Editor’s Note: On Friday, June 24th and Saturday, June 25th, the Washington State Democratic Party held its 2022 convention in the City of Destiny at the Greater Tacoma Convention Center. The staff of the Northwest Progressive Institute traveled to Tacoma to speak with party leaders and elected officials about the work they’re doing in advance of the midterm elections.
This is one of those Convention Conversations, featuring Kristine Reeves, a candidate for the Washington State House of Representatives. Press play below to listen to the audio, or read the transcript below. You can use the link in this paragraph to access the other installments that we recorded from the convention hall.
Listen to the conversation
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Read the transcript
Note: Transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
CAYA BERNDT: Welcome to Convention Conversations, a special limited podcast series from the Northwest Progressive Institute recorded live from the 2022 Washington State Democratic Convention in Tacoma. I’m your host, Caya Berndt; we are glad to have you with us! For this installment, we are honored to be joined by Kristine Reeves for the Washington State House of Representatives.
Kristine, it’s awesome to have you!
KRISTINE REEVES: Thanks, Caya, so much.
CAYA BERNDT: Absolutely. So, jumping into it, the Top Two election is just a few weeks away, with ballots on the verge of being mailed to voters.
How is your campaign going?
KRISTINE REEVES: Yeah, thanks for asking.
So, as many folks may know, I’m a former state representative. I served in the Legislature for three years, from 2017 to 2019. When I got elected in 2016, in a tough swing district election in South King County, I became the first black woman elected to the Legislature in eighteen years. I was the only woman with kids under the age of five. I am so excited to see the progression that we have made in electing more moms and electing more folks of color.
But I can tell you now running again, to replace, Representative Johnson, there are still a lot of voters out there who are, questioning the values of the Democratic Party and where, where we need to be in, and particularly in South King County, where we have, you know, a cell of the Proud Boys, [who are] you know, white supremacist group. We are doing work to make sure that in a majority-minority district, folks are voting their values.
And that’s what I bring to the table.
CAYA BERNDT: Definitely. And how is your campaign planning on and trying to mobilize some of those voters who may be disillusioned, as you’ve mentioned?
KRISTINE REEVES: Yeah. I mean, it’s really talking to our neighbors in every place and space in South King County. It’s talking to them at their doors. It’s talking to them at the grocery store. I just had a great conversation with Ms. Regina at a local business in Federal Way on the heels of the SCOTUS decision. Talking about how we’re going to advance reproductive healthcare rights, how we’re gonna make sure that folks are getting access to universal healthcare.
So for me, it’s really about meeting folks where they are, getting to talk to them, introducing myself, and building trust in community.
CAYA BERNDT: Yeah. Building trust is essential. So, what are your priorities for the next two years, should you be elected? What would you most like to accomplish?
KRISTINE REEVES: Yeah, absolutely.
Well, particularly, for me as a mom of two young kids, you know, I went to the Legislature originally because I was fighting for equitable education.
As somebody who grew up in the public school system, has experienced homelessness as a first generation college graduate, I know that education is paramount to making sure that every kid in our, our community succeeds.
I would tell you that I’m also very, very focused in a post-pandemic society on addressing the inequities in our system. We kind of saw that Band-Aid get ripped wide off. I would tell you for communities of color, we always knew it was a problem, but you know, I think people saw the gap and the discrepancies in our system being equitable for everyone.
And then lastly, I would say we are dealing with some real economic well-being issues. Folks are, you know, struggling to pay for gas and groceries. They’re struggling to pay for baby formula. And again, as a mom, that just breaks my heart as somebody who’s experienced poverty. So I wanna make sure that we’re thinking about how we build an economy that works best for working families.
And that’s what I’m committed to doing.
CAYA BERNDT: And what do you think the state Legislature needs to do in order to help Americans that are grappling with those rising prices, particularly in areas that you’ve mentioned, [like] the baby formula shortage, it has been devastating.
KRISTINE REEVES: Yeah, absolutely.
I think, again, it’s electing folks who understand what working families are going through right now. As somebody who has to balance my budget at home and, you know, try to get my kids through school and, and deal with those things. It’s electing folks who actually are experiencing those challenges.
I would also say, I think, in having been there before, you know, it’s addressing our revenue shortfalls by instituting things like a wealth tax. Instituting things like a excessive profits tax, making sure that the capital gains tax stays on the books. I’m invested in making sure that we are taxing everyone in our state fairly.
And in the most regressive tax system in the country, part of the reason folks are struggling to pay for things is because we tax working families at 16% to 17% of their income. And we’re not taxing the Jeff Bezoses or the Elon Musks at the percentage of income that they should be taxed at.
So for me, we get to an equitable economy by making sure that everybody in our economy is actually paying their fair share.
CAYA BERNDT: Nothing gets my pulse racing like the phrase capital gains tax. I love it. Earlier, you mentioned, in our pre-recording discussion, that you were the Chair of the Black members caucus for the state party. What experiences from that are you hoping to bring to the house? And can you share some top priorities and, yeah, just what you hope to bring to the House?
KRISTINE REEVES: Yeah. Well, when I was in the Legislature before, I actually had the honor of founding the first Black members caucus for the Legislature, and since then have done the work, to advance a Black members caucus for the Washington State Democratic Party.
And, you know, I’m committed to that work. I know a lot of folks are like, well, why, why this? Because at the end of the day, we need to make sure that our message on diversity, equity, and inclusion and our methods actually align.
And having served in that building, I recognize that we are asking women and people of color in particular to get elected… check the diversity box, for sure.
But, at the end of the day, we don’t do anything to actually support them once they’re elected and making sure that they can navigate, you know, two hundred, three hundred, four hundred year old systems that literally were built, you know, not by them, not for them, or with their inclusion in mind. And I wanna make sure that we’re doing more than just electing them… that we’re actually keeping them there so that they can advance the equitable public policy and the system change that we need to make sure that our democracy works for everyone.
So I’ve been really fortunate to have the opportunity to serve in these leadership positions, but this work really comes from community, from our grassroots, and advances, the issues that matter most to, to black communities, African American communities, folks in the black diaspora. [I] look forward to continuing to do that work in the Legislature.
CAYA BERNDT: You mentioned prioritizing… modernizing the Legislature and creating political equity for younger members. Recently, we had the largest exodus of first term members from the Legislature. Why do you think that is, and what are your proposed solutions for bridging those gaps?
KRISTINE REEVES: Yeah, Caya, thanks for that question. So, what folks may not know is, what was I doing after losing my congressional campaign in 2020? Well, as a former legislator, and somebody who cares passionately about systems that work for everyone, I founded what’s called the Political Equity Project.
And this is really a project focused on making sure that we spend millions of dollars recruiting and training women and people [of color] to run for office.
We get them elected, and we check again, check that box for diversity. We spend zero dollars actually providing them professional development supports once they’re elected to navigate these institutionally racist, exclusionary and systemic systems that weren’t built for them, by them, or with their inclusion in mind.
And so the Political Equity Project is the work that I’ve been doing for the last two years, with the help of the Open Society Foundation. I look forward to bringing what I’ve learned in from science based practices, things like coaching and, you know, DEI training, to be able to take that science-based work to the Legislature, to be able to advance systems change, systems transformation, to make sure that our public policy is not perpetuating exclusionary or racist practices, but rather transforming itself to make sure that it’s inclusionary of everyone.
And I think that’s the growth that I’ve been able to do over the last two years, not being in the Legislature.
CAYA BERNDT: Thank you so much for that answer. Just one more quick question for you. So, yesterday, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
KRISTINE REEVES: Yes.
CAYA BERNDT: What do you think the Legislature should do to respond to this decision? Do you think the Legislature should pass a constitutional amendment to protect abortion rights? Or something else?
KRISTINE REEVES: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I would tell you that I’m running in a swing district where, quite frankly, you know, it is a traditional swing district and we have folks in our community who would be perfectly comfortable electing a legislator who, you know, may not be proactive in advancing these issues.
I, for one, am competing with two [other candidates]: a Republican and another competitor who won’t stand in the way if other people lead on this. I want a leader in my community who’s gonna go to the legislature and advance reproductive healthcare rights for all birthing people.
And I would just say for me, you know, as a pro-choice champion, it is a priority that we pass a constitutional amendment.
[But] I think we have to go farther than that. I think we need to do the work of getting rid of crisis pregnancy clinics. I think we need to do the work of making sure that we’re resourcing Planned Parenthood and others — reproductive health centers — to make sure all birthing people have access to the support.
And we know that, you know, when other states are outlawing this [abortion], more and more folks are gonna come [here]. If you’ve watched TikTok recently — we call it camping on TikTok — a lot more people are gonna be coming camping to the Pacific Northwest [to get reproductive healthcare].
And I wanna make sure that we have the resources to do that.
CAYA BERNDT: Kristine, it’s great to be able to catch up with you. Thanks for taking the time to talk with us about your campaign. If you enjoyed this podcast, we invite you to check out our other Convention Conversations.
For NPI, I’m Caya Berndt. Take care!