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43rd District forum: Chopp touts years of political experience, Lascelles calls for change of ‘political will’ in Olympia

The fundamental division of the race between state Rep. Frank Chopp and activist challenger Sherae Lascelles was brought into stark relief Thursday night during a virtual forum hosted by the 43rd District Democrats. The election is not just a referendum on policy proposals, but a question of what voters value more: a candidate in Chopp who was the longest serving House speaker in state history with extensive experience shepherding legislation or a candidate like Lascelles who has been the subject of decisions made in Olympia as a non-binary person of color.

So while there are differences between the candidates, like Lascelles bluntly calling themself an “abolitionist” while Chopp stops at saying he supports reducing police funding and funneling that money into housing and mental health services as well as independent oversight of law enforcement, the incumbent Thursday night focused on specific measures he has pushed in his 25 years in the state legislature, while Lascelles focused on how those policies affect people like them.

Thursday, Chopp called for a permanent extension of the statewide eviction moratorium implemented because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, lifting the statewide ban on rent control that has stunted local efforts to cap rent, and an increase in funding for affordable housing. Lascelles called these measures, which would face uphill battles in Olympia, a “great start.”

“We quite literally need to cancel rent and cancel mortgages,” Lascelles said on the Zoom forum to about 120 attendees. “It’s gonna hit us hard, it’s gonna hit us for a while. I’m currently living in precarity because I’m one of those individuals that without the eviction moratorium, I would be homeless again. It’s not enough to just delay the debt. That debt can cripple the entirety of someone’s future and life.”

Lascelles, who has spent much of the summer working with the Decriminalize Seattle coalition, said that prior to this year, Chopp was one of the biggest obstacles to progressive change in the legislature, calling his ideas now have come “too little too late.” Chopp argued he has been working on these measures, specifically in affordable housing and other realms, for decades and called himself a “community organizer at heart” in an apparent move to paint himself as less of a member of the Democratic establishment.

“It’s important to not only talk about rhetoric, but actually turn rhetoric into reality,” said Chopp, who told CHS in the past that helping to create the Housing Trust Fund was one of his proudest accomplishments. Chopp instead pointed to Republicans in the state senate, who have controlled the chamber for much of the last decade, for stymieing various progressive policies pushed by Democrats.

Both candidates pointed to turning around the state’s regressive tax structure as a key, in their views, to building a better Washington. Chopp says he is pushing a measure similar to the JumpStart tax recently passed by the Seattle City Council to tax big business and fund community services. This is especially prescient as the state faces billions in budget shortfalls from the economic fallout of the pandemic, Chopp noted.

“Progressive tax is kind of the key to everything,” Lascelles said. “We can’t keep taking excuses from folks who say ‘I did everything I could’ and put their hands up in the air, especially when they were a gatekeeper.”

The Olympia veteran Chopp is facing unique challenges in a campaign marked by COVID-19 restrictions and videoconferences. Thursday night, he also stumbled over pronouns, apologizing for “mis-gendering” Lascelles at one point in the exchange.

With a “super massive” smoke plume headed for Seattle, the candidates were also asked about climate change, with Chopp saying he supports the Green New Deal, transitioning the state’s vehicle fleet to electric, a clean fuel standard, transit-oriented development, and investing in communities most affected by environmental degradation. Lascelles called for economic empowerment for these communities and working with Indigenous peoples on “restorative justice.”

The 43rd Legislative District includes Capitol Hill, Madison Park, and Montlake, among other neighborhoods. Rep. Nicole Macri appears primed for an easy re-election after receiving a staggering over 91% of the primary vote in August.

August Primary results: Lascelles will face Chopp in race for 43rd

Chopp, meanwhile, is facing what is shaping up to be one of the toughest re-election campaigns of his career, as he garnered just under 50% of the vote in last month’s primary. Lascelles, representing the Seattle People’s Party, received over 31% and activist Jessi Murray got more than 18%. If you combine the totals of Lascelles and Murray, who both fashioned themselves as political outsiders running to Chopp’s left, the election is almost a dead heat.

By comparison, in 2018, Chopp sailed to re-election with almost 90% of the vote against a Republican challenger and in 2016 he ran unopposed. In the two elections prior, in 2014 and 2012, Chopp faced Socialist Alternative opponents and won easily; he grabbed over 70% of the vote running against now-Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant in 2012.

Chopp has raised more than three times as much as Lascelles in campaign contributions, with nearly $136,000 compared to his opponent’s $41,000, according to filings with the state Public Disclosure Commission. Lascelles has also spent less than $12,000 while Chopp has spent more than $118,000. Some of Chopp’s biggest contributors have been unions, like the state Building and Constructions Trade Council and the political action committee for the Washington Education Association, as well as Native American tribes, such as the Muckleshoot and Swinomish tribal communities.

The 43rd District Democrats will be voting on their endorsements for this race and others on Tuesday.

Ballots are slated to be mailed for the November General Election on October 14th. Election Day is November 3rd.


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Alocal
Alocal
2 months ago

It’s extremely naive to think that canceling rent and mortgages will solve the problem. Property tax, insurance, utilities also add up and are all usually in the landlords name. Once we are done with those not sure we will have much left functioning in WA.

Happy Gentrifier
Happy Gentrifier
2 months ago

Do you want the whole city to look like the worst stretches of Aurora Ave?

Vote Sherae Lascelles!

J. R.
J. R.
2 months ago

I don’t think it’s fair to say people were expecting “political experience” out of Lascelles—you can’t expect someone who has never held office to have that experience—but they were expecting to hear plans and explanations of how their philosophies (mutual aid, community empowerment) would be translated into policies and implemented.

Lascelles didn’t offer any explanation of “how,” and it was really disappointing to see Lascelles’ supporters tell people who were asking for that in the comments that that was an unreasonable request and that they were instead displaying racism. That isn’t how you convince people to vote for your candidate.

PD
PD
2 months ago
Reply to  J. R.

I really would like to see some leadership turnover in Olympia, as it is time for Chopp to retire.

I don’t think that Lascelles is the person, though.

And, yes, I 100% that there is far too much of a recourse to calls of “racism” when one says something that is inconvenient or disliked.

It’s really lazy rhetoric.

Also, while agree that there should have been a cancelation of rent and mortgages and a jubilee on debt so that we wouldn’t just be shunting lost rent payments to landlords, who then in turn go under themselves…I don’t see any comprehensive plan for any of this from Lascelles.

MisogynyNotRequired
MisogynyNotRequired
2 months ago
Reply to  PD

I strongly agree with both commenters above me in this thread. This race is especially disappointing because there was a fantastic alternative in Jessi Murray, who was stifled when the state party denied her access to voter data, and The Stranger endorsed Lascelles without so much as mentioning Murray running. There’s not a good choice remaining in this race :(

JFC
JFC
2 months ago

Canceling rent helps low-income families, stabilizes the housing market, and reduce the depth of the recession. It’s about putting the strain on the least impactful side. You either have massive homelessness and increased demand on already strained public services and a total disappearance of lower and middle-class spending to support small businesses. OR the government directs funds to cancel both rent and mortgages and allows people to stay in their homes and business to stay open lessening the blow to the economy. It’s not a hard concept.

HTS3
HTS3
2 months ago
Reply to  JFC

This really sounds good. Because everyone knows that all landlords are big huge, publicly traded corporations so they can absorb the loss. Oh, but wait. Thousands of landlords in our region are individuals or small family-run businesses. So basically you are suggesting that these individuals should forego their income, which they’ve probably slashed by giving their tenants a break during moratorium, and still be required to pay their property taxes, overhead costs and mortgages. It seems that unless there is a moratorium on property taxes, garbage and power costs and mortgages across the board, you are asking one group of people to sacrifice for all others.

JFC
JFC
2 months ago
Reply to  HTS3

A huge amount of folks have been running on unemployment since COVID started. Why should landlords be an exception? You’re lessening the burden in equal amounts.

GregM
GregM
2 months ago
Reply to  HTS3

Landlords don’t get unemployment when their businesses stop having income. They still have to patch the roof and pay the property taxes on the rental units.

Since most people don’t realize it either, businesses pay for part of that unemployment benefit too. In fact Washington has the highest unemployment insurance rate in the nation paid by the businesses here.

Alocal
Alocal
2 months ago
Reply to  JFC

And the utilities, property tax ? Cancel those as well I hope. Of course then almost everything runs out of money.

It’s a little hard to judge impact – if your income comes from a rental property then you will be joining the line at the food bank.

Ryan Packer
Ryan Packer
2 months ago
Reply to  Alocal

Sounds like they should have planned for a rainy day.

Jim98122x
Jim98122x
2 months ago
Reply to  Alocal

I’m sure they mostly did. They just didn’t plaN on one that envisions the rain falling entirely on THEM, and sparing those on the higher and lower ends of their income ranges. I hate to quote Margaret Thatcher, because ewwww— but she said “The problem with socialism is that eventually, you run out of other people’s money”. The lack of state income tax in WA means the rich will never take up a proportionate share of the burden. So you impoverish the middle class, and who buys up their assets on the cheap? Why, the rich of course, who have the piles of cash sitting around. Now you made that income gap worse. Great plan.

louise
louise
2 months ago

I love the reasonable people that comment on this blog.

RWK
RWK
2 months ago

I have been a Chopp supporter through the years and will vote for him again. But is he really calling for a “permanent” moratorium on evictions? That would mean that someone could live indefinitely in a rent-free apartment, without any consequences. Ridiculous and totally unrealistic idea!

PD
PD
2 months ago
Reply to  RWK

Did IQs just drop with the onset of the pandemic?

No one–AND I MEAN NO ONE–is advocating some sort of permanent ban on evictions of the sort you are describing.

NO ONE.

Please, go see a doctor and have an exam, your IQ is dangerously low, I am concerned that even your autonomic processes will be shutting down soon.

HTS3
HTS3
2 months ago
Reply to  PD

Hey PD, IQs may be dropping, but only at the same rate as your reading comprehension. The article above stated this, “Thursday, Chopp called for a permanent extension of the statewide eviction moratorium implemented because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, lifting the statewide ban on rent control that has stunted local efforts to cap rent, and an increase in funding for affordable housing. Lascelles called these measures, which would face uphill battles in Olympia, a “great start.”

RWK
RWK
2 months ago
Reply to  PD

Thanks, HTS3, for pointing out what I would have said.

@PD: How about you stop with the personal attacks? They are a hallmark of a weak or nonexistent argument.

Barfomatic
Barfomatic
2 months ago

The old white man will win with a combination of name familiarity voters and the 20% of the district who are Republicans.