Politics through a pandemic: How the race to represent Capitol Hill in Olympia is shaping up in the summer of COVID-19

(Image: Elect Jessi Murray)

Jessi Murray was ready to start door-knocking.

The candidate for the 43rd Legislative District’s Position 2, representing the areas of Capitol Hill, Madison Park, and Montlake, had ordered her nametag and was prepared for the campaign’s first day of action with canvassing in late March.

But with social distancing restrictions and stay-at-home orders quickly levied in the state to stunt the COVID-19 pandemic, Murray and the rest of the field have had to recalibrate their campaigns on the fly to unprecedented circumstances as attention has partially turned away from politics to a global pandemic that has left hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians unemployed and killed over 1,400.

Murray first pushed the kick-off a couple weeks thinking maybe “this will blow over.”

“A week later, we were like ‘This is not gonna happen.’”

Murray’s first move was a big push toward digital campaigning, with weekly town halls on Thursday nights on various topics and some text-banking. The campaign has also invested more in targeted mailing campaigns, focusing on areas where voters may be more interested in a new candidate who fashions herself as running to the left of the longtime incumbent, Rep. Frank Chopp. Continue reading

Frank Chopp is ready to defend his 25-year ‘strong, progressive record’

Chopp began his first term in the state legislature in 1995

Frank Chopp, one of the longest serving members of the Washington State House of Representatives, officially filed for reelection of the 43rd district this week. Rep. Chopp, whose district includes Capitol Hill, Fremont, and Madison Park, has been serving since 1995 and was Speaker of the House for 20 years before stepping down last year.

“We have a more progressive legislature now than we had in the two previous ones, so a big part of my effort will be working on solving the budget dilemma,” Rep. Chopp tells CHS, “which is obviously caused in large part by the COVID virus.” Continue reading

At height of Seattle’s surge in pandemic booze sales, Capitol Hill Safeway nailed for selling to minors

A sign tells part of the story at the 15th and John Safeway

A sign tells part of the story at the 15th and John Safeway (Image: CHS)

Just when the neighborhoods around 15th and John apparently needed it most, the liquor aisle inside this Capitol Hill Safeway is off-limits.

How does a major grocery chain lose its license to sell booze in the middle of Seattle’s pandemic-driven surge in alcohol sales?

The grocery store has had its alcohol retailer license temporarily suspended from May 7 through 22. To keep customers away from the alcohol aisle, the shop has barricaded the entrances with stacks of chips and other goods.

According to Julie Graham of the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, the temporary suspension resulted from sales violation, the store’s third reported violation in sales to minors over a two-year period.

“If there were further violations in the future, the consequences would likely be more severe because certainly with increased violations comes increased sanctions,” Graham said.  Continue reading

Washington extends COVID-19 restrictions through May, readies ‘four phase’ plan for reopening with limits on groups, restaurant capacity, and travel

(Image: Sea Turtle via Flickr)

Washington’s COVID-19 restrictions will be extended through the end of May and a plan to open the state will roll out across four phases and at least the next two months, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Friday.

The announcement of the extended “stay home” order through May 31st included the introduction of a four-phase plan for reopening the state including step by step changes like gradually increasing the number of people allowed to gather and limiting restaurant and bar capacities.

Each phase would require at least three weeks for health officials to evaluate before determining whether it was safe to proceed with the next steps, Inslee said Friday, pushing anything like a full reopening of the state beyond early June.

“I would like to tell you June 1st you can start making reservations,” Inslee said. “But I cannot.”

“The new normal is not here yet.”

UPDATE: When does Phase 1 begin? It’s generally understood that you can start counting the days from May 5th but most of the first phase thresholds aren’t much different than what has been in place. Will Phase 1 be in place for the next three or more weeks? Stay tuned.

Continue reading

Western Washington city leaders call for special session in Olympia over rent and mortgage cancellation and health care

South Seattle’s representative on the City Council Tammy Morales joined a group of western Washington officials this week calling on Gov. Jay Inslee and the state’s legislative leaders to call a special session in Olympia  in support of rent and mortgage cancellation and accessible health care as the COVID-19 crisis continues.

“I know I’m not alone in losing sleep over this,” Morales said in the online conference. “All of us who are here today have called for the same thing in our communities because we’ve been hearing the same stories across Washington state. This movement gets to the root of the problem that eviction moratoriums, forbearance, and payment plans just can’t solve. You can’t pay rent during the mortgage crisis or mortgage during a crisis if you don’t have money and mortgage rent and cancellation will ensure that people stay housed during this pandemic.” Continue reading

With another $310B lined up, Rep. Jayapal — and Seattle small business owners — question federal Paycheck Protection Program

(Image: Sea Turtle via Flickr)

Rep. Pramila Jayapal told her Seattle constituents this week that she was torn on how to vote on a new $480 billion COVID-19 relief package, acknowledging positives such as money for desperately needed testing but said she was worried the massive package won’t address the needs of working people.

UPDATE 3:35 PM: Jayapal joined her colleagues in approving the aid package:

My constituents are desperate for help. I voted for this bill because Democrats took an insufficient Republican bill and made it better—but this package is so far from sufficient.  It does too little to respond to the public health emergency and stop the economic free fall. Every minute we do not act is another death, another family devastated, another business shuttered.

One small victory for Democrats like Jayapal concerned about large companies muscling in on the previous rounds of payroll protection funding — $60 billion of this round will be earmarked only for small lenders.

ORIGINAL REPORT: “It has good principles in it, but I have heard from all of my constituents that it is not serving the needs of too many people,” Jayapal said at a meeting of Seattle’s 43rd District Democrats via video conferencing Tuesday night. “It is not getting money to the unbanked, it is not getting money to people who are not high on the list of the banks that are out there.”

The U.S. Senate approved the package, which would give an additional $310 billion to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Tuesday and the House is expected to vote on it Thursday. Jayapal called the small business aid program into question during the meeting, citing economists she’s spoken with who say the PPP “won’t solve anything.”

“It is not bold enough, it is not big enough,” Jayapal said. “We are trying to use systems that are from, in some cases, the 50s and other cases maybe the 70s or 80s to respond to a crisis that is in 2020 and massive.”

In an online Q&A session with Seattle small business owners earlier in the day on Tuesday held by the GSBA business advocacy organization, Mark Costello, Deputy District Director for the federal Small Business Administration, tried to relax concerns from owners who applied but didn’t receive approvals from their banks and lenders before the first round of PPP funding dried up.

“I believe your application is in there,” Costello said. “You’ve done everything you need to do. Try to have patience as SBA tries to work through the really daunting level of demand this program has spurned.” Continue reading

‘More like the turning of a dial than a flip of the switch,’ Inslee lays out a take it slow approach for lifting Washington COVID-19 restrictions

Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday night that Washington’s COVID-19 restrictions are set to be extended but plans are being put in place for slowly reopening the state.

Saying he would take a “scientific approach” to reopening Washington and its economy, Inslee said Tuesday he will not be able to lift many restrictions currently in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by May 4th but, when it begins, the recovery will be “more like the turning of a dial than a flip of the switch.”

“We’re going to take steps and then monitor to see if they work or if we must continue to adapt,” Inslee said. Continue reading

State effort to create a new business tax for homelessness and housing stalls out in Olympia

A state legislative effort Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant derisively referred to as the Protect Bezos Act has died in the 2020 session’s legislative process in Olympia.

HB 2948 couldn’t find the needed support and didn’t make it out of the House Committee on Finance. 43rd District Rep. Nicole Macri co-sponsored the proposal that would have allowed King County to institute a tax on businesses to pay for homelessness and housing. The 0.1% to 0.2% tax on the payrolls of large employers would have generated around $121 million per year in Seattle. 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