SEATTLE — The 2020 election is heating up in Washington and there are plenty of races with candidates eager to serve in elected office. Eyes are primarily focused on the presidential election, but voters will also decide the occupants of several state representative and senate seats.
Patch asked candidates to answer questions about their campaigns and will be publishing candidate profiles as election day draws near.
Kirsten Harris-Talley, a Seattle resident, is running for State Representative in Washington's 37th District (Position 2).
Party affiliation: Democratic Party
Family: Married with two children
Occupation: Current: Interim Executive Director, NARAL Pro-Choice Washington (1 year)
Previous: Program and Political Director, Progressive Alliance of Washington (7 years)
Previous elected experience: Seattle City Councilmember (appointed as interim, 2017)
Family members in government: No
Campaign website: https://electkht.org
The single most pressing issue facing our state is _______, and this is what I intend to do about it.
If elected, I plan to restructure our current tax system while pursuing progressive revenue solutions, and create thousands of good-paying union jobs guaranteed to put people to work. My top three priorities are progressive tax reform, climate justice, and economic justice for working families. Of these, progressive tax reform is my top priority, as funding is needed to accomplish so many of our community’s goals, such as Green New Deal jobs, excellent public education, pandemic rent and mortgage forgiveness, a guaranteed employment program, expansion of affordable housing, and more. To do this, I will collaborate with other progressive lawmakers to close tax loopholes that give advantages to already wealthy corporations over working people and small businesses, pass the Working Families Tax Credit, and identify and end state level pre-emptions that limit local city and county control over taxation.
What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?
I am proud to be the only candidate in the race with 20 years’ experience passing progressive policy that has materially benefitted the 37th District. And as a former Seattle City Councilmember, I am the only candidate with the type of legislative experience that will allow me to hit the ground running in Olympia. Furthermore, I am the only candidate who is not accepting donations from charter school groups, corporate lobbying groups, and bail bond company owners. Because of my experience, values, and long history of collaboration with the community, I am the only candidate to date to have received the endorsements of the 37th District Democrats, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, State Senator Rebecca Saldaña, The Stranger, and many labor unions and progressive organizations.
What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?
Within the past few years, I believe some of my proudest accomplishments came from my service in 2017 on Seattle City Council. Due to a Council vacancy when former City Councilmember Tim Burgess assumed the position of interim Mayor, I consulted with local organizers and activists about applying to the Council appointment. I was so heartened with the level of support our communities showed for me, and I was appointed to serve 51 days on Seattle City Council ending my term of service when Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda was elected. During my time on Council, our office was integral to reallocating funds to housing services and pursuing progressive revenue to fund critical housing services for Seattle’s most vulnerable residents. I was able to foundationally shift the conversation around progressive revenue reform not only within Seattle, but statewide in addition to delivering real investments in critical service needs for homeless neighbors, communities of color, and other vulnerable Seattle residents.
Looking back further, I have spent over 20 years in our region and statewide building powerful movements for change, from philanthropy, to nonprofit work, reproductive rights, and housing justice. I have also collaborated with neighbors on the #blockthebunker movement to stop the construction of the nation’s most expensive police precinct and #noyouthjail to block the rebuilding of a Seattle jail for teens. I found my voice for politics and activism here in the 37th, and I’ve been in the grassroots ever since. I have a passion for good public policy and have helped pass several statewide laws focusing on reproductive justice and healthcare access, in addition to my time serving on Seattle City Council. Professionally I’ve served at the Director level for several nonprofits including as the Political and Program Director of the Progress Alliance of Washington and Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington.
I am a person who is collaborative, brings forward solutions to thorny problems, and takes action to make change that sticks. I am excited to bring these experiences and more to my role as State Representative for the 37th Legislative District. As Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal said in her endorsement of my campaign, “Kirsten has shown herself to be the bold leader the 37th LD deserves in the Washington State House throughout her nearly 20 years of community organizing, non-profit leadership, and legislative experience. From her work as an activist to end youth incarceration and her leadership on progressive revenue reform to investing in community safety, I have admired Kirsten’s dedicated service to our community."
What steps should state government take to bolster economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic for local businesses?
Washington has the most regressive tax system in the United States, which results in the preservation of wealth for the top 1% at the expense of all working families. It should not be the case that people who make less than $40k a year paid 10-16% of their income in state taxes, while the wealthiest in our state paid just 2%. As our economy teeters on the edge of the worst crisis since the Great Depression, our state cannot wait for the federal government to lead. We must be bold and act to invest in workers now and balance our upside down tax code at the same time.
If elected, I plan to implement a restructuring of our current tax system while pursuing progressive revenue solutions, and creating thousands of good-paying union jobs guaranteed to put people to work by:
--Closing tax loopholes that give advantages to already wealthy corporations over working people and small businesses
--Passing the Working Families Tax Credit, an act that works to return money to working families
--Identifying and ending state level pre-emptions that limit local city and county control over taxation
--Strengthening worker rights for secure hours, equitable pay and safe work conditions; including support of union jobs which lift worker benefits for everyone
--Closing capital gains loopholes to generate millions for public infrastructure including transit, roads, parks, and schools
--Pursuing a guaranteed employment program for all unemployed workers in Washington State
--Creating an economic stabilization fund of at least $100 million for Washingtonians of mixed and undocumented documentation statuses
--Absolving families, workers, and small bu
How will you address the calls for racial justice and police reform?
As a queer, Black woman, I have experienced racism and intersectional injustices my entire life. And as a proud abolitionist, I have been shoulder to shoulder with my community calling for policing justice, ending youth incarceration, and abolition for more than a decade. Rather than investing in the expansion of systems of harm, which are born of racial and poverty bias and control, I am committed to our values of investing in community-built alternatives that address upstream needs and care. We are called to redefine and rebuild public safety, and I am ready to build that future in Olympia. Working with community stakeholders, I will:
--Expand funding and local implementation of I-940, to accelerate rollout of community policing practices for local police & sheriff departments
--Continue investment and policy development that addresses the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Womxn Policy platform - including funding and resources for response to MMIW cases in sovereign and urban tribal communities.
--Improve funding for 911 call center systems - with particular focus on urban and unincorporated regions. In addition to equipment updates, expand training for anti-bias training for intact and referrals.
--Reinstate voting rights to those incarcerated
--Eliminate bail so no one remains incarcerated just because of their ability to pay
--Eliminate Legal Financial Obligations (LFOs) and interest accumulations which keep people from recovering credit after serving their time in the prison system
--Eliminate solitary confinement, forced feeding, and other scientifically proven methods of induced trauma for incarcerated people
--Support the demands for holistic school safety put forward by Seattle and Renton Public Schools students, families, and teachers
--Support the divestment and investment demands brought forward by Black-led organizations and community organizing collectives to re-imagine public safety
--End the practice of private jail and detention centers in our state, with initial focus on ending state investment for the private NW Detention Center
How do you think Washington should address the threat posed by Climate Change?
We have a responsibility at the state level to ensure we are doing everything we can to combat the climate crisis and the ways it disproportionately affects Indigenous, Black, Brown and low-income communities. Beacon Hill and other South Seattle neighborhoods suffer the highest levels of environmental health risks in the entire state, particularly with regard to air and noise pollution. Indigenous communities — in this region, specifically, the Puget Sound Salish and Duwamish peoples — have been on the frontlines pushing for climate justice and we must follow their lead by providing protections for sovereign and public lands.
If elected, I commit to:
--Working towards just transition, which will shift our economy towards one of sustainable production.
--Expanding funding for unionized, green job training, with an emphasis on low-income communities and communities of color.
--Reinstating transit, roads, and bridges revenue.
--Building public and social housing, as road transportation emissions are responsible for 42% of the region's total emissions.
--Ensuring that the largest polluters of the region, including our major corporations, are held accountable for their emissions while working to drastically reduce them.
List other issues that define your campaign platform:
FULLY FUNDED PUBLIC EDUCATION
I am the only person running for State Representative who will fight for our public schools and oppose charter schools which take money from our public education system. As a public school parent and active PTA member, I know how important funding is for our schools. Other candidates in the race favor charter schools over investing in our public schools even though charter schools have decimated the public K-12 systems of other states like Ohio and Michigan. Seattle’s public school teachers and the American Federation of Teachers solely endorsed me because I will fight to fully fund public education - not privatize it.
HOUSING FOR ALL
There is not a county in this state that has enough affordable housing. For places that are unincorporated, such as Skyway, this issue especially needs attention. Housing costs within cities are increasingly unaffordable, causing people to drive longer distances to their workplaces. King County is still in a state of emergency with regard to homelessness. I believe in taking a housing approach that builds affordable housing, stabilizes rent costs, and provides wrap-around care for our homeless neighbors as we accelerate their access to safe and sustainable housing. For too long, the issue of housing justice has only been on city and regional radars – we in the state Legislature must prioritize this issue.
REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE FOR EVERY BODY
I am proud to help lead the statewide movement for reproductive justice as Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington. Reproductive Justice means seeing whole people, whole families, and whole communities for a lifetime of healthcare needs. All people deserve access to high-quality reproductive healthcare that is culturally responsive and comprehensive. No matter one’s gender, race, income level, ability, or sexuality; we all deserve bodily autonomy and access to high quality reproductive healthcare.
CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM
We need to get big money out of politics. I was proud to help form and pass the Democracy Voucher program in Seattle municipal elections which has democratized the funding of local politics more than ever before. Yet, there are still many ways we can improve our infrastructure and systems if we want to make sure everyday people, not just big moneyed interests, are the ones leading our democracy. I will work to make sure that engaging with the electoral process is one that is accessible, honest, and transparent.
Our family is like yours. We plan, budget, and save for our monthly childcare expenses. If we truly want to invest in families in the 37th District and across the State, we have to invest childcare and childcare providers. Investing in childcare is also crucial to our collective COVID recovery.
What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions?
I am a mother, educator, and activist working shoulder to shoulder with community in Seattle and throughout Washington State for over 20 years for racial, gender, and economic justice. I have been a neighbor in the 37th LD since 2004 and want to see our solutions, resiliency, and community brilliance championed in Olympia. This is one of the most progressive and diverse districts in WA State, and we deserve policy wins that lift up our communities. I am running because the 37th is a district that takes care of each other, and that is what we need in governance right now.
As a black, queer woman who is raising two children under the age of 10 in South Seattle, I know the impacts of policy on our communities. From go, our campaign has a robust policy platform focused on key issues areas impacting the diverse communities of the 37th LD. I am running for office so our district can count on their state representative to fight for climate justice, economic justice, equitable transportation policy, reproductive freedom for all and so much more.
Our campaign’s top priorities are expanded upon in detail on our website www.electkht.org where we talk about what economic justice, climate justice, housing, reproductive justice, and community policing & abolition mean to our district. The challenges impacting the 37th LD are intersectional, because they impact each of us personally, our communities as a whole, and the systems and governance of policy. Knowing how these fights look as an advocate and an elected means I will hit the ground running when I serve in Olympia.
I am running to stand with my neighbors for justice and equity. To make sure we have solutions that make an impact. To bring progressive policy forward and win on votes. And to make sure those laws are implemented in a way that makes people's lives better. In short, I am running to serve.