34th District Democrats hear from statewide candidates, advocates for Gazans @ February 2024 meeting

By Sean Golonka
Reporting for West Seattle Blog

Local members with the 34th District Democrats, the West Seattle area’s largest political organization, received a wide-ranging presentation on Gaza during the group’s online-only monthly meeting on Wednesday night, through a conversation that focused heavily on the Israel-Hamas conflict’s effects on families in Gaza.

Several candidates for statewide office — including Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal and Treasurer Mike Pellicciotti, Democrats who are both seeking re-election — also made appearances at the meeting, a sign the election season is getting underway, with the primary election set for August 6.

Focus on Gaza

Rachel Glass, the 34th DDs’ first vice-chair, said the conversation was motivated by an “urgent need for dialogue and education” to understand the complexities of the ongoing conflict, and the pre-meeting program featured two local community activists with longtime ties to Palestinians.

Jen Marlowe, a West Seattle-based human-rights activist, documentary filmmaker, and writer whose works have covered Palestinians for more than 25 years, provided the roughly 50 people attending virtually with examples of families in Gaza who have been affected by Israel’s military action in the largest city in Gaza.

The conflict’s origins date back decades but escalated most recently when Hamas militants launched an attack on Israel last fall, killing more than 1,000 Israelis on October 7. Since then, Israel’s military has killed more than 29,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, the Associated Press reported.

The toll of death and destruction has significantly outpaced other recent international military campaigns, but Israel has pledged to press ahead with its military operation into Gaza to destroy Hamas’ military capabilities, even as international parties call for a cease-fire.

Marlowe’s organization, Donkeysaddle Projects, is focused on resisting government violence. During the meeting, she played a short film she created focused on the Awajah family in Gaza, whose home was destroyed after a 2014 Israeli action, as well as on other occasions amid the yearslong conflict. Marlowe said the family has lost two children to the violence, and has been repeatedly displaced in an attempt to find safety.

Marlowe used the example of the Awajah family and other Palestinians hurt or killed in the conflict in Gaza to provide a window into the impact of the violence beyond the numbers.

Laila Saliba, a community organizer of Palestinian heritage who founded a website devoted to promoting the Arabic language called ArabishWay, described the issue as being about “solidarity with the people” in Gaza and not about the governments involved.

She also noted the ongoing efforts in the region to support people in Gaza, referencing the actions of hundreds of people who gathered at the Capitol in Olympia on Tuesday to advocate for a cease-fire in Gaza.

While pro-Palestinian protests have taken place in recent months across downtown, West Seattle has not seen the same level of activity, though on one day in late December, demonstrators waving Palestinian flags temporarily blocked westbound lanes on the West Seattle Bridge.

The meeting also highlighted the sensitive nature of the topic, as Glass urged members to ask “thoughtful” questions for the presenters, and 34th DDs Chair Graham Murphy said he was “a bit uncomfortable having” the conversation. He added that he was glad the group engaged with the topic and learned about those affected, and expressed hope the Biden administration would help facilitate at least a temporary cease-fire.

Candidates, elected officials drop in

A pair of statewide elected officials seeking re-election, Reykdal and Pellicciotti, along with two state senators seeking statewide offices this year appeared in the 34th DDs’ “candidate spotlights” — a brief opportunity for candidates to introduce themselves, without time for audience questions or consideration for endorsements.

Reykdal, who faces a couple challengers for the superintendent of public instruction role he has held since 2017, spoke against the privatization of schools, saying he is focused on defending public education.

“It is the most democratic institution we have created in this country,” he said, also urging “fully funding” public education and raising concerns about voucher-style programs in other states that allow parents to use public funds to pay for private education for their children.

Pellicciotti, who won his first term as treasurer in 2020, emphasized the importance of rejecting corporate donations given the treasurer’s role in state finances. Pellicciotti also touted his office’s environmental, social and corporate governance approach to investing — a framework that has become a boogeyman for Republican politicians.

State Sen. Rebecca Saldaña, a Democrat who represents the 37th Legislative District and was raised in the 34th, is running in a crowded seven-person race for commissioner of public lands to replace outgoing Commissioner Hilary Franz, a Democrat who is running for Congress.

Saldaña described herself as the “progressive” candidate in the race, and hit one opponent, Republican former Congressional District 3 Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, as she asked for the 34th DDs’ endorsement.

State Sen. Patty Kuderer, a Bellevue-area Democrat running for insurance commissioner, similarly asked for the group’s endorsement. She has experience as a trial attorney, including as city-level prosecutor, and she described her goal of making the office “consumer-centric.”

“The insurance industry, I’ve been told by the current commissioner, is nervous about my candidacy,” Kuderer said. “And aside from, ‘They should be,’ I’ll just say that ‘That should tell you all you need to know’.”

Along with the races of the four candidates in attendance, Washington voters will be deciding this year on races for governor, attorney general, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, and auditor through the primary election in August and general election in November.

WHAT’S NEXT: The 34th District Democrats usually meet on second Wednesdays but moved this month’s meeting because of Valentine’s Day. The group’s next meeting is scheduled for March 13. Watch for updates between meetings at 34dems.org.

11 Replies to "34th District Democrats hear from statewide candidates, advocates for Gazans @ February 2024 meeting"

  • Andrew February 22, 2024 (3:53 am)

    No peace until Hamas surrenders 

  • D February 22, 2024 (6:06 am)

    Hamas has proven time and again that they lie about the number of casualties, period. 29k Palestinians have not been killed. Those few non-combatant civilians that have been, have Hamas to blame.Until I start seeing Palestinians (and the people claiming to be “pro-Palestine”) publicly denouncing Hamas and calling for its removal, then they are condoning the actions of Hamas and should be lumped in with the terror group. It’s funny all the outcry of what Israel is doing, using Hamas talking points, but nobody talks about what Hamas did on October 7.Spare me the crocodile tears.

  • Graham Murphy February 22, 2024 (6:29 am)

    Thank you for covering our meeting! I want to share a minor clarification to my remarks. I was hopeful President Biden will be successful in bringing about at least a temporary ceasefire to allow hostages to return home and aid to get into Gaza. I was referencing reports about Biden’s diplomatic efforts: Biden says he pushed Netanyahu for temporary ceasefire | Reuters

    • Maria February 22, 2024 (10:48 am)

      Bring them home.

  • Question Authority February 22, 2024 (7:54 am)

    Focusing on International issues like Gaza is why I find the 34th to be out of touch with the local electorate. War is not good, but wouldn’t it be more appropriate and locally responsible to focus on crime and drug addiction that actually affects local voters.

    • WSB February 22, 2024 (11:24 am)

      They’ve taken on a wide variety of domestic topics, including public safety. Here’s one list I found on their website (even featured a presentation by one Rob Saka on police reform, months before he ran for City Council).
      We don’t often get to cover their meetings because there’ve been a lot of conflicting events but this month I had someone available to assign – TR

    • LiouxLioux February 22, 2024 (11:33 am)

      As someone whose taxes are being used to kill innocent people and subsidize the education and healthcare of another country’s population whilst ours must scavenge for bootstraps, I don’t mind the attention given to such international issues. All politics is local.

  • Rhonda February 22, 2024 (11:39 pm)

  • Brian February 23, 2024 (12:11 pm)

    I recall the controversy in 2002-03 over the issues surrounding the Iraq war, and what actions and resolutions the membership of the 34th LD Democratic party wanted. After a lot of discussion at that time it was determined that particular issue wasn’t something the organization could directly confront, but we did think having presentations on how to voice concern and educate about the issues was an important function. Since that time the 34th LD Democratic Party has from time to time hosted forums and presentation to educate the membership and community on the issues of the day, these events and discussions need to be organized and speakers lined up to appear. This educational forum has been a valuable to the membership and the community to foster discussion, dialogue and any inform any action that citizens can take to advocate or seek redress for change by requesting our elected officials in our government.  To minimize or trivialize this function to me is adverse to what this country stands for.

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