Stranger writers Jasmyne Keimig and Nathalie Graham enjoy a little karaoke performance from Sarah Reyneveld as Liz Berry looks on.
Stranger writers Jasmyne Keimig and Nathalie Graham enjoy a little karaoke performance from Sarah Reyneveld as Liz Berry looks on. Screenshot from Stranger Debates

Last night at the Stranger Debates we all learned a lot about the two candidates running to fill the open State House seat in the 36th Legislative District.

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We learned that Washington State Association for Justice director Liz Berry can make a margarita, and that managing assistant attorney general Sarah Reyneveld doesn't seem to know Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" by heart. We also learned that Berry once killed a scorpion, that Reyneveld correctly thinks oysters are "overrated," that Reyneveld didn't read Michelle Obama's Becoming for book club (gasp!), and that both candidates responsibly use a spoon to remove a pit from an avocado.

But we also discovered some rare and meaningful policy differences between the two, rehashed an old controversy from last week, and cracked open a new one.

During the debate, Reyneveld slammed Berry for her comments about the Employment Security Department (ESD) during a Ballard District Council online candidate forum last week, saying she was "disappointed" to hear Berry say that "public employees are lazy and reckless and shouldn’t be in the legislature.”

At the forum, Berry criticized the ESD for failing to efficiently handle unemployment claims and defend against a massive fraud, and argued that "it’s really time to not have another government worker" in the legislature. "I want to be somebody who is there tasking government to stop being reckless and stop being lazy, quite honestly, to fix the problem, and the excuses so far have not been acceptable to me," she added.

In an interview, Berry said she meant to criticize inefficient "government systems" and "didn’t mean to insult individual government workers at all." She added that she was trying to express the frustration with state government that she heard from "a lot of restaurant workers and people who work in public nightlife and bars," among others, who financially struggled while waiting for unemployment checks to arrive.

She also mentioned she was having a bad day, as Reyneveld's negative mailers accusing Berry of "work[ing] with a domestic terrorist," i.e. Republican Rep. Matt Shea, had hit mailboxes earlier that day.

Berry said she's never met or talked to Shea, though the lobbying arm of the organization she runs worked with him to pass bills favorable to trial lawyers, and its affiliated political action committee donated to his campaigns. At the debate, Berry said she didn't publicly condemn those donations because "I was not a public citizen, so I had no reason to publicly condemn him."

On Monday some members of the 36th District Democrats, which solely endorsed Reyneveld, proposed a resolution to "strongly condemn the dishonest attack mailer sent by Sarah Reyneveld’s campaign."

Consuelo Echeverria, a precinct committee officer with the Democratic club, said she submitted the resolution because Reyneveld's mailer is "factually incorrect," and "it normalizes a standard of behavior that should not be normal," which she referred to as "panic culture."

"It’s bad juju, and it’s fucked up," Echeverria said.

Echeverria initially supported Reyneveld, but after receiving the mailer she took down her yard sign and asked Berry's campaign for two signs.

In other news, though the candidates more or less hold the same views, last night's debate revealed a little daylight between the candidates on a couple matters of public policy. Berry said she thinks the legislature should tax capital gains at 15%, whereas Reyneveld said 10%. The proposals I've seen from the State House so far only tax the profits of stock sales at a measly 9%, which pales in comparison to the federal rate of 20% and to states such as California, which tax capital gains at a little over 13%.

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Berry also wants to see a cap on rent hikes at 5%, whereas Reyneveld said 5 to 7%. Both align with Seattle State House Rep. Nicole Macri's rent stabilization bill, which would cap rent hikes at the lesser of 5% plus the cost of inflation or 10% above base rent.

In terms of priorities, abolishing qualified immunity using the Conrad Colorado model topped Berry's list, while passing a clean fuel standard and putting a price on carbon topped Reyneveld's.



The Stranger has two more Stranger Debates coming up next week: one on Monday, October 26, with the 37th LD's Kirsten Harris-Talley and Chukundi Salisbury, and another on Thursday, October 29, with the 43rd LD's Rep. Frank Chopp and Sherae Lascelles. Stranger Debates are sponsored by the ACLU Washington, who want to remind you to vote like your rights depend on it! Learn more about voting rights and accessing your ballot at aclu-wa.org/vote and aclu.org/vote.

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