Closing a 59 point primary gap would be a downright miracle in a political race, but Jess Spear is keeping the pressure on with one month to go in her bid to unseat longtime House Speaker Frank Chopp in Capitol Hill’s 43rd district.
On Tuesday night, Spear was fired up in her short appearance with Chopp at the Eastlake Community Council candidate forum. It was one of the few times both candidates have appeared together in the same room ahead of the November election, though the 20 minute session didn’t leave much time to get beyond the talking points.
In the August primary Spear garnered just 20% of vote as Chopp took home 79%. Spear’s staff are quick to point out that Spear gave a strong showing given Chopp’s entrenched position in the district and in Olympia.
“Winning depends on our ability to reach people, and that’s what frustrates me about the limited candidate forums,” Spear told CHS heading into Tuesday night.
Spear, a member of Socialist Alternative, chided Chopp and other Democrats on Tuesday night for passing corporate tax breaks and for failing to pass a state income tax. Chopp spent much of his time touting achievements in the legislature, including his role in expanding heath care coverage for thousands of children under the Apple Health program. Chopp also defended the $9 billion Boeing tax break, and others like it, saying it has kept manufacturing jobs in the state and contributed significantly to the economy. “You have to look at the whole picture,” he said.
The 43rd district includes many of the highest rent neighborhoods in the city, including Capitol Hill, South Lake Union, and parts of downtown. Both candidates have made strong efforts to connect with voters on the issue of affordable housing. On Tuesday night, Spear continued her call for a lifiting of the state ban on rent control, while Chopp vowed to continue his years of work using the state housing levy to build more affordable housing across the district.
On the fundraising front, things aren’t looking good for Spear. So far she has raised around $46,000 — a respectable amount given her refusal to accept corporate donations. However, it pales in comparison to Chopp’s $247,000 war chest.
Spear entered the race battle tested, having taken leading roles in Kshama Sawant’s city council campaing and in the grass roots fight for a $15 minimum wage. But it might not be enough. She told CHS that campaigning for herself has been a difficult transition.
“I’m not in any way seeking a political career,” she said. “It’s actually quite uncomfortable to be the face of the campaign. But, it is incredibly rewarding to go talk to people about the issues that they face and build that into solutions.”