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Morning Wire: Monisha Harrell, COVID trends, Stevens County commissioners

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With help from Michael Goldberg

1. Q&A: Monisha Harrell on the policy aims of the Washington for Black Lives coalition

On Monday, several Black-led organizations announced the launch of Washington for Black Lives (W4BL), a new coalition forming to combat police violence in communities throughout Washington State. Thirty-eight Black-led organizations across the state have joined the coalition.

Monisha Harrell is the Chair of Equal Rights Washington – one of the W4BL’s founding organizations. She is also a member of Gov. Inslee’s task force to provide recommendations for legislation on independent investigations involving police use of force. Reporter Michael Goldberg spoke with Harrell following the launch of W4BL about the coalition’s policy demands and organizing strategy.

2. Slade Gorton passes away at 92

Former U.S. Senator and Washington Attorney General Slade Gorton died last week at home. He was 92 years old. Gorton was a giant in Washington State politics. He spent 40 years in public office, and reinvigorated a Republican Party in the 1960’s that had been beat up for decades following the 1932 Roosevelt landslide. He is remembered by many for his moral fortitude and cool intelligence

A friend of the Wire, Gorton was a Keynote speaker at our 2017 Re-Wire Policy Conference where he talked through what the 1999 impeachment trial was like. He was also a guest on the Wire Podcast in 2019, where he discussed the history, politics, and intricacies of the redistricting process in Washington State. 

3. Latest COVID-19 trends in Washington State

Over the last two weeks, Washington has seen both a decline in diagnosed cases as well as a decrease in the reproductive number (Re). After spending several weeks above 1, Gov. Inslee said in press conference Thursday that public health officials now believe that Re is equal to about one, indicating a slowing of the virus spread. While many individual counties’ cases are plateauing or declining, the Governor noted that some central Washington counties are still struggling. Parties at WSU are driving disease spread there.

Inslee and public health officials last week announced the state would set up a COVID-19 incident command team in Chelan and Douglas Counties due to their high rates of infections. Both counties currently have infection rates over 400 per 100,000 over a two-week period. The incident command team will assist the Chelan-Douglas Health District in managing the pandemic.

4. Some Dems aim to push out Liias from LG race

Learn to trust the Wire. Last week, we featured an effort by Republicans to court a write-in candidate for Lt. Governor. That race has two Democrats on the general election ballot, creating an opportunity for a Republican to slide in where Dems split their vote. A few days later, Joshua Freed announced his candidacy to be a Republican write-in candidate.

Today, Denny Heck’s campaign sent around a letter signed by about 50 Democrats in the South Puget Sound area calling for Democrats to unify around Heck. The letter cites Freed’s entry into the LG race, saying: “he’s preparing to spend even more money on a write-in campaign to buy himself the Lt. Governors’ office despite not even appearing on the primary ballot.” The letter also cites Liias’s failed 2016 campaign for Treasurer and that “Heck was the leading Democratic candidate in 38 of Washington’s 39 counties” as reasons to support Heck.

5. All three Stevens County commissioners could be ejected from office

The Spokesman-Review reported last week that all three Stevens County commissioners could be legally ejected from office after a judge ruled that they misspent $130,000 from a public fund used to combat homelessness. Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen said the judge’s ruling has, in effect, already ousted the commissioners from office based on a section of state law concerning the misuse of public official bonds. 

If Rasmussen’s interpretation of the statute is correct and the commissioners are forced to leave office, it would mark the first time elected officials in Washington State have been deemed ineligible to serve under that statute since 1939. The potential ejections have caused confusion over the appointment process for potential replacements and how the ruling might influence the November election

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