Dear Stranger Election Control Board,
So let’s see if I’ve got this right: In your cheat sheet for the August primary election, you said a candidate (Shoreline City Councilman Jesse Salomon) “****-ing sucks” (..) “We can’t even pretend he was any good.”– but you endorsed him anyway?
Over a candidate (State Senator Maralyn Chase) who has a longstanding history of strong progressive principles, votes and positions that you yourselves have historically supported?
You feebly endorsed a city councilmember (Salomon) for state senate because he said he hypothetically would have voted for a health care bill if he were in state office, and you vilified the sitting senator (Chase) who actually co-sponsored the bill in question—and incorrectly accuse her of not supporting the bill?
And you, who pride yourselves on being rude and obnoxious, cry foul when a candidate calls you “rude”?
The August primary ended in basically a tie between Chase and Salomon, with less than 200 votes between them, Salomon finishing ahead. There’s clearly a battle afoot. And now, with your general election endorsements this week, you have continued your erratic attacks on Chase and your illogical support of her opponent, leaving many of us wondering: Whose side are you on?
The Stranger has been an edgy alternative voice in this (Boeing/Microsoft/Gates/ Starbucks/Vulcan/Amazon) company town for many years. I genuinely appreciate that. In the past, you have taken brave stances and covered important stories with some damn good writers (though you’ve also lost some along the way). You endorsed Kshama Sawant in 2013 (and me that same year — thank you for that). But lately, when it comes to endorsements, too often you’ve gotten it wrong. Obnoxiously, dangerously wrong.
Your treatment of Maralyn Chase is a case in point.
There was something rabidly irrational about your attack on Senator Chase in the primary election, especially considering you endorsed her in the past. Your backhanded endorsement of her opponent is equally senseless.
The truth is, Chase has been actively championing progressive causes and policies throughout her many years of public service, collaborating with colleagues as well as leading (by introducing a health care initiative inspired by the one in California, for example), or yes, taking a principled stand against a large transportation tax that had a lot of questions surrounding it. She has consistently been a staunch supporter of progressive issues like: affordable health care, public education, workers’ rights, fair taxes, LGBTQ rights, social justice, protecting the environment, affordable housing, economic equality, job creation, fair wages. She led the effort to mandate GMO labeling and was not afraid to take on Monsanto’s millions.
These are all issues The Stranger has championed as well. Or used to. Has something changed?
Let’s start with your primary endorsement claim about Chase’s record on single-payer health care. You incorrectly accused Chase of not supporting a bill. You wrote: “Instead of joining on with Senator David Frockt’s better single-payer bill, Chase copied California’s failed version of the bill and then went straight to the Seattle Times with the news that she wanted to bring single-payer to Washington State.”
You were wrong. Not only did Chase “join on” with Frockt’s Bill, she co-sponsored it (as recorded on the WA State Legislative site) and co-sponsored the version that preceded it by then-Senator Jeanne Kohl-Wells. Chase has a long history of supporting and working for a single-payer policy. (See: SB 5701 – 2017-18 – Creating the Washington apple care trust. Sponsors: Frockt, Keiser, Chase, Hasegawa, Darneille, Ranker, McCoy, Kuderer, Saldaña, Conway, Hunt )
In fact, just last fall, The Stranger gave Senator Chase credit for her single-payer healthcare bill: “Sen. Maralyn Chase, D-Shoreline, introduced the most ambitious bill, which is based on the California model that failed this summer.” (“We Can Have Single-Payer in Washington by 2020 If We Want It,” Rich Smith, The Stranger, Nov. 2017)
Incidentally, healthcare activists in California are working on getting “Healthy California” signed into law by the next Democratic governor (if elected), followed by Oregon as “Healthy Oregon,” and here as “Healthy Washington,” creating a tri-state system. So Senator Chase may have exactly the foresight we want in our elected officials.
Also, you accused Chase of not single-handedly forcing through bills, when your own reporter noted that even a bill with a coalition of solid support can be stymied or killed by just one vote. Wrote Smith: “None of the single-payer bills made it out of committee in the last legislative session in Olympia. (Sen. David Frockt’s bill came close, but no cigar thanks in part to Sen. Mark Mullet, the only Democrat on the Senate healthcare committee who didn’t vote YES.) This is bad news.”
Policymaking and governing are rarely a solo act. Yet The Stranger accused Chase of both not doing enough single-handedly and not doing enough in collaboration with others. Which is it?
Chase has also been a tireless supporter of public education and has worked to protect WA schools from damaging and failed corporate ed reforms. This led some in your comments section to wonder why Saul Spady was newly listed on your primary election endorsements Editorial Board at the same time you took aim at a champion of public ed. In 2004 and since, the Spady family were big backers of a charter schools push by then-Governor Locke (despite voters having rejected charter schools statewide twice), which Chase helped to stave off. And Saul Spady recently headed the effort to repeal the City Council’s short-lived head tax on larger businesses (like Amazon). Was it merely a coincidence that The Stranger suddenly turned on one of the most progressive pro-public ed legislators in the state at the same time it invited a member of a pro-ed-privatizing family onto its Ed Board?
(Side note: I agree with Spady on Prop 1, the City’s nearly tripled $638 million education levy, and recommend that The Stranger also attempt some actual analysis of that proposal before breathlessly endorsing it.)
In 2015, Chase organized with Republican Senator Pam Roach a bipartisan hearing on Common Core State Standards and the Smarter Balanced tests associated with them, demonstrating her willingness to scrutinize one of the biggest ed reforms heavily bankrolled and promoted by local powers that be like Bill Gates (who has spent tens of millions of dollars pushing Common Core nationwide). She was willing to ask difficult questions about a costly and undemocratically imposed initiative whose benefits to students have never been proven. (Full disclosure: I was a panelist at this hearing.)
Public Disclosure & Open Government
Public disclosure is a topic where nearly all the state legislators got it wrong this year – including Cindy Ryu, Eric Pettigrew and Frank Chopp. Yet The Stranger endorsed all three of them anyway, and only singled out Chase, who cast the same vote they did. How does The Stranger justify that inconsistency?
As a former public official who was subjected to ongoing PRA requests, and as a journalist, I completely disagreed with the lege, as I stated here: Gov. Inslee should veto Senate Bill 6617: State legislators should be held to same standard of transparency as all other elected officials).
And I agree with you that their attempt to modify or clarify the law – an option offered to them by the judge and the state attorney general — did not go far enough to establish true transparency. A taskforce won’t suffice either, and Chase realizes that.
But Chase, who serves on the Sunshine Committee, does have some valid concerns about the abuse of the PRA that can reveal private information of private citizens, and the costs. I have seen the law abused, and private citizens’ emails used politically and without full context, as I outlined in my earlier post from March 2018.
Also, collecting, reviewing and redacting emails carefully takes time and money. At the Seattle School District we had two staffers working full time doing nothing but that. Confidential info still slipped through. State legislators need to find resources for this significant task, and they need to protect the privacy of their constituents. Both must be done.
On transportation, Chase’s reservations about the scope and costs of Sound Transit 3 were justified and prescient. They reflected the concerns of many of us who support public transport but found this bill flawed. As the true costs rolled in after the election, it’s become clear that the backers were not completely honest about the price tag and the revenue source. Initially sold to the legislature as a $15 billion investment, the scope and price expanded to $54 billion. Voters were not told that their car tabs costs would shoot through the roof. This prompted an investigation. Chase questioned the heavy emphasis on light rail over buses. It was responsible and courageous of Chase to ask the difficult questions despite the pressure of the major corporations and labor forces that funded the initiative.
In fact, there was a time when such a curious corporate/labor alliance would have prompted scrutiny by The Stranger. Likewise Sound Transit’s shenanigans of improperly releasing contact information of nearly 200,000 ORCA card holders to the pro-ST3 campaign (see: Sound Transit improperly sent 173,000 ORCA card users’ info to political campaign) and assigning the opposing statement in the Voter’s Guide to lightening rod Tim Eyman. It sure looked like the fix was in.
The Bigger Picture
What I learned from serving in public office for four years (on the school board) and what we see in vivid display on the national stage, is when all is said and done, in order to elect a good legislator, your best bet is to elect a person of good character with a sound moral compass; someone who will side with the powerless and disadvantaged, and stand up to power and corruption; who will take on injustice. That is Chase’s history.
Now more than ever it is clear that character and values matter. We need people with sound ethics and good judgment in office at all levels of government.
Sometimes some of the work you do in office is fight off bad policy and bad ideas. Sometimes your work is not that visible. Other times a best effort can be thwarted by a highly funded campaign, such as when Senator Chase led the initiative to require labeling of genetically engineered foods (GMOs). It was attacked by corporations like the agrochemical conglomerate Monsanto, which spent millions to defeat it — and has now contributed to Jesse Salomon’s campaign.)
Elsewhere in your primary (and general election) endorsements you gave Representative Suzanne DelBene credit for a “symbolic” but failed effort (“While DelBene’s bill was more symbolic than serious (and died in committee), the SECB appreciates deft political symbolism every once in a while.”), yet you don’t grant Chase the same grace. Why not?
Chase is willing to take brave positions that challenge the greater powers that be and isn’t afraid to be a lone voice sometimes. That’s why she has earned the respect and endorsement of fellow progressives like Larry Gossett, Pramila Jayapal, Bob Ferguson, Bob Hasegawa, David Frockt, Gerry Pollet, the King County Democrats, the Washington State Labor Council and the State teacher’s union (WEA). She has also earned a place in FUSE’s Progressive Voters Guide.
Meanwhile her opponent is running a negative campaign, attacking Chase with multiple mailers, push polls and misleading information (and so far spending over $40,000 of his own money—making himself his own top contributor). Salomon has also been endorsed and funded* by education privatizers Stand for Children. (More info here.) This is reminiscent of the heavily financed negative campaign against my candidacy in 2013. There was a time when The Stranger would not side with such tactics or candidates.
(*Late summer, a $1,000 contribution to Salomon’s campaign from Stand for Children appeared then disappeared from his PDC campaign finance records. The political organization has also made donations of $1,000 or $2,000 to the various other WA State candidates it has endorsed.)
Stranger editors: You like to be irreverent. You are provocateurs. I get it. I was working for Salon back when Dan did his Gary Bauer campaign doorknob licking stunt. It was an interesting time. Salon stood by him. (“Stalking Gary Bauer” Salon, 1/25/2000 and “Dan Savage Takes a Licking,” Chicago Reader, 2/10/2000). You call yourself “Seattle’s only newspaper.” Yet you’re starting to be as fact-challenged and irrational as the other paper in town can be.
Unfortunately, your endorsement of Salomon over Chase is just one of the latest Stranger misfires.
You had nothing good to say about Chopp or Pettigrew yet you still endorsed them both. Neither has the progressive credentials of Chase. In fact, as recently as this week in your perennial endorsement of State Rep. Pettigrew you say:
“Eric Pettigrew is a trash legislator who told the SECB in 2014, when he was in his 12th year in office, ‘I don’t know if I have passed any bills this term.’ It’s not clear he has done anything since then, now that he is in his 16th year. He has voted against raising the minimum wage, tried to loosen regulations for predatory payday lenders, voted to shield the state legislature from disclosing public records, and promoted charter schools.”
Why doesn’t The Stranger simply issue no endorsement in races like those? The “lesser of two evils” argument is what leads to decades of mediocre and compromised candidates staying in power.
And now you trash one of the most consistent progressive voices in the state legislature, and support someone backed by privatizers whom you don’t really respect.
The most serious upshot of your flippant endorsements for candidates you don’t really believe in, or who are less qualified, is that truly lesser candidates are making it into the general election, while better ones you could have supported are being left behind.
As a fellow journalist it pains me to see a once decent publication render itself unreliable, sometimes unreadable (the expletives are getting a bit tired, by the way) especially in a one-paper town. I know I’m not the only one to wonder if The Stranger has lost its way.
Chase is the clear choice for reelection in District 32 because she is a tenacious person of conscience who will continue to fight for social justice, the underdog, and isn’t afraid to stand up to bigger forces—or The Stranger Ed Control Board, for that matter. She has been a strong and consistent progressive voice and a people’s representative, not a pawn of developers, corporations or privatizers.
She deserves better from The Stranger. And your readers need better information from you.
Former Director, Seattle School Board (2013-17)
Co-founder, Parents Across America
Seattle resident and voter
Post updated to reflect correction to typo in Sound Transit 3 expanded costs to read $54 billion (not million).
Also updated to include contribution by agrochemical conglomerate Monsanto to Jesse Salomon’s campaign.