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Morning Wire: JLARC, “Anti-woke Democrats,” Delta variant

We are back after a bit of a holiday. Welcome new reporter Aaron Kunkler to the Wire team. He’s been covering stories in rural King County and downtown Seattle for Sound Publishing, but we nabbed him for you, our trusty readers here at the Wire.

We have good stuff teed up for you this week at the Wire. Be sure to sign up for our Daily Wire to make sure you get all of the stories we publish directly to your inbox each morning. 

1. Delta variant and the reality of 100% seroprevalence

The noted COVID “delta variant” now makes up 41% of all COVID cases in Washington State, a plurality. UW’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation shows a doubling of daily deaths in the state through the fall, to about 14. A year ago, that might have been a concern. But the science and the data are increasingly clear: getting vaccinated overwhelmingly protects recipients from severe symptoms. 

Contrary to the more prominent public messaging about the importance of vaccinations, disease modelers will tell you this disease has become endemic. It’s not going anywhere, and will continue to have a presence in our lives for years to come. Like the flu, it will continue to mutate and have a seasonal spike as we move indoors. So, like the flu, at some point in our lives, we will all get COVID. It’s not a question of if, they tell me, but when. That is a seroprevalence of 100%. And, like the flu, if you get it for the first time in your life when you are old, and you haven’t been vaccinated, it could be deadly.

The takeaway from these conversations is two-fold. First, get vaccinated. Two, learn how to live with accepting some level of risk for COVID, just as you do with the flu, though a level likely much greater than many have been willing to accept over the last year. 

2. Q&A w/ Re-Districting Commission Chair

Reporter Aaron Kunkler has this interesting Q&A with the Re-Districting Commission Chair Sarah Augustine. She’s a non-voting member, selected by the four commissioners. Kunkler asks some of the key questions: What’s the vision for the 8th CD? How do you define “no partisan advantage,” as directed by statute and constitutional law. Our series on re-districting is one of the best backgrounders you can get on the subject.

Augustine highlighted the public comments calling for a higher number of competitive districts. The number of those competitive districts will set the stage for the next majority in 2023. In a state with 57% Democratic performance statewide, more competitive districts creates more opportunities for Republicans to pick up seats. It could mean 57% Democratic performance across the state, but a 50-48 Republican House majority. It will also result in more heavily single party districts, likely leading to more intra-party primary challenges.

3. “Anti-woke Democrats”

Seattle politics is often a contest between the “Institutional Left” and the “Anti-Institutional Left,” where many more times than not, the Institutional candidate wins. That storyline appears to be reflected in recent polling in the Seattle mayoral race showing Bruce Harrell likely to make it through to the general.

The bigger question, however, is whether Harrell’s support represents a Seattle-styled version of a national trend of Democrats that are pro-police, pro-fiscal moderation, and against identity politics. It’s what has been called the “anti-woke Democrat.” You see that in the NYC primary where a former cop won. You see that in the language of very liberal national figures. Some may see it as a backlash to a significant leftward lurch among Democratic voters.

Or, it may just be one poll…

4. Murray, Cantwell staffs less diverse than other Dems

According to the Senate Democrats, Sen. Murray and Sen. Cantwell have less diverse congressional staffs than other Democratic Senators. A survey as part of their Diversity Initiative shows 37% of Murray’s staff identify as non-Caucasian. Cantwell’s staff is 33% non-Caucasian. The average across all Democratic offices was 38.3%.

Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono’s staff was the most diverse, identifying as 73% non-Caucasian, reflecting the diversity of her state. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin appears to have one person on staff that is non-Caucasian, ranking his office last with a 7% non-Caucasian staff

5. Audit highlights shortcomings at HCA

On Wednesday, JLARC will hold a hearing to review the State Auditor’s report on Medicaid’s program integrity. The recent performance audit said the HCA wasn’t doing enough to address fraud and recover over-payments. It calls on the HCA to start auditing Medicaid providers, which would require a major expansion of the HCA’s oversight capabilities. It also says the HCA should do more to audit its “sister agencies” that also implement parts of the Medicaid program, particularly where the Auditor has found other shortcomings.

The report says the HCA “could improve its oversight of (contracted insurance companies) by directly auditing providers and recovering overpayments… The Division started reviewing providers contracted with MCOs but never initiated formal audits due to uncertainty as to what to do with the results.” 

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