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Morning Wire: Rep. Derek Kilmer, Cherries, Constantine & Nguyen

Next week is the 2021 primary election. So, we review a couple of the key questions on the ballot this year, all of which are in King County. We’re also tracking COVID and efforts to modernize Congress. At our site, we have additional reporting in the last week ranging from coverage of the Liquor Control Board to broadband legislation, from Congress to the Seattle mayor’s race.

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1. Steep COVID increase in the fall

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the UW is projecting a steep increase in COVID cases in the state come late fall. It projects a case count that is double the worst days of the pandemic. Hospital utilization is projected to be higher than at any point in the last year. However, daily deaths will be only about half of the worst part of the pandemic come November.

This likely reflects a migration of infection to younger cohorts and an improvement of our ability to treat the disease. Among the 0.08% of vaccinated Washingtonians who have reported a COVID infection, 48 have died in the last 6 months. The median age was 84. 

2. Q&A: Rep. Derek Kilmer on modernizing Congress

US Rep. Derek Kilmer chairs a select committee on modernizing Congress. It’s a huge job, and one that he has largely kept out of the partisan spotlight. That has allowed the committee to make a range of recommendations, some of which are drawn from his time in the legislature. For example, his committee hired non-partisan “unified” staff to support the committee. That’s common in Olympia but doesn’t happen in DC. . 

In this Q&A with reporter Aaron Kunkler, Kilmer talks through the importance of good staff, of learning from senior members who know how to build consensus, and the importance of changing the culture in Congress by starting with freshman orientation. “Literally, when you go through freshman orientation, one of the first things that happens is they say Democrats get on this bus and the Republicans get that one. Most of the orientation process is trying to separate you from those on the other side of the aisle. It’s no wonder that it remains the Hatfields and McCoy’s.”

3. King County levy for families a bellwether

The King County Tax Levy for Children, Youth, Families, and Communities is on the ballot next week. It has no opposition and is supported by a diversity of voices ranging from The Stranger to the Seattle Times; from Dow Constantine to John Stanton. In 2015, it passed with 56%. I’m guessing it passes again this year.

But the thing to watch is the margin. If it’s less than 56%, that may suggest an erosion of support for new — or renewed — taxes, and increased headwinds for progressives this fall. History tells us that 2022 is going to be a very tough year for Democrats. Will that show up at all this year in early frustration? It’s not clear — and it may not have any real bearing on the midterms. But, if the number is tighter than 56%, you can bet that Democrats will take note of the headwinds ahead. 

4. Constantine vs. Nguyen

By one measurement, Dow Constantine has much more momentum than Joe Nguyen heading into next week’s primary for King County Executive. Constantine reports raising about $60,000 in the last two weeks since the the last C-4 report. That is about 10x the amount Nguyen reports raising during the same time. 

Both candidates are expected to make it to the general election. But, to beat the longtime incumbent Constantine, Nguyen is going to have to elevate his name ID and show why he is the better choice. It’s not clear he’s done that yet, meaning one might expect a relatively modest showing from Nguyen in the primary. However, every vote that isn’t for Constantine is arguably a vote he has failed to win from a career in public office. So, watch the gap between the two in their election night performance. But, also watch the total amount of votes that aren’t for Constantine. Anything under about 38% for the incumbent (meaning 62% of votes he failed to win) is an opportunity for Nguyen. 

5. Gonzalez IE spends $100k on cherries

An independent expenditure (IE) group for Lorena Gonzalez’s campaign for Seattle mayor has raised $451,157 in the 12 days since being created on June 15th. $304,190 of that has been spent already. $150,900 went to broadcast advertising. $39,653 went to postage.

$110,500 went to purchase 20,345 pounds of Chukar Cherries.

Expect Gonzalez to make it through the primary, with Bruce Harrell. An IE for Harrell reports having raised $346k, of which about $30,781 has been spent. None of that amount went to tree fruit. 

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