NPI's Caya Berndt interviews Kristine Reeves
NPI's Caya Berndt interviews Kristine Reeves at the 2022 Washington State Democratic Convention (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

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

Press play to begin lis­ten­ing; use the slid­er to the right to adjust the volume.

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.


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!

About the author

Caya is a Northwest Progressive Institute contributor based out of Spokane, Washington, writing about Lilac City politics, the Evergreen State's 5th Congressional District, and related politics. She previously hosted the inaugural episodes of NPI's PNWcurrents podcast. She works at the Unemployment Law Project and is a graduate of Central Washington University, with a bachelor's degree in liberal arts and sciences. Caya also has a minor from CWU in law and justice.

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