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Morning Wire: Campaign donations, Justice Gonzalez, AI in Seattle

The primary reason we re-launched the Wire in 2017 is this: our common problems today require more dialog with each other, not less. They require more understanding, and more listening. So, we wanted to create a place where the tools of a digital world help facilitate the face-to-face engagement needed to support solutions to our many civic challenges.

After the massacre in a Pittsburgh synagogue and the bombs sent to Democratic leaders, it feels like we could use more conversation with one another rather than less. So, we have a few items this week that hopefully elevate our thinking beyond the partisan reality of being one week out from an election…

With help from Emily Boerger and Sara Gentzler

1. Last minute election money floods into Washington

With one week left until election day, last minute ad buys and campaign donationscontinue to flood into Washington State campaigns. This is especially true in tight races like Washington’s 8th Congressional District, where just last week Michael Bloomberg’s Independence USA PAC poured $2.1 million into the race for a TV ad buy in opposition of Dino Rossi.

High profile campaigns like I-1631, the state’s carbon fee initiative, and I-1634, which would ban local taxes on groceries, are also seeing last minute contributions. Since October 15th, the “No on 1631” has received $9.1 million in donations from the oil industry, and the “Yes! To Affordable Groceries” campaign received $7.2 million from the soda industry earlier this month. Our rundown of the races and campaigns getting an extra push as November 6th draws closer can be found here.

 2. Campaigns for judge and campaigning judges


The race between Washington Supreme Court Justice Steve Gonzalez and Attorney Nathan Choi is getting a lot of media attention late in the game. (Austin Jenkins at NW News Network did some particularly excellent reporting on it here.) In a noteworthy move by a sitting judge, Gonzalez’s fellow Supreme Court Justice Mary Yu wrote an op-ed urging voters to look beyond Choi’s “Asian sounding name.” The two judges once worked together on the King County Superior Court, and you’ll find all sorts of posts in support of Gonzalez on Yu’s Facebook page.

Six years ago, Gonzalez’s surname combined with racial voting bias to spell a relatively narrow victory in a similar race. Coverage of judicial races is typically minimal, and Washington’s laws around on judicial campaign finances limit candidates’ abilities to buy ads. This got us thinking about how media, judicial campaign laws, or other forces could work to get these consequential races in front of voters sooner. We don’t have any answers, but it’s a conversation worth starting.

3. Greater Seattle Partners to seek IPZ designation, more eyes on Washington AI

In his presentation to the House Technology & Economic Development Committee last week, Dr. Joseph Williams spoke proudly of the hundreds of Seattle-area companies working in artificial intelligence and machine learning. But Dr. Williams, who is Governor Inslee’s Director of Economic Development for the Information and Communication Technology Sector, also lamented that the area isn’t getting its due respect in the field internationally.

Greater Seattle Partners wants to change that and will be proposing an AI Innovation Partnership Zone (IPZ) designation for the Seattle area. The designation doesn’t come with funding, but could be a powerful tool for re-branding the area as an AI hub.

4.  Health Care Oversight Committee meeting today

There aren’t a lot of committee hearings going on right now, for obvious reasons.  So, where there is one that’s a little interesting, we thought we’d flag it for you.

This morning, the Joint Select Committee on Health Care Oversight, is holding a committee meeting from 9:30am to 12:00pm. On the agenda is a discussion on health care workforce shortages in Washington State, an update on telemedicine, as well as an update on the Washington Rural Health Access Preservation (WRHAP) program.

Presenters to the committee include Medicaid Director MaryAnne Lindeblad, Health Care Authority Director Susan Birch, and Dr. John Scott, Chair of the Washington State Telemedicine Collaborative. Slide decks for the presenters are available here or you can watch the committee meeting on TVW at this link.

5.  Legislative statement on Pittsburgh earns 120 co-signers 

Sen. David Frockt delivered a statement Monday night at a vigil held by the Jewish Community of Seattle for the lives lost in the attack at at a Pittsburgh synagogue.  From Sen. Frockt:  “I wanted to create a statement that could reach across divides and try to build bonds and not merely assign blame. I am proud to say that as of this hour we have over 120 signatories from each party and of all different ideologies, from the most liberal to the most conservative.

From the statement:  “We pledge to do all that is in our power as political leaders to confront hateful rhetoric, including anti-Semitism and other forms of hate, whenever it arises; to lift up the level of our political discourse, and to uphold the fundamental value of religious and cultural tolerance that forms the very foundation of civic life in America.”  You can see the full list of legislators that signed the document, and those that did not, here.

6. Q&A with new Wire reporter, Sara Gentzler

The Washington State Wire is happy to welcome Sara Gentzler as a new state capitol reporter to the team!  Sara is based in Olympia, and joins me, Emily, and Marjie as we build out coverage of state policy and politics. You should follow her on Twitter here.  Sara is a cornhusker by birth, a Creighton Blue Jay by education, and comes to us from a previous gig at The EvergreySara’s love of journalism stems from an innate curiosity to get to know people and the issues that impact them.

When asked why she decided to write for the Wire, Sara said, “I see it as an opportunity to write meaningful things and challenge myself to dive into really complex topics and like I said, to get people engaged in the world around them in ways that are actually informative and productive. I’m excited that since I live in Olympia, I get to be where the action is during next session, and I’m ready to tackle the challenges that come with that.”

7. Peggy Noonan column on understanding each other

Peggy Noonan has become something of the moral center of America’s institutional political class. Her column in the WSJ this weekend provides an opportunity to see one’s political worldview with an outsider’s perspective. It looks upon our politics with the question of what is best for the country rather than what is best for one party.

“Democrats really and sincerely see the threat of violent words and actions as coming from the right. It’s Mr. Trump—he’s hateful and has no respect and it sets a tone… Republicans see the screamers and harassers at the Kavanaugh hearings, the groups swarming Republican figures when they dine in public, antifa. A man who wrote ‘It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.’ on Facebook didn’t insult Rep. Steve Scalise last year; he shot and almost killed him. The intimidation is coming from the left.”

8. Ferguson/McKenna confusion pushes 1631 endorsement

Last week, Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced his endorsement of I-1631 at a press conference with the “Yes on 1631” campaign. This is just the second time Ferguson has taken a position on an initiative during his six years in office. According to Ferguson, his move to endorse I-1631 was, in part, due to voters’ confusion between former Attorney General Rob McKenna, who is featured in an ad opposing 1631, and himself.

Ferguson says his office has received numerous phone calls and emails asking why he doesn’t support 1631. “Folks are confusing me with my predecessor Rob McKenna. I get it, sort of two skinny guys with glasses who were/are Attorneys General. But in all seriousness, I’m getting this a lot. A lot. So I want to set the record straight,” said Ferguson. Yes on 1631 has since released a campaign ad featuring Ferguson, where at the end he states, “That’s why this Attorney General is saying yes on 1631.”

9. “Red, white and schmooze” from WA politico

McKenna Hartman is a progressive fundraising consultant – and apparently now a game maker!  This morning, she launched a Kickstarter campaign for her new board game, “Red, White and Schmooze.”  It’s a game she built by having the courage to go into bars across Washington State and talk politics over beers with strangers.

“It’s for people who want to bridge the gap with their super conservative, Trumpy in-laws over Thanksgiving dinner, or who want to engage with their hippy socialist Uncle Doby over Christmas break.  This is for people who are willing to share a laugh – at ourselves, at each other, and the ridiculous on both sides… It’s completely bi-partisan and universally offensive.  It’s about coming together, despite our politics.”

If you’ve got game or initiative or Kickstarter effort focused on getting us all together, “despite our politics,” send it our way and we’ll share it with folks…