Every year The Urbanist Elections Committee analyzes candidates in the Puget Sound Region to help inform your voting decisions. Our process starts with crafting questionnaires that cut to the heart of urbanist issues pertinent to each level of government. After sending out to candidates and doing some deadline reminders, we finally dig into the responses in preparation for interviews.
Between issuing our questionnaires and hosting interviews, Minneapolis police murdered George Floyd, sparking nationwide protests that have continued ever since. Ongoing brazen police brutality in response to those protests has sparked yet more protests and made police abolition a mainstream campaign topic for perhaps the first time ever. Diverting half of Seattle Police Department’s funding to community-led health and public safety programs became a mainstream position within the space of a few weeks. Anti-racist books like Ijeoma Oluo’s “So You Wanna Talk About Race” and Robin Diangelo’s “White Fragility” jumped to the top of bestseller lists. In short, the dynamics of the election had shifted significantly, and we set out to ask every candidate we interviewed how they were responding.
The pandemic pushed us to host our candidate interviews via video conference this year instead of in person. After nearly 12 hours of Zooming, our fact-finding mission was complete. We stewed on the information a few days before retreating to a local park to bellow at each other from a social distance and hash out our differences, finally zeroing in on our endorsements. We’re enthusiastic about our endorsed slate of candidates and excited about what they can achieve in office.
Primaries are an opportunity to vote with your heart–so read below to see who captured our hearts in each dynamic local race and who inspires us to stay engaged in the work of making a better world. Don’t forget to return your ballot by August 4th. Postage is prepaid.
Below are our endorsements. The questionnaire responses are compiled at the bottom of the endorsement write-ups and we’ll also be posting standalone versions for each candidate for easier perusal and sharing.
LD37-2: Kirsten Harris-Talley
Of the dozens of candidates we interviewed for state legislative seats this cycle–and certainly among the non-incumbents, who as a rule tended to speak in hopeful generalities rather than hard-learned specifics–Kirsten Harris-Talley was among the most impressive. That’s lucky for the residents of the 37th legislative district, but also unfortunate since they have to choose between her and another strong candidate in Chukundi Salisbury (and, at the time of our interview, a third strong candidate in Andrea Caupain).
Salisbury, a long-time activist and City of Seattle employee, spoke passionately, pointedly, and groundedly about the challenges he and his neighbors face. We believe he would bring a much-needed dose of community organizing to the legislature. Caupain showed a knack for clear concise answers that cut to the point. We’d love to see both of their names again.
We endorse Harris-Talley in this race because, despite the many strengths and successes of her competitors, she brings together the full package. Harris-Talley, currently the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington and briefly an appointed Seattle City Councilmember (after Tim Burgess stepped down to be fill-in mayor in 2017), has powerful ties to community organizations, deep experience making change within organizations, and practical political experience to boot. We can thank her for playing a critical role in securing progressive payroll taxation that was passed this month. Her combination of grassroots values, legislative polish, and leadership experience make her the clear choice in a strong and crowded field.
If elected, we look forward to working with Harris-Talley as she centers communities like hers in the fight to reverse the cycle of segregation, disinvestment, gentrification, and unaffordable housing that is challenging many Washington cities. As she put it, the 37th district “is in so many ways ground zero for all these intersecting issues.” We endorse her support of statewide right-to-return policies for displaced residents, her advocacy for tenants rights and protections, and of course for new, low-carbon social housing across Washington. Vote Harris-Talley.
LD43-1: Nicole Macri
Incumbent badass Nicole Macri is essentially running unopposed, so this vote is really a no-brainer. Macri has sponsored a bevy of health-related bills aimed at rectifying inequities and protecting the vulnerable–not to mention sponsored several high profile attempts at serious land use reform. Macri introduced multiple bills to repeal the ban on rent control, and has committed to clean fuels as a necessity in the next transportation package. She takes a balanced rather than ideological approach, consistently links climate change, health, land use, livability, and transportation, and she brings a clear-eyed compassion that humbles us. Vote Macri.
LD43-2: Sherae Lascelles
The 43rd legistlative district exemplifies Seattle’s ongoing housing crisis and rapid gentrification–the wealth inequality is jarringly visible. Frank Chopp has represented the district since the 1980s, including a long stint as House Speaker Chopp. He’s been a consistent advocate for affordable housing funding and can rattle off the projects he helped build. But is he still the best person to represent the district in 2020?
Sherae Lascelles changed our minds. Not often do we come across a candidate that has shown effective political action, radical compassion and fierce ingenuity while in a state of constant precarity. When they see a need, they go straight to those affected, down to even producing what’s needed–forming an intuition that focuses on results and community care.
A strong believer in the harm reduction model, Lascelles has led multiple mutual aide organizations that put the Black femme and queer experience on the forefront. They founded People of Color Sex Worker Outreach Project and the Green Light Project to provide cash, sanitary supplies and material requests to sex workers. Because of their advocacy and lived experience, Lascelles is acutely aware of and actively combats inaccessible barriers to entry, a facet of policymaking and everyday life even our most progressive Democrats fail to address.
Lascelles speaks glowingly of the walkable, bodega-saturated lifestyle dense cities like New York foster, and they live in the University District because it offers that. It’s clear they’re an urbanist and understand the importance of transit and density. More than that, they’re precisely the kind of urbanist that can attract new folks and break the movement out of the White male-dominated technocratic rut that can be its stumbling block. Vote Lascelles.