NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate provides the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, February 25th, 2020

Jessi Murray and David Hackney to run for Washington State House in 43rd, 11th LDs

Two incum­bent Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic State Rep­re­sen­ta­tives serv­ing in Seat­tle area leg­isla­tive dis­tricts have attract­ed declared Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lengers for the 2020 cycle, The Stranger’s Rich Smith report­ed today.

Seat­tle LGBTQ Com­mis­sion­er Jes­si Mur­ray has decid­ed to take on for­mer Speak­er Frank Chopp in the 43rd Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict for Posi­tion #2, while Wash­ing­ton State Human Rights Com­mis­sion­er David Hack­ney has decid­ed to chal­lenge Zack Hud­gins in the 11th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict for that dis­tric­t’s Posi­tion #2.

Chopp and Hud­gins have each served in the House for decades.

Chopp was first elect­ed to the cham­ber in 1994 (the year of the so-called “Repub­li­can Rev­o­lu­tion”), while Hud­gins was first elect­ed in 2002.

Chopp held the cham­ber’s top post of Speak­er for two decades before step­ping down last year; he has since been suc­ceed­ed by Lau­rie Jink­ins of Tacoma.

Since leav­ing cau­cus lead­er­ship, Chopp has adept­ly made the tran­si­tion to rank and file leg­is­la­tor, sur­pris­ing some polit­i­cal observers. Chopp was assigned to serve on the influ­en­tial House Appro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee ahead of the cur­rent leg­isla­tive ses­sion. He has declared that he will run for anoth­er term in 2020.

Hud­gins, also a vet­er­an mem­ber of the cau­cus, does not cur­rent­ly serve in cau­cus lead­er­ship, but is a long­time com­mit­tee chair. He chaired House State Gov­ern­ment after Sam Hunt moved over to the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate, but turned the lead­er­ship of that com­mit­tee over to col­league Mia Gregerson in order to helm Inno­va­tion, Tech­nol­o­gy, and Eco­nom­ic Development.

Hud­gins was a can­di­date for King Coun­ty Elec­tions Direc­tor in 2015, but was trounced in the Novem­ber 2015 gen­er­al elec­tion by cur­rent Direc­tor Julie Wise, who was backed by out­go­ing Direc­tor Sher­ril Huff.

Mur­ray and Hack­ney both feel their dis­tricts deserve fresh leadership.

Jessi Murray

Jes­si Mur­ray (Cam­paign photo)

“I wouldn’t come to Olympia with a lot of polit­i­cal cap­i­tal, but I would come in with a lot of polit­i­cal free­dom,” Mur­ray told The Stranger’s Rich Smith. “Peo­ple should take a chance on me as some­one who could lis­ten, and step back, and think big, and maneu­ver in a way that’s nov­el and agile… I rep­re­sent the young, queer, car-free, renter por­tions of the 43rd that still need to be ampli­fied in the Legislature.”

Mur­ray has a web­site up where you can learn more about her cam­paign. (You can also check out incum­bent Frank Chop­p’s web­site for com­par­a­tive purposes.)

David Hackney

David Hack­ney (Cam­paign photo)

Renter advo­ca­cy will also be a theme of Hack­ney’s cam­paign. Hack­ney said he plans to make an issue of Hud­gins’ record on ten­ant pro­tec­tion legislation.

“I find it uncon­scionable that we don’t have any­one fight­ing for renters in the 11th Dis­trict,” Hack­ney told The Stranger’s Rich Smith.

“Renters deserve cer­tain­ty. If you own a home, you get a thir­ty-year mort­gage — that’s mon­tage con­trol. Peo­ple who rent deserve the same stability.”

Hack­ney has a web­site up where you can learn more about his cam­paign. (You can also check out incum­bent Zack Hud­gins’ web­site for com­par­a­tive purposes.)

Nei­ther Chopp nor Hud­gins have faced a cred­i­ble chal­lenge from the left in years, and vot­ers tend to pun­ish com­pla­cen­cy when least expect­ed, so Chopp and Hud­gins will need to act quick­ly to build strong cam­paigns if they want to sur­vive in 2020. They will need to con­vince vot­ers intrigued by the prospect of fresh­er, more pro­gres­sive, and more diverse rep­re­sen­ta­tion to return them to Olympia.

Mur­ray and Hack­ney will need to per­suade vot­ers in their neigh­bor­hoods that they could be effec­tive advo­cates in the state­house for the issues they care so pas­sion­ate­ly about, includ­ing cli­mate jus­tice and hous­ing afford­abil­i­ty. The pol­i­tics under the rotun­da in Olympia are quite dif­fer­ent than the pol­i­tics of Seattle.

Last year’s King Coun­ty Coun­cil elec­tions demon­strat­ed how a chal­lenge from the left can go either way. Renter and for­mer I‑1631 cam­paign man­ag­er Abi­gail Doerr took on incum­bent Jeanne Kohl-Welles and lost bad­ly, while the bril­liant young attor­ney Gir­may Zil­hay end­ed the polit­i­cal career of the leg­endary Lar­ry Gos­sett, who had repeat­ed­ly sailed to reelec­tion unop­posed for sev­er­al cycles in a row.

Mur­ray and Hack­ney will be look­ing to repli­cate Zil­hay’s suc­cess with insur­gent cam­paigns. Chopp and Hud­gins will, if they’re smart, seek to defend their seats with the same feroc­i­ty that Kohl-Welles showed in her reelec­tion campaign.

Nei­ther Chopp nor Hud­gins can active­ly cam­paign until after the ses­sion ends due to their leg­isla­tive oblig­a­tions and the ses­sion fundrais­ing freeze.

All four can­di­dates may find last year’s afore­men­tioned King Coun­ty Coun­cil elec­tions to be a use­ful case study for their cam­paign plan­ning. It’s hard to think of a bet­ter exam­ple of a tale of two incum­bents with stark­ly dif­fer­ent fates.

Kohl-Welles smart­ly rec­og­nized that she could not afford to be com­pla­cent, and ran an extreme­ly vig­or­ous cam­paign that con­stant­ly held events and pro­vid­ed vot­ers with oppor­tu­ni­ties to inter­act with her. She was reward­ed with 73.91% of the vote.

Gos­sett rec­og­nized too late that many vot­ers in his com­mu­ni­ty did not have a bond with him and thus no rea­son to mark the oval next to his name at elec­tion time. He received 39.27% of the vote in the Novem­ber 2019 gen­er­al elec­tion, and was suc­ceed­ed by Zil­hay as Coun­cilmem­ber for the 2nd Dis­trict at year’s end.

Because Wash­ing­ton uti­lizies a “Top Two” sys­tem for win­now­ing can­di­date fields and does not hold a real pri­ma­ry, it is impos­si­ble for either Mur­ray or Hack­ney to “pri­ma­ry” Chopp and Hud­gins. They can chal­lenge, but they can­not “pri­ma­ry”, because vot­ers here are not allowed to choose nom­i­nees for par­ti­san offices like in oth­er states. Mur­ray and Hack­ney could well end up as Chop­p’s and Hud­gins’ gen­er­al elec­tion oppo­nents, giv­ing vot­ers two Democ­rats to choose from.

The 43rd and 11th are staunch­ly lib­er­al leg­isla­tive dis­tricts where Repub­li­cans do not both­er to seri­ous­ly com­pete, so there is no open­ing for J.T. Wilcox’s cau­cus to cap­i­tal­ize on these intra­mur­al con­tests. Thanks to the Two Two sys­tem, how­ev­er, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty in the 43rd and 11th Dis­tricts will prob­a­bly be divid­ed on the ques­tion of its rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the State House all the way through November.

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