Limited by COVID-19 crisis, Tax Amazon wants to take ballot initiative signature gathering online in Seattle

Friday’s “caravan” to Amazon (Image: @TaxAmazonMvt)

It’s not easy gathering 21,000 signatures during a pandemic.

City Council representative Kshama Sawant and advocates for a new tax on Seattle’s largest businesses are calling for changes in the rules governing signature gathering in the city during the COVID-19 crisis.

The group Tax Amazon announced Monday that the National Lawyers Guild is joining the fight to move the process online:

Across the country, organizers are evaluating the way forward for signature gathering for citizen-lead ballot initiatives and grassroots candidates. Organizers cannot canvass to collect paper signatures while respecting the scientist-recommended and necessary social distancing measures to prevent the spread of COVID19. Citizen-led ballot initiatives are an integral tool for working-class people to exercise democracy under this highly unequal political system. The National Lawyers Guild is standing alongside the Tax Amazon campaign to call on city and state governments to protect democratic rights during the pandemic. In the absence of online signatures, campaigns will be forced to rely on extremely expensive mass mailing campaigns, which will disproportionately benefit corporate-backed campaigns.

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Even with Washington’s presidential primary moved up, virtual Biden-Sanders Election Night tie might signal end game

An Election Day voter casts a ballot at the county drop box on Broadway

Moving Washington’s primary up to March was meant to give it more importance in the national race to pick a Democratic candidate. It appears to have come just as the race has ended.

In the first results of the state’s March 10th Democratic primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders and President Joe Biden appear to be in a neck and neck tie in Washington. On a night when Biden already claimed Michigan and Missouri and with forecasts predicting Biden to do better in late voting in Washington, the Sanders campaign appears to have hit a wall.

Elizabeth Warren was managing a third place finish here with just over 12% of the vote.

The Biden-Bernie battle extended to the streets of King County where results also showed the two remaining candidates neck and neck with around 33 points each.

King County turnout in Washington state’s by mail and dropoff only voting stood at just over 41% on Election Day. About 65% of the ballots were counted as of 8:30 PM. For latest updates, visit results.vote.wa.gov.

Arizona, Florida, Ohio, and Illinois primaries are next in upcoming weeks.

Despite momentum turning away from their boss across the country, Sanders staffers in Washington maintained optimism Tuesday as polls closed across the state at 8 PM.

Before results came in from the set of states voting Tuesday, FiveThirtyEight gave Biden a 99% chance of winning the nomination. This is just weeks after the forecast had Sanders or a brokered convention leading the way.

But that doesn’t mean efforts ceased to scoop up Washington’s 89 delegates, 31 of which are awarded on a statewide basis and the rest of which are based on congressional districts. Just from March 2 to Sunday, the state campaign made 517,797 calls, hit 40,732 doors, and completed 1,321 canvassing shifts, according to state field director Shaun Scott.

“Those numbers are the sign of a campaign that takes its grassroots mission very seriously,” Scott told CHS in a text message. “Lots of candidates have grand ambitions and well-crafted statements, but without a movement we cannot institute the change we need.”

Scott said the campaign’s goal was to build the “biggest grassroots organization ever” he thinks they’ve done that in Washington. Continue reading

Community organizer and sex worker advocate Lascelles joins challenge for Chopp’s seat in the 43rd

 Sherae Lascelles

(Image: Sherae for State)

Sherae Lascelles can trace her activism back to the third grade. A fellow student was sent to the hall after she “acted out of turn” in class. Lascelles talked to her on the way to the bathroom and she said she was hungry. So Lascelles pulled out some Red Vines and brought them to her.

This resulted in a confrontation with the teacher who was upset that Lascelles had brought the girl a snack.

“I learned quickly that I would have to advocate for myself at every turn to survive,” Lascelles tells CHS. “I didn’t even know why I felt like I had to do that, but I just didn’t understand the punishment and I didn’t understand how she was being treated and it didn’t make any sense so I put it upon myself to do something about it.” Continue reading

Jessi Murray: from SlutWalk and Seattle Clinic Defense activism to a challenge in the 43rd

(Image: Elect Jessi Murray)

When Jessi Murray decided to join the Amnesty International Club at her Massachusetts public high school, her twice-George W. Bush-voting dad said it would brainwash her.

Now, she’s running to unseat one of the most powerful political figures in Washington history in Rep. Frank Chopp, the longest serving Speaker ever who gave up that gavel last year. Murray’s race begins now with a run into the August primary with hopes of making it through to the general election in November.

Murray moved to Seattle in 2010 after attending the Olin College of Engineering, a school with about 350 undergraduates a year, and put down roots in Capitol Hill the next year. She works for a small tech consulting firm and wants to focus on “software for good,” but couldn’t talk about the project she’s working on now.

She has a long history of local activism, starting with Seattle Clinic Defense for Planned Parenthood and helping organize the Seattle SlutWalk in 2011, emboldened to work on issues of reproductive rights and sexual assault given her own experience with sexual assault before she moved here.

“There’s just been kind of a sense of trying to get to justice in this world,” Murray told CHS at Victrola Coffee and Art earlier this week while wearing a Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg sweatshirt with the words “Fight for the things you care about” printed on it. Continue reading

‘Community leader and reproductive rights activist’ Murray will challenge Chopp in 43rd

With a Capitol Hill, Seattle, WA dateline, a headshot clearly taken at the Capitol Hill Farmers Market, and a campaign logo that incorporates a red, white, and blue light rail train, community leader and reproductive rights activist Jessi Murray has announced she will take on veteran legislator Frank Chopp for his seat in the state’s House.

Murray is casting the race in light that is likely familiar to any close observer of the 2020 Democratic Primary battle — a decision between the Democratic establishment and a new, more progressive approach: Continue reading

$1.74 billion bond measure would bring much needed upgrades, new 10-story tower to Harborview

(Image: UW Medicine)

There are some big decisions to make this election year. In November, King County voters may face a vote on a $1.74 billion bond to renovate and expand Harborview Medical Center.

The hospital, situated on First Hill, is owned by King County, but staffed and operated by the University of Washington. As a publicly owned and operated hospital, Harborview serves many people who need healthcare and would not be able to pay for it including, but not limited to, the area homeless population.

In addition, Harborview serves as the Level 1 trauma center for the states of Washington, Alaska, Idaho and Montana. It is the disaster preparedness and control hospital for Seattle and King County. In short, if you find yourself there, something very, very bad has likely happened.

The hospital has 413 beds, 40 of which are in single rooms, and 20 of those 40 are reserved for patients in need of psychiatric care. The hospital says that typically, 50 beds in double rooms can’t be used because of infection protocols. According to the King County Executive’s office, it had more than 16,000 admissions last year. All this adds up to a hospital that routinely has more patients than it has places to put them. Continue reading

The CHS Primary: A look at the Bernie vs. Warren vs. Mayor Pete vs. Joe vs. Amy vs. etc. race for Washington

(Image: @TaxAmazonMvt)

Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg have raised funds downtown. Sen. Elizabeth Warren boasted a 15,000 person rally at Seattle Center over the summer and has another planned this weekend. And Sen. Amy Klobuchar was met with a packed coffeeshop in the U-District.

So when Sen. Bernie Sanders decided to spend his first 2020 trip to Washington a little farther south in Tacoma, it was a bit surprising given Seattle’s place as a progressive bastion supportive of his Democratic Socialism.

“We picked the venue because of its proximity to Washington’s working class communities,” state field director Shaun Scott said. “And also its closeness to residents of displacement who have moved to South King County and Pierce County because of exorbitant housing costs.”

Monday’s Tacoma Dome rally ended up with 17,000 in attendance, making it one of the biggest events of the cycle, and included several of Seattle’s most recognizable elected officials. Council member Kshama Sawant, for example, brought her anti big-business brand to the event.

“Big business tried to buy the election last year but they failed and the people won again,” Sawant said, referring to Amazon’s controversial spending in her reelection bid last year, according to Geekwire. “Now our Tax Amazon movement has tremendous momentum to tax big business to fund social housing.” Continue reading

Chopp announces another run to represent the 43rd

Chopp at the 2014 debut of 12th Ave Arts

Frank Chopp has represented the 43rd District in Olympia since 1995. Though he stepped aside last year from his role of Speaker of the House, Chopp isn’t ready to end his run at the capitol. Tuesday, the 66-year-old announced he will seek reelection for another two-year term.

“I initially ran for the legislature to be an advocate for housing, working families, and health care,” Chopp said in the announcement. “I am proud of the thousands of homes that I’ve worked to fund and see built, but there is so much more to do, in a crisis that demands focus and experience. I’m excited to continue working hard for the people of the district and our state. I’ve identified real sites where we can and must invest in safe, affordable housing to help our neighbors in need. I’m energized and organized for the opportunities ahead.”

Chopp’s recent run of election victories could be a model for establishment Democrats facing an onslaught of challenges from the left. In Chopp’s last race, he faced tepid competition from a Republican challenger who could only claim around 10% of the vote. But before that, he has twice fended off Socialist Alternative challengers. In 2014, he demolished the group’s campaign for Jess Spear. And in the 2012 election, he defeated upstart candidate Kshama Sawant in what for Chopp was a squeaker — a 71% to 29% victory. Continue reading

After long lines — and a Sanders landslide — as Capitol Hill caucused in 2016, here’s how 2020 presidential picking will work

A scene like this line of voters waiting to get into the Century Ballroom during the 2016 caucus won’t be happening in 2020

Whatever else happens, Washington’s contribution to selecting a Democratic candidate to challenge Donald Trump won’t end up like Iowa.

In 2020 for the state’s presidential primary, both parties are ditching caucuses and awarding delegates based on the results of the primary. Contrasting with 2016, when republicans held a primary, and democrats held a primary (which didn’t matter) and a caucus (which did matter), everything should be much simpler.

Washington has also moved up its primary from May — at which point the candidates are generally decided —  to March 10, the week after Super Tuesday, when votes here will likely still be relevant. And decision time is fast approaching — the ballots will be sent out next week.

The format should be fairly simple. Every registered voter in King County will get the same ballot, explained Halei Watkins of King County Elections. In Washington, voters do not register as a member of a political party. Therefore for the primary, you will need to choose to vote in either the Republican or Democratic primary, and on the outside of the envelope indicate which one and certify that you won’t participate in the nominating process of any other political party. To be clear, this does not make you honor-bound to support anyone in the general election,  it just shows which party you may vote for in this primary. Continue reading

Wrapping up the rough and tumble D3 race, ethics complaint over candidate’s Central District gas station office space dismissed

The race for the District 3 seat on the Seattle City Council had enough twists and turns that we are still tying up some of the loose ends. One story that needs an ending: an ethics complaint involving the pro-business challenger’s $500 a month campaign office inside a former gas station on a neighborhood pot entrepreneur’s E Union property.

Earlier this month, the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission announced it had dismissed the complaint over the Egan Orion campaign’s failure to disclose the owed rent in its campaign finance reporting.

“The Committee reported more than $95,000 in contributions and more than $55,000 in expenditures and debts on the post-Primary C4,” SEEC executive director Wayne Barrett wrote in his decision (PDF). “The 21-Day pre-General C4 included more than $180,000 in contributions, and more than $150,000 in expenditures and obligations which leads me to conclude that the failure to report two $500 obligations was an inadvertent and minor violations of the Elections Code.”

Additionally, Barrett said that the $500 a month rent met market value requirements: Continue reading