Morning Fizz: Gay is Passé
Caffeinated news and gossip featuring appointments, districts, and party chairs.
1. In the wake of 43rd District state Sen. Ed Murray's election as Seattle mayor, the 43rd District Democrats—Capitol Hill, Fremont, Wallingford and the University District—took care of some musical chairs business last night. At a packed meeting in South Lake Union, members voted to appoint state Rep. Jamie Pedersen their new state senator (he faced nominal opposition and received 87 percent of the vote) and appoint Gates Foundation program officer Brady Walkinshaw as their new state rep. (The King County Council, in what's considered pro forma business, will make the final appointment based on the District's recommendation.)
Walkinshaw, a bit of a renaissance man (a Princeton alum and trustee, a Fulbright Scholar who founded a youth outreach non-profit in Ecuador, a board member at Intiman, all in addition to his day job at Gates on food systems) faced some competition—Scott Forbes, the chair of the 43rd, and Cristina Gonzalez, a budget staffer at King County. And there was a mini-forum before the vote where 160 precinct committee officers among the crowd of more than 250 people cast ballots. After falling one vote shy of the simple-majority requirement (Walkinshaw recieved 80 votes on the first ballot), he easily won on the second round in a runoff with Forbes getting 55 percent.
It takes the 43rd District in Seattle to make it clear that gay rights is now passé, or at least a receding issue.
That's the AP-style report: It's Pedersen and Walkinshaw.
Now, here's some Nixon-in-China-style analysis. It takes the 43rd District in Seattle to make it clear that gay rights is now passé, or at least a receding issue.
Some context: The 43rd, home to Seattle's gay Mecca Capitol Hill, has a history of sending gay legislators to Olympia, in a large part, because they're gay. Murray, who's gay, was appointed to the state house in the mid-90s when his mentor, out state Sen. Cal Anderson, died of AIDS in 1995. When Murray moved to the senate in 2006, gay attorney Pedersen was elected to fill his spot largely on a gay rights and gay marriage agenda. Walkinshaw is gay too, and lives with his partner on Capitol Hill. But he's also Cuban-American. And that dose of identity politics, not the fact that he's gay, loomed large last night.
Indeed, there was a telling moment last night that demonstrated a real shift for lily-white Seattle, and the gay 43rd. It came during one of the few instances in the Q&A forum when the three progressive liberals—blah blah progressive taxation, blah blah transit over roads, blah blah affordable housing—actually differed on a question.
Walkinshaw's ascension seems like a notable shift toward a more ethnically diverse party and culturally informed agenda. Asked, now that gay marriage had passed, what the next big civil rights issue was for the Democratic Party, Forbes, the only white candidate, couldn't muster more than to say preventing a clawback against gay rights (a standby platform position for the Democrats for years). Gonzalez, who went next, agreed that gay rights (and women's choice, which Forbes also noted) were big issues, but segued into a heartfelt endorsement of her priority, the DREAM Act, which failed in Olympia last session. Walkinshaw, who's Cuban-American, went next. He also noted gay rights, but zoomed in more emphatically on the Voting Rights Act, pulling out the frank numbers from Yakima where the Latino population, at 40-plus percent, doesn't even have a member on the seven-member citywide council. He pledged to pass the VRA, which also tanked in Olympia last session.
Walkinshaw, who won last night's vote due to his superhero organizing skills—single-handedly recuriting 61 new PCOs into the 43rd's ranks, most of them young and minority voters—may be gay, but his ascension seems like a notable shift toward a more ethnically diverse party and culturally informed agenda.
Indeed, there was another notable difference of opinion last night during the lightning round. Asked "Yes," "No," or "Maybe" if they'd support whichever candidate emerged tonight, Gonzalez, as opposed to Forbes and Walkinshaw, said "maybe."
I asked Gonzalez, who identifies as "a Hispanic Woman," about this afterward, and she confirmed: After she lost the opening round, she asked her supporters to go with Walkinshaw.
2. Groups who want to promote a specific candidate or cause in a particular newly created city council district are already lining up, despite the fact that the elections for the seven new geographically districted council seats won't happen until 2015. (Those seeking the two at-large council seats will have to run that year as well).
On Facebook, members interested in the 3rd District (West Seattle) plan to hold a forum for the candidates to speak in early January (check back on the Facebook page for updates), and council district 2 (southeast Seattle, Rainier Valley), may form a new group, similar to the West Seattle Transit Coalition, to talk about potential Metro transit cuts. There are similar Facebook pages for every newly created district.
3. Meanwhile, here's the process for electing a new state Democratic Party chair: 176 state delegates will meet in Vancouver, WA on February 1 (two from every legislative district) to vote on which of the candidates (currently, there are five) should be party chair. After an initial round of voting, the new leader will be chosen by a simple-majority vote.
Incumbent chair Dwight Pelz is stepping down in early February, and current state party spokesman Jaxon Ravens, Win/Win Network director Dana Laurent, Jefferson County party chair Nancy Biery, Benton County party chair J. Clough, and former party ED Jim Kainber, are running to replace him.
Clough made an apperance at last night's 43rd meeting. And Laurent supporter, 36th District Chair Jeff Manson, jumped in after Clough's informal speech, to tout Laurent, who was out of town.