NPI's Cascadia Advocate

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

Saturday, June 25th, 2022

Convention Conversations: NPI catches up with State Party Chair Tina Podlodowski

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 Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty Chair Tina Pod­lodows­ki. 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’re glad to have you with us! For this install­ment, we are hon­ored to be joined by Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty Chair Tina Pod­lodows­ki. Welcome!

TINA PODLODOWSKI: Thank you so much. I’m so hap­py to be here. Thanks for hav­ing me.

CAYA BERNDT: Of course. Yeah, we’re real­ly hap­py to have you here too. First ques­tion: We’re in the midst of a heat­ed midterms cycle, but last year we had a num­ber of excit­ing local elec­tions across the state that yield­ed some impor­tant vic­to­ries for Democ­rats. What stood out to you as the party’s biggest wins last year?

TINA PODLODOWSKI: Oh boy, that’s a fan­tas­tic ques­tion. And I have to say, we were so excit­ed as a state Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty to par­tic­i­pate in over 4,825 dif­fer­ent local elec­tions around the state of Wash­ing­ton. It’s real­ly an impor­tant com­po­nent of build­ing our bench and mak­ing cer­tain that Demo­c­ra­t­ic voic­es and val­ues are at every lev­el of gov­ern­ment, whether you’re talk­ing about school board, pub­lic util­i­ty dis­tricts, city coun­cils, coun­ty coun­cils, all the way through.

I guess I’ll start with Sarah Per­ry — the incred­i­ble Sarah Per­ry! — win­ning her race for King Coun­ty Coun­cil against the long-term Repub­li­can incum­bent Kathy Lam­bert. Final­ly, there is rep­re­sen­ta­tion that tru­ly rep­re­sents that par­tic­u­lar dis­trict at the King Coun­ty Coun­cil. And Sarah is a tremen­dous and expe­ri­enced politi­cian, but [also an exem­plary] com­mu­ni­ty mem­ber. The work that she’s done with­in that par­tic­u­lar dis­trict has been laud­ed on both sides of the aisle.

So hav­ing her on the King Coun­ty Coun­cil is just a tremen­dous win.

But I also want to say say we’ve done such great work in a lot of great places, [like] in the Wal­la Wal­la area. You know, return­ing Nor­ma Her­nan­dez [to be] May­or of Col­lege Place was fan­tas­tic and mak­ing that hap­pen. To mak­ing cer­tain that we have Lat­inx rep­re­sen­ta­tion on the Wal­la Wal­la City Council.

We ran the table with the Van­cou­ver City Coun­cil and it now has a pro­gres­sive major­i­ty. And then, I think [a vic­to­ry] every­one is so proud of too, is in Sequim, Wash­ing­ton, where, work­ing with the Sequim Good Gov­er­nance League, we were able to get out Q‑Anon city coun­cil mem­bers and put in a pro­gres­sive slate.

So it mat­ters. It mat­ters what’s hap­pen­ing there as well as a vari­ety of school  board races. So many great races to men­tion all around the state!

CAYA BERNDT: Yeah, that’s fan­tas­tic. So mem­bers of both par­ties, includ­ing Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee, are call­ing on long­time incum­bent Mike Krei­dler to step down from his posi­tion of insur­ance com­mis­sion­er, fol­low­ing the rev­e­la­tions of his abu­sive behav­ior towards staff while in office. If he does­n’t resign, will you be work­ing to recruit a cred­i­ble Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger to run for his office in 2024?

TINA PODLODOWSKI: Yeah, I think Democ­rats need to walk the talk and in Mike’s case, it def­i­nite­ly… this is an incred­i­bly seri­ous sit­u­a­tion in his office. When we heard about this par­tic­u­lar sit­u­a­tion, Mike assured every­one that he would get train­ing, that he would deal with the sit­u­a­tion. I think every­one was con­cerned. And cer­tain­ly I issued a state­ment say­ing, I think that this is one of those things where the trust is just about gone. So let’s see what hap­pens here.

But then the whistle­blow­er who start­ed this entire com­plaint was then fired by Mike. And to me, that’s the last straw. We don’t do things like that.

I mean, the Repub­li­cans refused to, [for exam­ple], you know, kick out Matt Shea from his seat [in the State House], when they had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to do that. They removed him from the cau­cus, but cer­tain­ly they did­n’t remove his vote, and they depend­ed upon him, and still con­tin­ued to work with him, despite the fact that it was very clear he was work­ing with white suprema­cists and extremists.

We appre­ci­ate the entire career that Mike has had. He’s done amaz­ing things for the peo­ple of the state of Wash­ing­ton, but it is time.

I’ve called for Mike to step down.

I am still going to call for Mike to step down and for us to find a replace­ment. And I know that we will have incred­i­ble Democ­rats run­ning in 2024, if we do not replace [Mike Krei­dler] pri­or to [that election].

CAYA BERNDT: Thank you! Switch­ing gears a bit. Wash­ing­ton is apply­ing to be one of the first states in the 2020 fourth cycle to hold a demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry. This past week, the state made its pitch in the oth­er Wash­ing­ton to the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws com­mit­tee. How did that pre­sen­ta­tion go?

TINA PODLODOWSKI: It went great. I think that there are so many things that the State of Wash­ing­ton brings to a pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry dis­cus­sion, but let me set the stage ini­tial­ly. So the entire DNC Rules and Bylaws com­mit­tee is look­ing at changes to the states that would hold those ear­ly pres­i­den­tial primaries.

I think every­one knows that Iowa, New Hamp­shire, South Car­oli­na, and Neva­da have been those states. What’s clear in [the wake of] this last cycle is poten­tial­ly that a state like Iowa no longer [effec­tive­ly] rep­re­sents Democ­rats and no longer rep­re­sents Amer­i­ca in that vote. There is not a lot of diver­si­ty in the folks in Iowa who are tak­ing that [first in the nation] pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry vote.

And in fact, in Iowa, it is not a pri­ma­ry. It’s a caucus.

Here in Wash­ing­ton State, a cou­ple of things are at play. Num­ber one is there has to be one state from each par­tic­u­lar region who is rep­re­sent­ed as an ear­ly pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry state. And there’s an oppor­tu­ni­ty for a fifth state to be added. The Rules and Bylaws Com­mit­tee gave them­selves that leeway.

So in the west, there are only three states who are com­pet­ing for a slot. It’s us in Wash­ing­ton State, it’s Neva­da, and it’s Col­orado. So that’s step num­ber one.

If you take a look at the diver­si­ty with­in the State of Wash­ing­ton and how it stacks up against both Col­orado and Neva­da, there are many, many advan­tages with Wash­ing­ton State. The first is not just in the west, but among any state apply­ing to be an ear­ly cau­cus state: Wash­ing­ton has the largest Asian Pacif­ic Islander pop­u­la­tion of any of those states.… over 800,000 peo­ple. That is a group that is his­tor­i­cal­ly under­rep­re­sent­ed in pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry votes.

We haven’t done that here in Wash­ing­ton State. If you take a look, [you’ll find] incred­i­ble leg­is­la­tors like Con­gress­woman Prami­la Jaya­pal, the first South Asian woman to be elect­ed to Con­gress. And one of the few immi­grants in Con­gress, if you look at Mary­land Strick­land, the first Black and Kore­an con­gressper­son to be elect­ed here in Wash­ing­ton State, and then incred­i­ble leg­is­la­tors like Man­ka Dhin­gra, and My-Linh Thai, and a whole host of dif­fer­ent folks that are incredible.

So we have that diver­si­ty going for us that puts us in a num­ber one slot.

Num­ber two is the num­ber of Native Amer­i­can tribes that we have here in Wash­ing­ton state. We have rela­tion­ships and there are twen­ty-nine fed­er­al­ly rec­og­nized tribes in Wash­ing­ton state. That is more than any oth­er state under con­sid­er­a­tion with the excep­tion of Oklahoma.

And we’ve been able to increase the vote in those trib­al com­mu­ni­ties by 40% over the course of the last four years. So that’s an incred­i­ble oppor­tu­ni­ty and a great group that need to be rep­re­sent­ed as well.

And then final­ly, there’s labor. We have 630,000 union mem­bers in Wash­ing­ton state, includ­ing every­one and myself who works for the state party.

Labor is a key Demo­c­ra­t­ic ally. We are the most union­ized state par­tic­i­pat­ing in this process, and we have twice the amount of union mem­bers of Col­orado and Neva­da com­bined here in Wash­ing­ton State.

We also have 160,000 more union mem­bers than the num­ber two state in com­pe­ti­tion — and that’s Michi­gan, [com­pet­ing] in the Mid­west region for a slot.

So we believe all of those things give us an oppor­tu­ni­ty, poten­tial­ly not to get the West­ern slot. We believe that Neva­da brings Lat­inx rep­re­sen­ta­tion to the table that no oth­er state does as well. But cer­tain­ly look­ing at that fifth state slot is a huge oppor­tu­ni­ty for us. And one that brings those voic­es of the AAPI com­mu­ni­ty, the Native Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty, the labor com­mu­ni­ty to the forefront.

And one last thing: Wash­ing­ton has the gold stan­dard vot­ing sys­tem. It is the sys­tem that we believe the DNC should be repli­cat­ing and work­ing to repli­cate all through­out our coun­try. We have an all mail-in sys­tem, eigh­teen days to [cast a bal­lot]. We have postage paid bal­lot [return envelopes]. We have auto­mat­ic vot­er reg­is­tra­tion, same day reg­is­tra­tion pre-reg­is­tra­tion for six­teen and sev­en­teen year-olds. And we have recog­ni­tion of for­mer felons being able to vote.

So we wan­na make sure that all of those voic­es are there. And every­one has a chance to cast their bal­lot. We are not Texas. We are not Geor­gia that is labor­ing under incred­i­ble and heinous vot­er ID laws, and oth­er sorts of vot­er sup­pres­sion efforts. So we believe we bring things to the table that rep­re­sent the best of democ­ra­cy, as well as diver­si­ty. We’ll see how it goes.

We’ll find out by August 6th, but Wash­ing­ton State def­i­nite­ly made a strong case and made a lot of peo­ple in the room sit up and take notice.

That’s it’s real­ly excit­ing to hear.

CAYA BERNDT: Boost­ing Wash­ing­ton’s vot­er par­tic­i­pa­tion has been a top pri­or­i­ty of the par­ty dur­ing your time in lead­er­ship. How are Democ­rats plan­ning to moti­vate and ener­gize vot­ers to elect demo­c­ra­t­ic majori­ties this sum­mer and fall?

TINA PODLODOWSKI: Yeah, I mean, think about it: We are com­ing out of a pan­dem­ic. Prob­a­bly some­thing that’s endem­ic, if you think of the, the spread of COVID, but that’s prob­a­bly anoth­er pod­cast. I am not an epi­demi­ol­o­gist, but def­i­nite­ly, when you looked at that 2020 elec­tion, we could not do the things that Democ­rats nor­mal­ly do in a pres­i­den­tial year that give us such grass­roots strength. We weren’t able to door knock. We weren’t able to do events. Instead we made over four mil­lion phone calls to turn out vot­ers, as well as text banking.

In this cycle, we have that oppor­tu­ni­ty to door knock. We have that oppor­tu­ni­ty to have events. We just had 1,200 del­e­gates here, par­tic­i­pat­ing both in per­son and vir­tu­al­ly around the state of Wash­ing­ton [in the 2022 Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Con­ven­tion] and peo­ple are excit­ed and fired up. So we are putting togeth­er neigh­bor­hood pro­grams in every part of the state.

We have been door knock­ing since Octo­ber, par­tic­u­lar­ly in [key leg­isla­tive] dis­tricts. For exam­ple, the 26th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict where Emi­ly Ran­dall has a tough race to make sure she returns to the state Senate.

She is an amaz­ing cham­pi­on for women, for edu­ca­tion, for repro­duc­tive rights. And she’s going up against, Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jesse Young — some­body who can’t even be in the same room with a staff mem­ber by him­self because he’s been cen­sured for his behav­ior. So he has to have at least two peo­ple in the room with him. I mean, it’s ridicu­lous who the Repub­li­cans have running.

So I think all of those things cou­pled with Roe cou­pled with the recent deci­sions on guns, cou­pled with every­thing that we’re see­ing because of the Jan­u­ary 6th [Select] Com­mit­tee and the efforts that they’re doing, and real­ly the big lie that’s out there from Repub­li­cans. The insur­rec­tion­ism… this idea that they are indeed tear­ing down our democ­ra­cy and doing that every day and reduc­ing rights for folks. Well, that’s a moti­va­tor. It’s just doing that and mak­ing sure that we get peo­ple to turn in their bal­lots. And I think we do that bet­ter than any­one else.

So door knock­ing, phone bank­ing, text bank­ing, events, a com­bi­na­tion of all of that. We’re also hir­ing. So if folks are lis­ten­ing to this pod­cast, go to our web­site. We are hir­ing and we are work­ing through a vari­ety of dif­fer­ent diverse com­mu­ni­ties. Our efforts in Span­ish lan­guage com­mu­ni­ties, our efforts in immi­grant com­mu­ni­ties, our efforts with young peo­ple, our efforts, all the way through are, are real­ly some­thing that has turned out the vote for Democ­rats in every sin­gle coun­ty, over the course of the last five years and result­ed in a six to 16% increase for Democ­rats in every county.

In the state of Wash­ing­ton, if I were the Repub­li­cans, I would be real­ly wor­ried about what this elec­tion is going to do to Republicans.

CAYA BERNDT: You have long been a cham­pi­on of unions and orga­nized labor, being a “union kid” your­self. How can cham­pi­ons for work­ing peo­ple cap­i­tal­ize on the momen­tum gen­er­at­ed from orga­niz­ing suc­cess­es at com­pa­nies like Ama­zon and Star­bucks to grow the union movement?

TINA PODLODOWSKI: Absolute­ly. Well, we work hand in hand with the union move­ment. I was so excit­ed to be some­one [whose] dad was a UAW shop stew­ard. My mom was a UAW machin­ist. I grew up at the union hall. I’m very proud that all the Wash­ing­ton Democ­rats and our staff are IUPAT members.

We’re with the painters, ’cause we’re paint­ing the state blue.

We’re hav­ing a lot of fun with that. And it is impor­tant. Every work­er deserves a union. So we work hand in hand in those orga­niz­ing efforts.

And we applaud the efforts that are hap­pen­ing at both Ama­zon and Star­bucks and oth­er com­pa­nies to make that happen.

Look, in Wash­ing­ton State, we added almost 80,000 union­ized work­ers in 2021 alone. It’s one of the com­pet­i­tive advan­tages, frankly, going back to the con­ven­tion and ear­ly pri­ma­ry dis­cus­sion that we had… both Neva­da and Col­orado actu­al­ly lost union mem­ber­ship while we increased it. And our unions are diverse. There are over a hun­dred dif­fer­ent locals here in the state of Washington.

So whether it’s teach­ers, whether it’s folks build­ing air­planes, whether it’s folks who are baris­tas and work­ing at Star­bucks, whether it’s folks who are in health­care, whether it’s folks who are our pub­lic employ­ee union mem­bers, our fire­fight­ers, our incred­i­ble teach­ers, all the folks. We stand with them, and we con­tin­ue to do that work and advo­cate for those orga­niz­ing efforts.

At the fed­er­al lev­el, our Wash­ing­ton del­e­ga­tion stands strong for the PRO Act, [which is aimed at] giv­ing the right to every­one to be able to orga­nize. And here in Wash­ing­ton State, we are not a “right to work” state. We are a right to orga­nize state. So Democ­rats have made that def­i­nite­ly hap­pen at the leg­isla­tive lev­el and sup­port our union rights and mem­ber­ship at every level.

CAYA BERNDT: Chair Pod­lodows­ki, it’s been great to be able to catch up with you. Thanks for tak­ing the time to talk with us about the work that you’ve been doing for the peo­ple of Wash­ing­ton. If you enjoyed this pod­cast, we invite you to check out our oth­er Con­ven­tion Con­ver­sa­tions. For NPI, I’m Caya Berndt.

Take care!

Adjacent posts

  • Enjoyed what you just read? Make a donation

    Thank you for read­ing The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate, the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute’s jour­nal of world, nation­al, and local politics.

    Found­ed in March of 2004, The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate has been help­ing peo­ple through­out the Pacif­ic North­west and beyond make sense of cur­rent events with rig­or­ous analy­sis and thought-pro­vok­ing com­men­tary for more than fif­teen years. The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate is fund­ed by read­ers like you and trust­ed spon­sors. We don’t run ads or pub­lish con­tent in exchange for money.

    Help us keep The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate edi­to­ri­al­ly inde­pen­dent and freely avail­able to all by becom­ing a mem­ber of the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute today. Or make a dona­tion to sus­tain our essen­tial research and advo­ca­cy journalism.

    Your con­tri­bu­tion will allow us to con­tin­ue bring­ing you fea­tures like Last Week In Con­gress, live cov­er­age of events like Net­roots Nation or the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tion, and reviews of books and doc­u­men­tary films.

    Become an NPI mem­ber Make a one-time donation

  • NPI’s essential research and advocacy is sponsored by: