Morning Fizz

Leaving Town, Changing Jobs, and Leading the Fight

Longtime pro-pot advocate leaving Seattle, longtime pro-choice advocate takes new job, and Washington's U.S. senators take the lead.

By Josh Feit December 20, 2016

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1. All-star ACLU attorney Alison Holcomb is leaving Seattle. Holcomb led Seattle and Washington state’s marijuana legalization movement (I-502) and emerged as a potential Seattle City Council candidate before deciding instead to head up the ACLU’s criminal justice reform campaigns to end mass incarceration.

Holcomb, who for a split second in 2015, with her cred on pot and civil rights, was viewed by mainstream liberals as having the perfect resume to take on left-winger Kshama Sawant, is leaving town to take a job with a public policy reform think tank in Houston, the Arnold Foundation, which has a criminal justice division.

Holcomb's husband, who owns the popular Capitol Hill restaurant Witness on Broadway (which may explain why a progressive like Holcomb found herself frustrated with Sawant) posted a rushed note on Facebook this weekend.

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2. Other end of the year moves: pro-choice leader Rachel Berkson, NARAL Pro-Choice Washington’s executive director, is leaving the key women’s rights advocacy group after four years at the helm. NARAL has led the fight in Olympia for the reproductive parity act to make insurance companies, which already cover maternity care, also cover abortion care, and the pregnant workers’ fairness act, which would require companies to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers, like more frequent bathroom breaks and temporary assignments to less physical work.

With the Republicans firmly in control of the state senate, NARAL’s efforts on those top priorities haven’t succeeded, however, this year they played a key role in setting themselves up for success next year by campaigning for Democrat Lisa Wellman in the 41st Legislative District to unseat faux pro-choice Republican incumbent Steve Litzow (R-41, Mercer Island). Litzow had once been an ally of the pro-choice movement—he even served on NARAL’s PAC. But as member of the newly-empowered GOP majority, he experienced a personality change and helped Republicans stall pro-choice legislation.

His new role as a straightforward Republican earned him a D on NARAL’s new and improved legislative scorecard earlier this year, a Berkson innovation that stopped simply tracking yay and nay votes, but actually dug into how hard legislators were working to pass or stop NARAL’s priority bills.  NARAL's choice, Wellman, beat the longtime GOP incumbent.

Berkson has taken a job with newly-elected U.S. representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA, 7) as Jayapal’s district director; Jayapal was a NARAL workhorse during her stint as a state senator in Olympia, passing a pro-choice bill that got state Medicaid to cover long-acting reversible contraception.  

NARAL’s Deputy director Tiffany Hankins, who’s been with the group for seven years (she’s also served as a program director) has already taken over the top spot.

3. Last week, Fizz flagged U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) for emerging as a Democratic lead on the D.C. frontlines fighting the incoming Trump administration. Murray, the third most powerful Democrat in the senate as the assistant minority leader, issued a strong call for an investigation into the Russian hacking that may have helped Trump win the election. And, as the ranking Democrat on the health education labor and pensions (HELP) committee,  she signaled she had some tough questions for controversial Trump cabinet nominees such as fast food CEO Andy Pudzer to head labor and anti-choice U.S. representative Tom Price to head Health and Human Service.

Talking Points Memo, weighed in today, identifying Murray now as the one of three key Democrats who will be key in defending Obamacare. They also ID’d another Pacific Northwesterner, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), the ranking Democrat on the finance committee as a lead to fight for the ACA.

P.S.: U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) is no slouch; as the ranking Democrat on the energy committee, she’s already gotten in Team Trump’s face about their pick for energy, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, who’s said in the past he wants to shut the agency down, and demanded answers about Team Trump’s litmus test questionnaire to suss out environmentalists at the energy department.

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