While ballots were being counted in many states days after election day, here in Washington State, our legislature remains solidly in Democrat hands. However, as everyone knows, all Democrats are not equal. The question is, how well will we do in the upcoming legislative session? The answer, from a progressive point of view? Better.
The Washington Conservation Voters (WCV) organization scores senators and representatives on how they vote, on key environmental and public health issues.
Their 2019-2020 “scorecard highlights that while significant progress was made there is still no comprehensive plan to address climate change and meet the state’s emissions goals.” Still, their website lists two legislative victories for the environment in 2019 —a first-in-the-nation, 100% Clean Electricity law,’ and an increase in funds to clean up the state’s toxic waste sites—the first significant change to the Model Toxics Control Act since voters passed it in 1988.
Writing for the urbanist.org, Doug Trumm argues that
“this is the most progressive legislature in [Washington’s] modern history as progressive challengers muscled out moderates. The Republican party made zero gains in urban areas. The 19th District was the only bright spot for them… ..and prospects of regaining former conservative bastions…appear dim. …we’re due for a redistricting following the results of the 2020 census, which is likely to shift seats and tilt the scales only farther toward urban and suburban districts where Republicans have been getting their clocks cleaned. The state legislature is likely entering an unprecedented era of progressive control. Let’s act on it.”
Legislative District 22, Thurston County, elected three Democrats endorsed by the FUSE WA progressive voter guide and the LCV. Sam Hunt was re-elected to the State Senate and Laurie Dolan and Jessica Bateman will serve as representatives.
In Legislative District 28, which includes Pierce County, progressive Democrat T’wina Nobles defeated conservative incumbent Steve O’Ban, making her the first Black state senator since 2010. Nobles was endorsed by the Washington Progressive Party and Women of Color in Politics.
Her victory not only flips a seat in the state senate, but adds another progressive Democrat pushing for broader reforms. In Legislative District 29, which also includes Pierce County, Melanie Morgan, endorsed by the WA State Progressive Caucus, the Urbanist, and the LCV, was re-elected, defeating her Republican opponent by close to 15,000 votes. Morgan, who centers her legislative work in equity, supports Medicare for All, a capital gains tax and renewable energy.
Opportunities to enact progressive policies have opened up in the Pierce and Thurston County Councils. In Thurston, Carolina Mejia, endorsed by the WA State Progressive Caucus, defeated her opponent by more than 25,000 votes, with 116,542 votes counted. Even if Democrat Michael Steadman doesn’t defeat the incumbent, there will be a Democrat majority on the board.
In Pierce County, although activist and Evergreen grad Sarah Rumbaugh lost to climate-denier Hans Zeigler for a seat on the Council, Ryan Mello and Jani Hitchen each beat their opponents. For the first time since 2004, Democrats are in the majority on the seven-member county council.
More important than constituting a majority is what the Democrats plan to do. Both newly elected commissioners are serious about addressing climate chaos. Mello has a strong track-record of climate activism, as does science teacher Jani Hitchen, who earned an endorsement from the WA State Progressive Caucus.
Achieving a better version of a social democracy remains an aspiration, and it’s hard not to be discouraged by the outpouring of support for Trump and Trumpism at all levels of government. However, the luxury of despair belongs only to those who can survive or even thrive within the status quo.
Yet it’s clear that there is another movement across the country, made visible by “the Squad” at a national level, and the candidates described here at a local level. They are paying attention to the needs of real people, making that the center of their agenda, and winning. That is cause for hope.
Emily Lardner lives in Pierce County and writes often for Works in Progress.
Olympia City Council With the election of Jessica Bateman to the legislature, the City Council will need to appoint a replacement. After County elections are certified by the Auditor on November 24, the City will set up an application process for members of the community to apply. Whoever the Council appoints for the remaining two years of Bateman’s term will be in a good position to win an election in 2023.