretary of State: This seat promotes state trade and oversees the state’s elections. It’s been held by Republicans pretty much since statehood in 1889, and is currently held by moderate Republican Kim Wyman. Like her two longtime predecessors, she’s been unassuming and competent. She faces a challenge from Tina Podlodowski, who basically used her time on Seattle City Council over a decade ago to make corporate shilling a thing for ambitious gay politicians; you can thank her for helping pave the way for our current mayor. Ideologically, she’s more conservative than Ed Murray is, but they have a lot in common. I don’t mean that as a compliment.

That said, Wyman has overseen the state’s disastrous shift to a less-inclusive August primary, and has opposed the state’s Voting Rights Act, a package of reforms (such as same-day registration) that would increase turnout. Expanding the electorate should be this position’s highest priority, Podlodowski supports it, and Wyman should be fired for, like so many of her Republican colleagues, preferring to depress turnout. Tina Podlodowski.

State Treasurer: Over the years, various candidates have won seats as Port of Seattle Commissioner and tried to reform the corruption that people like Bill Bryant have profited from. Generally, they serve one term, and then some shill gets a lot of corporate money to unseat them. Such was Alec Fisken’s fate from 2002-2006, but he fought the good fight then, and he’s running for state treasurer now. Alec Fisken.

State Auditor: A state auditor who actually holds state agencies accountable is worth his or her weight in gold. Local attorney and civic activist Jeff Sprung, an ally of attorney general Bob Ferguson, is the likeliest to do that. Jeff Sprung.

Attorney General: Speaking of which, Ferguson is the best AG our state has had in a long, long time. If nothing else, he deserves a medal for being the person who’s finally prosecuting Tim Eyman’s long-running initiative scam operation. He’s unopposed except for some Libertarian Party dude. Why would you elect as the state’s head person in charge of defending and enforcing our laws, someone who’s opposed to all laws? Duh. Bob Ferguson.

Commissioner of Public Lands: This position oversees the state’s huge land holdings; in the past it’s mostly been a sinecure for the state’s forestry and ranching interests. This year, finally, not one but two candidates with strong climate change credentials are bidding for the seat. Hilary Franz directs Futurewise, an enviro group that does great work but has also been an enthusiastic backer of Seattle’s corporate-friendly, poor people-hostile approach to density. Dave Upthegrove, in Olympia and on county council, has the chops to run a state department, the priorities to get it right, and comes without the baggage of being willing to sacrifice our state’s most vulnerable people to get there. Dave Upthegrove.

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Somebody has got to advocate for our state’s criminally underfunded (just ask the state supreme court) public schools, and there are two fine choices here. Erin Jones (great hair!) would be a strong advocate for the state’s many non-white students, and that would be hugely valuable. But I’m going with Chris Reykdal, who’s the choice of the Washington Education Association and the state’s beleaguered public school teachers. Having an advocate for teachers in that role would change a lot of things for the better. Chris Reykdal.

Washington State Senate: There are a number of reasons why Olympia is a hot, dysfunctional mess, but the most obvious is that the state senate is controlled by a party that is batshit crazy. Republicans have 26 seats – officially 25, but somehow “Democrat” Tim Sheldon always votes their way, too – and the Dems have 23. Mind you, a fair number of those Democrats are useless tools, but at least they generally acknowledge that things like climate change, taxes, and gay people actually exist. And this year is the best chance voters have had in several years to return reality-based governance to Olympia.

But that means flipping at least two seats currently controlled by Republicans. There are a few such seats in suburban Seattle, but most of them are Elsewhere. However, if you, family, or friends live in any of these locales, do whatever you can to support the following candidates. And you can donate money from anywhere. Just sayin’: Tim Probst (Legislative District 17, Vancouver); Karl Mecklenburg (LD 25, Puyallup); Marisa Peloquin (LD 28, University Place); and last but not at all least, hopefully replacing the execrable Steve Litzow, Lisa Wellman (LD 41, Mercer Island).

Washington House of Representatives: Most Seattle legislative races are recurring coronations of useless Democrats, but there are exceptions (Bob Hasegawa, Gerry Pollet, and Jeanne Kohl-Welles, to name three). There are also a couple of interesting races this year:

Legislative District 32, Position 2 (North Seattle): Incumbent Ruth Kagi is one of those dull Democrats, excepting her enthusiasm for charter schools. This always-fractious district needs a better representative. One of the positive things the Bernie Sanders campaign has done has been to inspire challenges to politicians like Kagi, like this one from Wesley Irwin.

Legislative District 43, Position 1 (Capitol Hill/University District/Wallingford): It has long been an oddity of Seattle politics that arguably the state’s most liberal district has long sent some of the state’s more conservative Democrats to Olympia (Frank Chopp is unopposed in the other seat this year, for example.) Finally, with this race for an open seat, that could change. By far the best choice for doing that is Nicole Macri, a dynamic activist and executive for the Downtown Emergency Services Center, the largest (and gnarliest) homeless shelter in the state. She’s worked first-hand to help some of the worst victims of our state’s economic, housing, and tax priorities. This district needs that voice. Nicole Macri.

JUDGES

Washington State Supreme Court, Position 5: All of the incumbent state justices up for re-election are being challenged this year, though this is the only one on the primary ballot. The challenges are an effort by the hopefully-soon-to-be-jailed Tim Eyman to pack the state supreme court with justices who won’t find his initiatives unconstitutional, as keeps happening. (Because, you know, they are.) The Eyman proxy here is Kittitas County (Ellensburg) prosecutor Greg Zempel, challenging one of the best of the justices, incumbent Barbara Madsen. How much longer do we need to keep repeating the phrase “Don’t let Eyman get away with it!” – “it” invariably being something that, like this, would badly harm the state? Barbara Madsen.

Superior Court, Position 44: Cathy Moore is the incumbent, a competent judge who deserves to keep her job. Cathy Moore.

BALLOT MEASURES

Two local Seattle measures are on the primary ballot this year:

Initiative 123: In that same 2013 mayoral primary that gave us Radical Women’s Mary Martin, neighborhood activist Kate Martin, no relation, also ran. (Both encountered a lot of misogyny in the male-dominated field.) Kate’s big idea that year was toturn the Alaskan Way viaduct into a long, elevated park, so as to preserve the great view. She lost badly.

Three years late, Martin and her idea are on the ballot with this initiative, but a lot has changed in those three years. The idea has changed significantly, because the state, not the city, owns the earthquake-damaged viaduct and isn’t about to turn it into a park – so I-123 would tear the viaduct down and replace it with another one that would be only about half as long as the current structure. Another thing that’s changed is the city’s budget, which is overwhelmed by social service needs and our refusal to tax the city’s booming corporate sector; this is an unfunded but extremely expensive proposal that would inevitably take money away from critical programs that keep people alive. And lastly, the waterfront itself has changed; the city is well along on a lengthy process, with extensive public input, for a post-viaduct future, and this would throw all that planning out with nothing except another pricey civic vanity project to replace it.

In short, I-123 is an insane proposal that just about every political group in Seattle opposes. Do you know how bad something has to be to get that kind of consensus? No.

Proposition 1: Or how good? In this case, just about everyone supports Prop One, a renewal of the city’s 2009 Housing Levy, because of the obvious and desperate need. This year’s levy doubles the last one, to the tune of $290 million. That’s a lot of money – but it’s not nearly enough to build the kind of housing needed to seriously address this city’s affordable housing crisis. Still, it will help a whole lot of people. And we simply can’t not do it. Yes.

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