VIDEO: 34th District Democrats hear from congressional candidates, endorse Joe McDermott

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Tonight the 34th District Democrats endorsed King County Council chair Joe McDermott for the 7th Congressional District seat that longtime Rep. Jim McDermott is giving up.

He pointed out that he’s never run for something without his home district’s endorsement. More than 70 34th DD members were eligible to vote; 44 of them supported him.

Before the endorsement vote, the group heard from six candidates:

CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATES SPEAK: 5 minutes were allotted to each declared candidate who was present – roughly 3 minutes of speech, then a few questions. They spoke in alphabetical order. We recorded each on video – the text does not cover everything they said, but the video does (updated 1:47 am: we’ve added all candidates’ clips):

STATE SEN. PRAMILA JAYAPAL: “I have spent the last 25 years of my life fighting for others to be able to achieve their American dream.” That’s part of what Sen. Jayapal told the 34th DDs, after recounting a few things that happened earlier in the day in Olympia, including the rejection of anti-transgender legislation.

She lauded her fight to “lift up” people, and promised to be a “strong progressive voice,” focused on four issues: Income inequality, expanding Social Security and Medicare, climate, and debt-free college. In response to a question, she described herself as a “huge supporter of single-payer health care.” She was also nominated for endorsement and received 22 votes.

FORMER BURIEN MAYOR ARUN JHAVERI: He described himself as the first mayor of Burien when it incorporated in the early ’90s; he also has worked for the federal government.

“We need people like myself who represent a cross-section of the community at large,” he said, saying he knows the district from Burien to Edmonds to Shoreline to Vashon to Seattle. “One of the things I want to do is work on climate change,” he said, adding that he was a delegate to the UN conference in Paris. He was also nominated for endorsement and received 3 votes.

KING COUNTY COUNCIL CHAIR JOE McDERMOTT: “This is home for me,” he begins, going on to say he believes the country is on the verge of more progressive change, but listing problems including income inequality and gun violence.

“We need to change. How are we going to do that? First, we need to overturn Citizens United.” That, he said, would “stop independent expenditures for corrupting our politics.” Among the questions he was asked, by a rep of Veterans and Friends of Puget Sound, was: What will you do for veterans? McDermott mentioned health care and housing. He also was asked what he will do to further the cause of Duwamish Tribe recognition. He said he will “continue working” on that.

JEFF STILWELL: He declared himself “that fresh face, that fresh voice,” and said he had fresh ideas such as putting unions back in the forefront.

He said gutting federal programs has got to stop, and declared that the gender wage gap has got to stop. Asked about his background, he said he has 15 years of job creation in the arts.

STATE REP. BRADY WALKINSHAW: Responding to McDermott’s discussion of money he mentioned a pledge taken in a race across the country. He said they should sign a People’s Pledge in this race. He talked about his background in “international development.”

Overall, he said, “If things are going to get better in this country, they’re going to get better because of regions like ours, stepping up to show the way.” He said the new congressmember needs to carry on Jim McDermott’s legacy on foreign policy. He was one of the four nominated for endorsement and received 3 votes.

DONOVAN RIVERS: This candidate spoke out of alphabetical order because he arrived later in the meeting. He emphasized the need for mental-health treatment – “There’s no reason why all these folks on the street should be living on the street.”

And he spoke about the importance of Social Security, and the fact young people don’t understand it “because we haven’t revitalized the program.” (His section was shorter because no one had a question for him.)

LT. GOVERNOR CANDIDATES: The 34th DDs also heard from two Lieutenant Governor candidates (State Sen. Cyrus Habib spoke last month), State Sen. Karen Fraser, who listed issues about which she cares, including “democracy,” and detailed her history of being elected 10 times as a Democrat, and State Rep. Jim Moeller, House Speaker Pro Tem, who declared himself “a liberal” and said he’s the only candidate who’s debated Rs and Ds.

STATE AUDITOR CANDIDATE: Jeff Sprung spoke, saying he wants to restore trust in the office, since the current state auditor is under indictment. He says he’s been a lawyer for whistleblowers so he has experience recovering money for taxpayers.

RAISE UP WASHINGTON: Former City Council candidate Jon Grant is working for this ballot measure now and told the 34th DDs that it needs a quarter-million signatures to get onto the ballot. He pitched for volunteers to help make that happen within the next four months. Read about it here.

JUDICIAL CANDIDATES: Steve Rosen, Johanna Bender, and Eric Newman, who also spoke last month, spoke to the 34th DDs again tonight. She clarified that “none of the judicial candidates here are running against each other.”

Also at the meeting:

TOM RASMUSSEN TRIBUTE: “His accomplishments are many and legendary,” is part of the inscription in a plaque presented to the former City Councilmember toward the start of tonight’s meeting. It also called him “the soul of the West Seattle community, working tirelessly …”

Chair Marcee Stone-Vekich and vice chair Ted Barker led the presentation. Rasmussen said, “12 years have gone by really, really fast.” And he noted he expected to become a precinct committee officer (PCO) later in the evening – which indeed he did. He was among more than a dozen appointed tonight, including Joe McDermott’s mother.

WOMEN’S HEALTH ISSUES: Executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, West Seattle resident Rachel Berkson, was asked to provide an update on women’s-health issues in Olympia. She said supporters are pursuing legislation including 12 months of contraception and a “pregnant workers’ fairness act,” which says you shouldn’t be fired for being pregnant, and should have rights to water, bathroom breaks, health-care appointments. “We’re trying to reframe the debate about, what does it really mean to stand with women?”

HOW THE CAUCUSES WORK: March 26th is Democratic caucusing day.

Things you can do now, or soon, if you want to participate:

*Go to state party website and commit to caucus –
*Starting 2/15, pre-register for the caucus at
*Area Caucus Coordinator Training – 2/20 at Puget Ridge Cohousing, 9:30-11:30 am

14 caucusing locations – you can find them via a lookup on the 34th Dems’ website.

Questions? or 206-651-5098

The 34th District Democrats meet on second Wednesdays, 7 pm, at The Hall at Fauntleroy. Watch for updates between meetings.

21 Replies to "VIDEO: 34th District Democrats hear from congressional candidates, endorse Joe McDermott"

  • Mackster February 11, 2016 (6:12 am)

    Vote out Eileen Cody she is out of touch with the people in this district and needs to go. 

  • Rcl February 11, 2016 (8:29 am)

    @mackster – you are correct ! Her and Joe have to go! We need real change! Power to the people.

  • 34thChair February 11, 2016 (9:18 am)

    Many thanks for the coverage and especially spreading the word about how to participate in the 2016 Caucus.

  • MattF February 11, 2016 (10:53 am)

    I attended last night’s meeting and found the 7th CD endorsement
    process to be disappointing. Candidates are just kicking off their campaigns,
    getting their websites populated with a platform, and have had no chance for
    real debates or candidate forums, but the meeting still resulted in the sole
    endorsement of a candidate. It seemed like an inappropriate time for that type
    of decision to be made when members of the organization and larger community
    are just getting familiar with their choices.

    In such a rare and important election, I think members of the
    community, and the candidates themselves, would like to see an honest,
    substantive debate of who is most qualified to represent the people of the 7th
    CD. Unfortunately the 34th Dems missed an opportunity to hear more than
    introductions to the candidates before making an endorsement for a seat that
    hasn’t seen a competitive field in decades. While I understand that
    Councilmember McDermott was obviously the favorite to win this particular
    endorsement because of his respected leadership for the district in Olympia and
    KC, the optics of endorsing a candidate to U.S. Congress after five minute
    introductions looks bad. I would love to hear all of the candidate’s opinions
    on issues such as criminal justice reform, student debt, a carbon tax,
    immigration reform, a potentially new AUMF, single-payer health care, and a
    host of other issues before making any decisions. I hope that we’ll get that
    before the primary in August, and I think a respected group like the 34th Dems
    could have been on the forefront of prompting those sorts of discussions within
    its ranks and the larger community before holding any votes.

    Finally, I found it odd that the candidates themselves seemed
    surprised that a formal endorsement was going to be made at last night’s
    meeting. Rep. Walkinshaw wasn’t present once it came time to endorse, and Sen.
    Jayapal hastily put together a few words to encourage members to vote for her,
    but more importantly, made the plea for more time to talk about the issues before
    deciding on candidates. Others in attendance seemed taken by surprise as well.
    While the agenda did say “Endorsements may be considered” under the Further
    Business section, I don’t think I’m alone in saying that should have been
    advertised more prominently. The organization also has endorsement rules that
    state, “For all endorsement meetings, the District shall give members at least
    10 days written notice (e.g., by announcement in the monthly newsletter and
    posting on the website).” I don’t think the 10 days notice was adhered to in
    this case, although it is possible that the rules have changed (Link is below).

    Looking forward to some discussion to hear other points of

    • milo_bloom February 11, 2016 (12:52 pm)

      Your take on it is exactly right. I’m a member of the 34th, and I was unaware that endorsements would be taking place. While “Endorsements will be entertained” appeared in the agenda it’s hardly the stuff of any real notification to members.  Had I know, I would have made the extra effort to attend this month’s meeting. The 34th seems to think it functions in spite of its membership.

  • Joe Szilagyi February 11, 2016 (2:37 pm)

    Trying again:From the by-laws:

    “Notification to Membership. For all endorsement meetings, the District shall give members at least 10 days written notice (e.g., by announcement in the monthly newsletter and posting on the website).”

    I don’t think they intentionally meant to go around the rules, but it looks like the 34th did by accident, possibly violating by-laws.The rule says 10 days, and circumstantial evidence:1. “this month” implies it was written at least on February 1, which would be 9 days, and2. it was updated, or maybe posted, on the website on February 7th, and 3. we got an email on the 8th,suggests that the only time they gave adequate notice (both in newsletter and posting on site) was well short of 10 days. Given the vote was decided by a single vote, well. Don’t we want a legitimate outcome? In all likelihood Joe McDermott wins anyway. It’s HIGHLY likely, in fact, that he would win by a wide margin if there was more turn out. Denying a do-over vote hurts Joe and the legitimacy of the 34th Democrats.It could be in the interests of credibility of the endorsement for Marcee Stone-Vekich to allow a do-over. Failing that, perhaps it’s time to make the by-laws more concrete and transparent rather than ambiguous. Local politics needs no harmful and dangerous games like we see on the national level from suspect parties like Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.FYI, Tracy Record and West Seattle Blog, that there may be issues with this endorsement, through possible parliamentary errors. By-laws:

  • 34thChair February 11, 2016 (3:08 pm)

    What is  being quoted above as bylaws is actually the endorsement rules.  Our meeting notice is governed by our bylaws in “Article 3. Section 2.  A meeting shall be duly authorized when notice has been provided* to the members of the date, time, location, and purpose of the meeting at least nine days in advance.” Any rules would be subject to the bylaws.  The agenda had been posted on the website much earlier in January and included “Endorsements May Be Considered.” The newsletter also included “Endorsements May be Considered” and was mailed out on February 1st.   I also sent out two follow-up emails regarding this meeting. And we updated the website when we heard more definitively from who would be speaking and who would not.  But in all instances, “Endorsements May Be Considered” appeared. I will point you to the word provided* in bold that is in the bylaws.  We provide the notice by that time but it doesn’t  mean you will receive the notice by that time.  This was discussed at length by the committee that revised the bylaws in November 2013 and was subsequently approved unanimously by the membership.  

  • milo_bloom February 11, 2016 (3:16 pm)

    Marcee, mailing the notice out on the 1st is only 9 days notice.

    • 34thChair February 11, 2016 (3:45 pm)

      Nine days notice is all that is needed.  But we provided more notice than was needed because it was posted on the website prior to the end of January.

  • milo_bloom February 11, 2016 (3:56 pm)

    Your special rules for endorsements trump the general rule for meetings, and by that 10 days is required. It is also required that the newsletter AND the website comply to that 10 days notice. The endorsement is invalid under those rules.

    • 34thChair February 11, 2016 (10:04 pm)

      That is incorrect.  Bylaws trump (I dislike using that word) everything. 

  • A concerned 34th PCO February 11, 2016 (4:07 pm)

    Why is Marcee Stone-Vekich, transient chair of the 34th, so opposed to a nakedly transparent process? Why try to rush an endorsement for her protege Joe McDermott so aggressively? The rumours of the West Seattle Cabal are not exaggerated, and this 34th PCO is going to be mailing 100% of the other PCOs she knows ASAP to encourage the removal of this person as soon as is possible. I’m also not sending her a penny out of the tax return that I got last night. I was planning to go for $400 this year in my budget. The 34th can have that money when she is gone. Bring back Ivan Weiss. At least then the 34th had teeth and relevance, instead of being a bevy of sycophantic pearl clutchers. 

  • Joe Szilagyi February 11, 2016 (4:11 pm)

    Even though I like the outcome, this has the unfortunate feel of the leadership of the 34th trying to steer the outcome to their own desired ends, Marcee. Do you see why that’s a problem? It hurts the legitimacy of the 34th and the party. This isn’t China where outcomes come from the top down, and even the perception of that is a HUGE scandal right now nationally, with the DNC trying to bake the results for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders.

  • Kate R February 11, 2016 (5:02 pm)

    As a relatively new attendee to these proceedings, I felt the call for a vote to endorse was a steamroller; shabby, irritating and disappointing.  I felt cheated out of a chance to get better acquainted with the candidates who, while not necessarily headed for endorsement, nonetheless potentially could shine in other positions (and apparently in some cases all ready do and I was happy to become aware of them).  Some in the leadership of this organization and some older members may be happy to have a 5 minute/candidate presentation prior to a vote, but what about the rest of us?  Plus, I would say while I have supported McDermott in the past, I thought his message and presentation could use a lot more honing before he takes it into the more rigorous phases of this election. 

  • AceMotel February 11, 2016 (5:27 pm)

    Yes, totally agree with Kate R.   Very disappointing meeting.  I don’t think it’s a ringing endorsement to get 40 of 72 votes in one’s own district meeting.  The one very good part of the evening was the Rachel Berkson from NARAL.  

    • 34thChair February 11, 2016 (10:35 pm)

      It was 44 votes. 

  • Ivan February 11, 2016 (5:40 pm)

    I appreciate that my chairmanship is fondly remembered as having had “teeth and relevance,” but the nature of politics, and the nature of these all-volunteer organizations, is that whatever we do or don’t do, somebody is bound to be majorly pissed off, for any number of reasons. Our endorsement rules and procedures have evolved, for better or for worse, largely as a result of feedback from members and voters in the district. In my experience, whenever we have changed the rules to suit one group, another group has cried foul.  What happened last night is no exception. We will never please everybody, and at some point, we just have to roll with the criticism, not take it personally, and move forward. Marcee put the February agenda on the website in late January, well before the 10-day requirement of notice. It included the words “endorsements may be considered.” Since we quit sending out a printed newsletter, this has been the standard, and it applies to everybody. When I was chairman, I was scrupulous about telling candidates and campaign managers that we weren’t interested in holding their hands or doing their work for them. If they valued our endorsement, they had damn well better work for it. Maybe this is the “teeth and relevance” part the previous commenter was referring to. We did what we did last night as a reaction to the negative criticism we got when we tried to cram all endorsements into one meeting, and those meetings would last till midnight when people had to work the next day, and people had had it up to here with all the process. We were told doing it that way was driving people away from the party. Now we’re told that doing it this way is driving people away from the party. What’s it going to be, folks? And who is to decide, if not the elected leadership of the organization?I went through it. Now Marcee is going through it. Can we all just agree that democracy is a messy process, kiss off these temporary irritations, and move forward together? Is that just too damn much to ask?

  • Kate R February 11, 2016 (10:27 pm)

    I would have thought that treating people with consideration would come before using ‘procedure’ to get the inside track on a nomination.  I was both offended at the treatment of the candidates and embarrassed that people who, like me, call themselves progressives, would behave that way.  I hope next time there ‘might be’ an endorsement vote, it is announced clearly and up front, and notice given directly to the candidates themselves well before hand.  Just because it is the decent thing to do.  

  • 34thChair February 11, 2016 (10:28 pm)

     Why were the campaigns caught so off guard?  Any candidate walking on to a well-respected opponent’s home turf unprepared for a move for endorsement, is really surprising to me.  This is a race for Congress.  There hasn’t been a  race in the 7th CD in almost 30 years.  The fact that the 34th would want to make a statement, shouldn’t have surprised anyone.  Joe McDermott has a solid 15 years of representing us.  He doesn’t have to move here to do it. He hasn’t only held public office for a couple of years.  And now we all know that hell has frozen over because Ivan has become the prince of peace. Thanks, Ivan.

  • J.R. February 11, 2016 (11:30 pm)

    I read “endorsements may be considered” to mean endorsements may be considered. I notice that most of the gripers here appear to have attended the meeting and voted. Maybe your candidate just isn’t as popular as you had hoped.  

  • AceMotel February 12, 2016 (7:56 am)

    I have been a member of the 34th for many years. I am not involved with any campaigns. Just being a member of the 34th does not obligate me (or anyone else) to support anyone.   And frankly, although endorsements are part of the campaign process, they are absolutely not predictive.  It’s also part of the political process to see all types of leadership, from inspiring to uninspired, and everything in between,  and it’s true in the 34th too.   

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