- The Stranger
- Jess Spear and 15 Now after the City Council passed Seattle's $15 minimum wage.
Hey, Capitol Hill. Know what? You look really good. Nearly half of you are in your 20s and 30s, according to census data. And on an average summer day, y’all look fly as fuck. Sure, there are cranes and outlandishly expensive new buildings sprouting up everywhere on Capitol Hill, but median income here is about $40k annually, meaning this is still a relatively working class—and yet colorful and stylish—neighborhood.
Sixty-one-year-old Frank Chopp embodies everything that Capitol Hill is not, but the SECB gave him a milquetoast endorsement anyway, perpetuating the myth that good Democrats can't sacrifice lazy incumbents in exchange for exciting young candidates with progressive values. We can think of plenty of reasons why you should vote for Jess Spear—and we'll get to those in a minute—but here's why you should vote against Chopp.
For one thing, Chopp doesn’t have a Twitter page, and when he came to the SECB, he said he didn’t have Twitter or Facebook accounts or even a real campaign website. (Turns out, his campaign created a Facebook page in April and now, it has a website.) It’s as if he was determined to hide in the background—actually, he told us this is his goal—and avoid connecting with or inspiring people.
And he’s totally clueless on pot. When the SECB asked Chopp about a bill from his own caucus that would have gutted the state’s protections for medical marijuana patients, he admitted he didn’t read it but moved the bill towards becoming law anyway and delegated another legislator to call one of our reporters to tell him what to do. (Real solid research and legislation there, buddy! Not that we aren’t flattered to be asked, but still. If a last-minute call to one of us stoners is the extent of the Speaker of the House’s engagement with one of the most high-stakes political issues in the state—and the country—these days… well, that’s not exactly a confidence builder in the wisdom and engagement of a politician who describes himself as an indispensable leader in state politics.)
This is in theory the second most powerful man in all of Washington. But at a time when the state is unconstitutionally failing to fund its own schools, Chopp refuses to use his prestige and platform do much of anything about it. Under his rule, Washington has developed the most regressive tax structure in the country. Perhaps that’s why Chopp’s campaign cash comes from the likes of the Washington Restaurant Association, Microsoft, and the likes of Boeing—which he showered with almost $9 billion in corporate tax breaks in return for a loophole-ridden promise to keep some jobs in the state. Would you have voted for that?
Bottom line: Chopp is bereft of the panache or the risk-taking style we see on the Hill every day. He makes promises, but he never comes through with the real deal.
Socialist Jess Spear is a serious challenger.
She's a climate scientist who studied microfossils called “foraminifera” at the University of Washington. (Democratic party sources say Chopp has been AWOL on the issue of climate change.)
We wish Spear was a more savvy politician with one single, obtainable goal to fight for in Olympia. Instead, she’s vowing to fight for everything under the sun—an income tax, capital gains tax, closing tax loopholes, a moratorium on coal and oil trains—all great stuff. (Then again, Spear's enthusiasm is part of her appeal.) In their endorsement, the SECB makes it sound as if Spear is a starry-eyed hippie who believes her election will magically transform the entire state. It won’t, and Spear knows that. It’s going to be difficult, but not impossible, to make any of those things happen.
“I'm not running to control the state,” she said. “We need a completely different type of political method [from Chopp]—that's what I represent.” As organizing director for 15 Now, she did a damn fine job shaping low-wage workers and their supporters into a political force to be reckoned with. We expect she’ll finesse and adapt those tactics to the state legislature.
For example, she explained to the SECB, the 2010 statewide initiative to create an income tax on the top 1 percent ought to have passed by a healthy margin. It didn’t pass because feckless Democrats refused to label it a “tax on the wealthy,” something that polls show most people support. That was a “huge blunder,” according to Spear—and she’s right. She says she’ll caucus with the Democrats, push them to elect a progressive new speaker if Chopp is ousted, and fight against Republicans every step of the way.
Spear isn’t the most polished candidate, sure. But neither is Chopp. Why does he keep getting elected? Inertia. People know him. He seems like a nice guy (truly). But we don’t need another nice guy. Times are tough, Capitol Hill is changing, and we need someone who will show up and fight. We think Spear is that fighter. The legislature could use someone who brings more of our brashness and boldness to bear in Olympia.
So chop Chopp. Vote Spear.